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Crampton Comes Alive, Wins Playoff Opener in Top Fuel At Maple Grove Raceway

Richie Crampton and the DHL Top Fuel dragster team picked up their second win of the season and make a major jump in the Countdown to the Championship points with a win today over teammate Doug Kalitta at the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania. The No. 4 qualifier raced his way past Dan Mercier, Antron Brown, Brittany Force and new Mello Yello Top Fuel point leader Doug Kalitta to earn his 10th career Top Fuel win.

“It’s a huge win for us. I’m so lucky to be a part of this team,” said Crampton. “I hated to race my teammate, Doug Kalitta, in the final and win, but it was a great day for the whole team. We had three real strong runs to close out qualifying (including a 3.689), so we knew we had a car that could contend. Then we had another strong run in round one and made another solid pass in the second round. In the finals, we had a pretty good light and made a really good pass to beat a great driver and team.”

“For DHL, Toyota, Wix, Global and everyone who’s stayed behind us, this is big. It’s the business time of the year. It’s just so important to get round wins and try to run for a championship. We’ve shown we have a car capable of competing for a championship. Now we just need to keep digging in these last five races,” added Crampton.

In the first round Crampton got the jump on journeyman Dan Mercier and never trailed in the race. His 3.733 second elapsed time was quick enough to give him lane choice in the second round and set up a tough match-up with fellow Countdown contender Antron Brown.

The quarterfinal match-up between Crampton who started the Countdown in the No. 9 position and Brown who was trying to hold his No. 3 position was another dominating run by the DHL team and Crampton. By the 60 foot maker Crampton was pulling away from a tire-smoking  Brown. Crampton’s winning elapsed time of 3.781 seconds set him up with lane choice for the third time on Sunday.

The semifinals were anti-climactic for Crampton but not without a little drama. Following her burnout Brittany Force’s dragster sprung a fuel leak and had to be shut off handing Crampton a free run into the final round. As Crampton took off his DHL dragster overpowered the track and smoked the tires. He was able to click his 11,000 horsepower dragster off and coast to the win with a pedestrian 4.656 second run at 164.57 mph. The round win advanced Crampton into his second final round of the season.

It was an all Team Kalitta final round as Crampton squared off with newly crowned points leader Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster. At the hit of the throttle Kalitta grabbed a slight starting line advantage but as both dragsters launched down track Crampton had made up the difference and was pulling away for the win. Through four rounds of eliminations Crampton and his DHL Top Fuel dragster never trailed beyond the 60 foot marker.

Crampton’s four round wins moved him up to the No. 5 position in the Mello Yello point standings. It was an impressive four position jump leaving the first playoff race of the season. The young Australian is just 21 points, barely over one round, behind the No. 2 Top Fuel team.

“Our team is aware of the points and we know the pressure is on,” summed up Crampton. “I just have to do my job. I feel like I have a great car right now. We ran really well in qualifying at Indy and were near the top of the sheets. So we knew we could run with anyone out there. Connie (Kalitta) and Kurt (Elliott) are doing a great job on my DHL Toyota dragster. It’s been a long season, but this is when it all counts.”

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Richie Crampton on first race of the Countdown: “This is what we were shooting for coming into the Countdown. We wanted to get off to a good start and make a move up the points at the first race. We have some momentum and I can’t wait to get to St. Louis.” 

Qualified: No. 4 (3.689 sec., 328.14 mph)
Bonus points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q3)

Race Details: 

First Round
Driver                                    Qual       R/T         ET           MPH
Richie Crampton                 4            .085        3.733     329.26 (W)          
Dan Mercier                         13           .118        3.892     310.63

Second Round
Driver                                    Qual        R/T         ET           MPH
Richie Crampton                 4              .087        3.781     324.44 (W)
Antron Brown                        5              .057        9.080     81.48

Semifinal Round
Driver                                    Qual       R/T         ET           MPH
Richie Crampton                  4              .084        4.656     164.57 (W)
Brittany Force                        1              No run – Fuel leak

Final Round
Driver                                    Qual       R/T         ET           MPH
Richie Crampton                 4              .074        3.738     329.10 (W)
Doug Kalitta                          3              .067        3.779     331.29

This story was originally published on September 15, 2019. Drag Illustrated

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