The streak is over. Long live the next streak!
Lucas Oil Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton’s streak of seven consecutive final-round victories came to an end at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, but the final-round appearance was his first of the season and could signal a surge in the final nine races of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Crampton qualified No. 5 and beat Troy Buff, Scott Palmer, and No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence before falling to J.R. Todd in the final round. He moved to eighth in the Top Fuel points standings with the result.
“A really good weekend for sure,” Crampton said. “If losing a final round doesn’t sting, then something’s wrong, so for sure we are hurting right now, but all things considered, to get to the final round was just awesome. Our race car went down the track four times today.
“It just wasn’t enough in the last round, which is where it counted, but all in all it was a good, get-healthy weekend.”
Crampton won five races and finished third in the Top Fuel standings a year ago, but his Morgan Lucas Racing team has inexplicably struggled on race day in 2016. He has qualified in the top half 12 times in 15 races but had only made two semifinal appearances until today.
Buff did not make the call in the first round, but Crampton would have been tough to beat with a pass of 3.745 seconds at 327.74 mph. Crampton followed that with a run of 3.799 seconds at 324.05 mph as Palmer slowed to a pass of 9.831 seconds at 86.50 mph.
In the semi’s, Crampton beat Torrence with a pass of 3.790 seconds at 320.74 mph while Torrence had a hiccup and ran a 3.987 at 279.27 mph.
Crampton was off the line first against Todd in the final, .084 to .085, but his 3.806 at 313.07 mph wasn’t quite enough to hold off Todd’s 3.745 at 324.83 mph.
“We have just been digging deep, and (crew chief) Aaron (Brooks) and the boys have been working hard,” Crampton said. “They have made some pretty big changes to the race car and we’ve seen some very positive signs. Obviously, the changes have worked, so that’s exciting for me as a driver.
“We’ve been having a rough year, but we knew it was going to come good at some point, so here we are, it’s looking good. That’s a good sign for the rest of the season.”