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Aug 18, 2014 - 06:15 AM
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2014 NHRA: Rookie-Of-The-Year Candidate Crampton Clinches Countdown Berth
Posted by: newsla on Aug 18, 2014 - 06:13 AM
2014 NHRA: Rookie-Of-The-Year Candidate Crampton Clinches Countdown Berth

Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton of Australia earned a spot in this year's Countdown to the Championship Sunday at the 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals when teammate and car owner Morgan Lucas eliminated Bob Vandergriff Jr. in the opening round of eliminations. Vandergriff was the last driver within range of Crampton in the points, and with his dismissal from title contention Crampton became the only rookie-of-the-year candidate with a chance at the championship.


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"That's a big goal realized right there," Crampton said. "At the start of the season we sat down and talked about things we wanted to accomplish in the regular season, and the top thing was to qualify for the Countdown. It's huge for GEICO, Lucas Oil, and Toyota, and it's especially big for the guys on this team that work so hard for us.

"It's nice to clinch a spot with another regular-season race left to run because we have a chance to really reset and prepare for the Countdown. Once it starts, we have four races in four consecutive weekends, and we want to be in top form for that run."

Locking up a spot in the playoffs was a nice consolation for Crampton, who despite running an otherworldly 3.766 at a track record 328.54 mph in his first-round race against Steve Torrence ended up losing by .0017-second due to Torrence's slightly better reaction time. The data showed Torrence leaving in .061-second to Crampton's .085-second launch. Torrence's numbers downtrack showed a 3.773 at 323.43 mph.

"That was a bitter pill to swallow," Crampton said. "We're getting down to the business time of the year and that was a round I really wanted to win, especially with this being the Lucas Oil Nationals. Steve did a better job and got the win and I congratulate him for that, but it was a real blow for me personally. Fortunately, Morgan did his job and took out Bob and allowed us to clinch the Countdown, so that lifted us back.

"Any time you lose on a holeshot it's tough because you just feel terrible for the guys. They did everything right, Aaron (Brooks, crew chief) put in the perfect tune-up, and I gave it away at the starting line. I'm still learning, obviously."

Crampton had a good 30 minutes to brew before Lucas got his chance to square off against Vandergriff, a delay caused by an oildown in the prior drag race.

"After two days of heat and humidity, we finally got some cool weather blowing through last night and the conditions were just perfect out there," Crampton said. "Some crew chiefs hit it perfectly, like Aaron did with both of our team cars, and some overdid it and blew up. That oildown cleanup seemed to take forever because I was so anxious for Morgan to race Bob."

The GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel team next competes Aug. 29-Sept. 1 at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

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