Heading into the back half of the 2019 Countdown for the Mello Yello Top Fuel championship Richie Crampton and the DHL Kalitta Air Top Fuel team are looking to grab some end of season momentum. The team started the playoffs with a strong win in Reading, Pennsylvania over teammate Doug Kalitta but since that successful start a couple stumbling blocks have tripped up the young Australian. Back to back early exits, one at the hands of Kalitta, have Crampton eyeing the NHRA FallNationals and a potential make or break race.
“We are not out of the championship Countdown by any means but we do need to make a move at the Texas Motorplex,” said Crampton. “We had a tough first round against Doug in St. Louis and in Charlotte we just missed it in the first round. This DHL Kalitta Air dragster has been running really well in qualifying so I am not worried at all.”
Crampton will be looking for his second Top Fuel win at the famed drag strip just south of Dallas. In 2015 at the FallNationals Crampton won Top Fuel taking out Steve Torrence in the final round. On his way to that lone Texas Motorplex win he had to defeat Kalitta, Brittany Force and Antron Brown before getting to Torrence. That kind of victory gauntlet is what making competing in the Top Fuel category so appealing to Crampton.
“You look at the level of the Top Fuel teams in the Countdown this year and even previous years,” said Crampton. “This is one of the toughest eras in the sport’s history. If you get a win this year you will most likely have had to race easily three championship caliber teams. There are no easy round wins. You can’t take one single round off and I am eager for the challenge starting this weekend.”
Not since 2013 have three different Top Fuel racers and three different Funny Car racers won the first three races of the Countdown. That kind of championship competitiveness has opened the door for Crampton and the DHL team to still have a shot at winning the title. That mission will begin this Friday with two qualifying sessions including a run under the lights with optimal conditions.
“That Q2 run will be critical I think. It will be cooler weather and I could easily see the top half of the field being set on that run. The good news is that is when my DHL team steps up. Those conditions are perfect for (crew chief) Connie Kalitta to show his talent,” added Crampton.
2018 NHRA FallNationals Highlights:
Last Event Recap (2019 NHRA Carolina Nationals): Qual. No. 4; Lost to Austin Prock
Quotable: Crampton on heading to Texas Motorplex: “I own this race a few years ago and I would love to do it again. We need to go some rounds in this DHL Kalitta Air dragster. This is the last of three races and I honestly think is we can go some rounds at the Motorplex and a few people in front of us stumble we will be right in the middle of the Mello Yello championship battle over the final two races.”
Career Stats: 124 events, 123 starts, 103 round wins, 10 wins, 12 finals, 5 No. 1 qualifiers
Winternationals: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Terry McMillen
Arizona Nationals: Qual. No. 15; Lost to Terry McMillen
Gatornationals: Qual. No. 12; WINNER, Beat Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, TJ Zizzo and Clay Millican
Las Vegas1: Qual. No. 6; Beat Scott Palmer, Cameron Ferre; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force
Houston: Qual. No. 13; Lost to Clay Millican
Charlotte1: Qual. No. 12; Lost to Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett
Atlanta: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Scott Palmer
Richmond: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Austin Prock
Chicago: Qual. No. 11; Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence
Topeka: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Billy Torrence
Bristol: Qual. No. 9; Lost to Terry McMillen
Norwalk: Qual. No. 8; Lost to Billy Torrence
Epping: Qual. No. 2; Beat Audrey Worm, bye; Lost to Steve Torrence
Denver: Qual. No. 8; Beat Austin Prock; Lost to Steve Torrence
Sonoma: Qual. No. 7; Beat Terry McMillen; Lost to Steve Torrence
Seattle: Qual. No. 6; Lost to Antron Brown
Brainerd: Qual. No. 11; Lost to Clay Millican
Indianapolis: Qual. No. 5; Lost to Austin Prock
Reading: Qual. No. 4; WINNER; Beat Dan Mercier, Antron Brown, Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta
St. Louis: Qual. No. 7; Lost to Doug Kalitta
Charlotte2: Qual. No. 4; Lost to Austin Prock