Australia's Richie Crampton has found success in Florida once again, taking out the Top Fuel win at the 50th anniversary Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Crampton's route to the final saw him defeat Antron Brown in round one, then snatch a holeshot victory in a 3.78 to 3.73 race against Leah Pritchett. Crampton took out TJ Zizzo in the semi finals before another holeshot win in the final where a .042-reacted 3.769 defeated Clay Millican's .058 and 3.756.
The win was Crampton's second Gatornationals title in a row and he felt fortunate to have formed the bond with Gainesville.
“It's funny how you can develop a connection to a particular racetrack,” he said. “I'm pretty sure I have developed that connection with the Gatornationals.”
Crampton admitted he was lucky to survive a first round encounter with Brown when he was late on the tree, but he more than made up for the tardy opener in the later rounds.
“I 'over thunk' the first round against Antron and put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “Racing Leah in the second round I knew I had to rise to the occasion or we were going home. I wasn't the shallowest staged but it was race day and I knew lane choice wasn't a factor.
“We have a more consistent race car this year and that builds confidence in me as a driver to try and win those close races on the start line.”
After Crampton's semi final win the pit area for the DHL team (shown celebrating in the famous Kalitta winning tradition known as the 'mosh pit' above) was kept busy as the crew chased an ignition problem.
“It only wanted to run on one magneto,” Crampton explained. “There was some quick thinking and we had some great help from the (other Kalitta teams).”
On a weekend where many NHRA legends were recognised, Crampton was hesitant to acknowledge comments on writing his own Gatornationals history, instead choosing to observe the history of the Kalitta team including owner Connie Kalitta (above) who won the 25th anniversary Gatornationals in a Top Fuel final alongside his son Scott.
“It's hard to fathom doing anything similar to those legends. This one will take quite a while to sink in,” he said.
“I have been lucky enough to win the 60th US Nationals and now the 50th Gatornationals. I have a great team behind me who put me in a position to win like this.”
The win boosted Crampton to equal forth in the NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel standings.