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Feb 18, 2014 - 06:24 AM
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2014 NHRA: Top Fuel Pro Crampton Enjoying Fast Start To Rookie Campaign
Posted by: newsla on Feb 18, 2014 - 06:22 AM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: Top Fuel Pro Crampton Enjoying Fast Start To Rookie Campaign


It should be pretty easy to find Top Fuel rookie Richie Crampton at this weekend's 30th annual Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park; he'll be the one with the endless smile on his face.

 

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The driver of the powerful GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster is living his boyhood dream since being promoted from clutch specialist to professional pilot prior to the 2014 NHRA season. Now that he's had a race to shake off the rookie jitters, he comes to the Valley of the Sun expecting bigger things from the race car and much more fun to be had with the fans.

"Two things really jumped out at me in Pomona," Crampton said of the season opener in Southern California. "The first was how well the car ran on race day. Aaron Brooks (crew chief) really got this thing dialed in quickly, running a pair of 3.7-second passes, and if we hadn't run into Doug Kalitta in Round 2, we might have really done something big, but Doug just had the better car all weekend.

"The other thing was how great the fans were towards me. So many people made a point of stopping over to wish me luck and tell me they'd be rooting for me. It was really special. I think the best part was the kids because it made me think about when I was a kid going to the races and how I looked up to the drivers. It kind of brought it all full circle."

Having team owner Morgan Lucas, who he replaced in the cockpit as Lucas takes time to learn the family business at Lucas Oil Products, was another big benefit for Crampton, who hails from Adelaide, South Australia.

"Morgan was great," Crampton said. "He had an answer for everything, from what was going on with my driving to stuff like interviews and sponsor obligations. He definitely helped with the transition and the guys have been magic as well. My goal is to not be the weak link. I don't want my performance to hold us back, so everything I do I try to think, 'What would Morgan do,' so that we don't miss a beat. So far, so good."

Aside from a new name -- Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park -- the track surface is brand new as well, giving Crampton about as level a playing field as he'll have all year.

"Everything is new to me," he said. "Now we have a track that's sort of new to everyone. Of course, I'm the junior guy out there either way, but with this team around me I feel a real sense of confidence.

"I hope Phoenix is as nice as advertised. I've heard they spent a lot of money upgrading the place for the fans and the teams as well, so it should be good. No matter what, I promise I'll be having fun."

Qualifying sessions will be held at 2 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Eliminations kick off at 11 a.m., Sunday. ESPN2 will air qualifying and elimination action.


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