Fortunes are looking up for Richie Crampton and the Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster team after they raced to the semi finals of the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka.

After qualifying No. 4 and reaching the second round at Atlanta Dragway last weekend, Crampton did one better in Topeka: He qualified No. 4 again and reached the semi finals before falling to Antron Brown. 

“Obviously, we turned the corner,” Crampton said. “The car’s running good. It was an unusual mishap on that run, but it was good to go a few rounds. The best part about it is we’re in the middle of a pretty busy part of the year, so before too long, we’ll try and do it again. We got some points, too, and that’s important as well.” 

Crampton’s semi final finish — his second of the season and first since the opener in Pomona, Calif. – helped him move up a spot to seventh in the Top Fuel points standings. 

Crampton started the day with a single run in the opening round when No. 13 Terry Haddock couldn’t make the run. After a delay with the Christmas Tree, Crampton sat on the starting line for a few extra seconds, meaning he had to shut off the car early to avoid running out of fuel. His pass was 4.033 seconds at 218.72 mph, but it didn’t give him lane choice against Tony Schumacher in the second round.

It didn’t matter, however, as Crampton and his team were up to the task. The numbers were nearly identical for both drivers, but Crampton pulled out the victory. Crampton’s .060-second reaction time was a tick better than Schumacher’s .069 light, and Crampton outran the eight-time Top Fuel champion, 3.781 at 317.34 mph to 3.782 at 320.30 mph.

“It’s always good to win those close drag races,” Crampton said. “I couldn’t see him, and when I shut it off, I saw him pop out in front of me, but by that point the win light had come on. That was a pretty good feeling because we’ve struggled this year, and all those DSR cars are tough. That felt really good.” 

Against another Don Schumacher Racing driver, Antron Brown, in the semifinals, Crampton smoked the tires and slowed to a pass of 9.335 seconds at 76.58 mph while Brown sped to the final with a 3.784-second run at 313.95 mph. 

Still, Crampton is encouraged by the Lucas Oil team’s performance this weekend as he looks for his first victory of 2016 and a spot in the special Traxxas Shootout later this year. 

“(Crew chief) Aaron (Brooks) is doing a great job,” Crampton said. “All the Lucas Oil guys are still doing their thing perfectly. We’ve got what it takes to win some races here soon, but we’ve got to earn it. I’m sure it’ll come within due course, and hopefully we can get a spot in this $100,000 Shootout soon.”

Image credit: Mark Rebilas