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2014 NHRA: Crampton Comes Through In 'Clutch' Fashion For Geico/Lucas Oil Team
Posted by: newsla on Jun 29, 2014 - 07:39 AM
2014 NHRA: Crampton Comes Through In 'Clutch' Fashion For Geico/Lucas Oil Team

Showing a flair for the dramatic and his continued usefulness as a former crewmember, GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster pilot Richie Crampton jumped from out of the qualifying field to the No. 6 position in the final round of time trials to successfully make the cut at the 17th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.


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Crampton's last-gasp 3.792 at 324.20 mph in Saturday's afternoon heat and humidity showed the incredible fortitude of crew chief Aaron Brooks as well as a little bit of handwork from Crampton himself, not just in the cockpit but in the setup of the car itself.

"First of all, what a gutsy call by Aaron," Crampton said. "We ended up sixth, but when he made that final run with everything on the line we went from out of contention to the No. 2 spot. That takes guts, man, and Aaron went for it and had enough belief in himself to stick to his plan. That's a huge confidence boost for all of us.

"We're a man down this weekend. Andrew Polk, who normally does our clutch, was hurt when we were setting up the pit, so I've taken up the slack and been doing all the clutch work myself. I don't think I've ever concentrated harder on my job because I wanted to make absolutely sure the clutch was perfect for Aaron."

Getting dirty is nothing new to Crampton. Prior to assuming the seat of the high-profile GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, he worked for seven years as a crewmember for Morgan Lucas Racing.

"It's been tiring to add this stuff to all the media and PR duties you have as a driver, but at the same time I've enjoyed getting in there with the guys again," he said. "I've taken a fair bit of ribbing about my soft hands and nice hair, but it's really a relief to have the knowledge to be able to help in situations like this."

The extra effort earned Crampton a first-round date with T.J. Zizzo, a local racer who is making his first start of the season. Zizzo's best pass in qualifying was a 3.852 at 318.39 mph.

"He'll have the crowd rooting for him, I'm sure, but that's all good," Crampton said. "We've actually picked up quite a few fans ourselves since winning a few weeks back in Englishtown (N.J.), and everyone here in Chicago has been really nice to me.

"Only going down the track one time in qualifying should make you a bit edgy, but after what Aaron managed to pull off just now, I don't think I'll have too much trouble sleeping tonight. Besides, all this extra manual labor has me worn out."

Race fans will be able to catch the majority of this event live beginning at 2 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

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