Richie Crampton expects the phone calls and text messages to really fire up tonight as Australia wakes to the news that it has a US Nationals Top Fuel champion.
Crampton defeated Steve Torrence in the final of the biggest drag race on the planet and the attention is perhaps going to be one of the few things that helps the magnitude of the win settle in with the Adelaide-born driver.
“This isn’t going to sink in for quite a while,” he said. “When I won Englishtown (becoming the 100th different Top Fuel winner in NHRA history), a few days after I looked at the list of legends who had won in the history of Top Fuel. To win the 60th US Nationals it is surreal to think my name is on that list with people like Garlits, Prudhomme and Schumacher.”
Crampton has lived a dream few imagined possible in this day and age of money-backed drivers and paid rides, going from crew member to racer in just 12 months.
“It has been such a long road from where I came from to where I am right now,” he said. “I never dreamed it would ever really happen.
“I feel a little more worthy, but I am a long way from where I grew up trying to read National Dragster which I would get a week late.
“I always wanted to get an opportunity to drive a Top Fuel dragster – just once. But once you drive them once you want to drive them more and then when you win a round, you want to win a race.”
The logical step after that comment is a championship and it may not seem as far fetched as it sounds for the rookie driver.
“It seems weird for me to talk about the championship as a rookie driver, we are desperate to finish the year strongly for everyone involved,” he said. “I have my eyes set on the AAA Road to the Future award, but we should be able to put a real dent in that top ten and see where we end up.”
Crampton endured several tight races to reach the winner’s circle. He narrowly took out Billy Torrence in the opening round of eliminations, then took advantage of a tyre smoking pass from Shawn Langdon. Arguably the biggest test came against nine-times US Nationals winner Tony Schumacher in the semi finals. There Crampton took the win by just a single thousandth of a second in a race that had the crowd on their feet.
“I knew we would have to do well to get around Tony because he is the king of Indianapolis,” he said. “You keep that in the back of your mind every time you race against Schumacher. I think the fans got a great race.
“That might have been the biggest single round-win of my career. All we heard leading up to that race was that Schumacher was trying to win his 10th Indy trophy. Well, the guys in this pit weren’t going to give in to anything.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world, bar none. Just to be driving a Top Fuel car is the dream come true for me.”
Above images by Mark Rebilas.