The NHRA season is only three races old, but drag racing fans may have already witnessed the biggest upset of the year as No. 1 qualifier Richie Crampton lost to 84-year-old part-time pro Chris "the Golden Greek" Karamesines when his Lucas Oil dragster smoked the tires at the hit of the throttle.

The round-win seemed a mere formality after Crampton peeled off the fifth-quickest pass in history during qualifying, blistering Gainesville Raceway with a track-record 3.698 at 319.37 mph, while Karamesines failed to get down the track under power. But there are no “gimmes” in this sport, and when the lights flashed Sunday morning it was Karamesines reaching the finish line well ahead of Crampton. 

“I’m pretty stunned at the moment,” Crampton said. “The car didn’t seem to move an inch and the tires immediately lost traction. It’s a huge disappointment after such an awesome qualifying effort, and I’m sick about this result. I guess losing to another Lucas Oil-sponsored car is the only silver lining. Good on ‘the Greek’ and that team.”

Adding to his huge performance advantage, Crampton reacted to the green light a massive .111-second before Karamesines, but he was lost in tire smoke a fraction of a second later while Karamesines labored down the track with several cylinders out. Although Crampton tried to pedal and get the car going again, it was too far gone, with Karamesines crossing first with a 4.039 at 276.92 mph to his resigned 7.567 at 94.33 mph. 

“When you smoke the tires that early it’s almost impossible to get it under control and get moving again,” Crampton said. “I tried to pedal it because I could see he was having a bit of engine trouble but it wouldn’t hook back up, and when I saw his car streaking away I just said, ‘Enough of this,’ and saved the engine from any damage. 

“Aaron (Brooks) has already made the call for us to stay and test tomorrow. This one hurts a bit, and while we’re thrilled to have been top qualifier, we want to make sure we can be consistent as well. I’m very confident we’ll be back at it in Las Vegas and hopefully we can make amends for letting this one slip from our grasp.” 

Today’s race will air on FOX Sports 1 from 1 to 4 p.m. ET.

The next stop on the NHRA tour is the 17th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, April 1-3, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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