On a hot, steamy Sunday at Bristol Dragway, Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster driver Richie Crampton and crew chief Aaron Brooks stayed cool, and Crampton scored a triumphant victory at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Crampton made a string of 3.8-second passes in 90-degree weather in east Tennessee, driving by Top Fuel’s best to secure his third victory of 2015, the fifth of his young career and his first in Bristol.
He knocked off past Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon in the final round for the third time this season.
“It’s huge to win at this historic racetrack,” Crampton said. “This has always been one of my favorite racetracks to come to as a crewmember and now as a driver. In all honesty, it’s never been that good to Morgan Lucas Racing. We’ve struggled here in the past with Morgan (Lucas), so to get a win here and turn all that around is just huge.”
Crampton had a bit of a secret weapon Sunday: Daughter Emma came to the track with Crampton’s partner Stephanie Laski and was around to celebrate in a soggy winner’s circle.
Dixon has had success on Father’s Day in the past, but this was Crampton’s day.
“I told (Dixon) earlier today that we have our little secret weapon, Emma,” Crampton said. “That was pretty special to me to get that Father’s Day trophy with our kid in the winner’s circle.”
Three of the four drivers Crampton beat en route to the Bristol title were past Top Fuel champions: Antron Brown in the first round, Shawn Langdon in the second, and Dixon in the final.
“I can’t say enough about Aaron Brooks,” Crampton said. “We struggled a little bit in qualifying and lost the night run Friday night and had an issue in Q4, so we started from No. 11. That was a little daunting to begin with, especially when you’ve got to race Antron in the first round, but obviously it all worked out.”
Brown, the No. 6 qualifier, smoked the tires and slowed to a pass of 4.242 seconds at 224.62 mph as Crampton sped to a 3.863-second pass at 314.39 mph.
No. 3 qualifier Langdon was next, and as he slowed with a run of 4.219 seconds at 254.33 mph, Crampton went straight down the track with a pass of 3.885 at 315.12 mph.
Doug Kalitta, the No. 2 qualifier, was Crampton’s next opponent, and while he made a good run of 3.906 seconds at 316.97 mph, Crampton was better with a 3.859 at 319.14 mph.
That put Crampton against Dixon in the final for the third time this season. Crampton beat the three-time champion in Las Vegas and Topeka, Kan., so the odds favored Dixon. But Crampton’s run of 3.884 seconds at 321.04 mph overcame Dixon’s slowing 4.004-second pass at 250.41 mph.
“To have a winning record over a former world champion is pretty exciting for me,” Crampton said. “I can’t believe we keep racing each other in final rounds. They are a great group of guys. The law of averages says he is going to get me back real soon.”
Perhaps, but Brooks and the Lucas Oil team has been up to the task in 2015, winning three times to match Brown for the most in the class. Plus, Crampton moved into third place in the points standings after 11 races.
“We all know Aaron Brooks can swing for the fence when the weather’s cool,” Crampton said. “You saw that earlier this year in Topeka. He’s been working on this hot-track race car package, and obviously it’s been working out really good.”