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Richie Crampton Web

Australian NHRA Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton will make his second ever nitro appearance on home soil as part of Willowbank Raceway's New Years Thunder event this Saturday, January 5.

Crampton, driver of the Craftsman dragster for the powerhouse Kalitta Motorsports team in the NHRA Mello Yello Series, was born and raised in Adelaide before moving to the USA to pursue his drag racing dreams, first as a crew member and then as a driver.

The last time Crampton raced in Australia he drove for Lamattina Top Fuel Racing at Sydney Dragway in 2017. When the Victorian carrot farmers discovered Crampton was flying back to Australia for Christmas and New Year, they decided to see if he was keen to get back behind the wheel at what will be the second round of the 400 Thunder Top Fuel Championship.

“I talk to Phil Lamattina (team owner) and Aaron Hambridge (crew chief) pretty regularly and once I let them know we were coming to Australia for a family vacation with my wife and kids they mentioned there was a race on at Willowbank,” Crampton explained.

“From there everything fell into place.”

While Crampton has never raced in a Top Fuel dragster at Willowbank Raceway, he has competed at the famed south Queensland venue before, driving his Holden FC Super Sedan there in 2001. Crampton also crewed for the Cowin Family Racing Top Fuel team several times at the track.

“Willowbank is one of the premier race tracks in Australia and I knew there is a huge Top Fuel fan base that will be there,” he said.

“I have been surprised at how many people are making the trip from Adelaide and other parts of the country to see me race. A lot of my family haven't had the opportunity to come and watch in the USA so getting to do it here on Aussie soil is a big deal. I am looking forward to sharing what I do.”

Crampton will be a team mate for reigning 400 Thunder Top Fuel Champion Kelly Bettes. After going runner-up last time out in Sydney, Crampton would like to go one better this time.

“I definitely want to go home with a gold Christmas tree,” he said. “We were unlucky to runner-up at Sydney as we had a race car that should have won. We have some unfinished business.

“Kelly and her team will be equally tough and helpful for us; a two car operation gives us more information to work from. Between Kelly and myself we are hoping for an all-LTFR final round.”

When Crampton drove in Sydney in 2017, he didn't have a current NHRA seat after the Lucas Oil team retired their stable of cars. That all changed months later when Kalitta Motorsports picked him up. Crampton said staying in the cockpit at any opportunity was helpful.

“I think it definitely shows as a driver you still want to race,” he said. “At that particular time when Lucas closed their team I didn't know what was next and I was lucky Phil Lamattina gave me that opportunity to race in Sydney.

“It makes people aware you still want to race and the desire to win is even higher than normal when you are on the bench. When I get these opportunities I really appreciate it, it is a pretty humbling thing that Phil and everyone have done for me once again and it will be fun.”

Crampton will not be the only NHRA driver at New Years Thunder, with California's Ashley Sanford joining the fray for Rapisarda Autosport International.

New Years Thunder at Willowbank Raceway features not just the awesome Top Fuel dragster but also Pro Slammers, Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike. The main show begins from 5pm.

- Willowbank Raceway Media Release