Crampton top qualifies at Brainerd

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Reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Richie Crampton added an important accolade to his three-win sophomore season with a top-qualifier effort at his title sponsor’s main event, the 34th annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Crampton used a track-record 3.718-second elapsed time at a top speed of 323.50 mph to secure the honor, the third of his young career.

“Perfect timing, eh mate?” said Crampton, who hails from Adelaide, Australia. “When you have conditions like we had in Round 3 this morning and (crew chief) Aaron Brooks watches the first few pairs go down the track and then comes jogging back to make some last-minute changes, your heart starts beating faster, I can promise you.

“It’s really cool to post the quickest time of a race because you know everyone is going for it, but to do it at the Lucas Oil Nationals with Mr. and Mrs. Lucas scheduled to be here for race day, that just puts it over the moon. I’m very proud of my team and the work they continue to put in to make me look good.”

If there is a downside to the run, which was just a tad slower than his career best of 3.710 seconds posted earlier this year in Topeka, Kan., it’s that Crampton has to run his boss, Morgan Lucas, in the opening session of eliminations. Lucas runs a part-time schedule but is a multiple-time winner of this event, including last year’s Lucas Oil Nationals.

“Yeah, he’s struggled a bit this weekend (with a best of 4.796 at 234.66 mph), so we ended up on opposite sides of the ladder, but I don’t count him out at all,” Crampton said. “We share all of our data with that side of the pit and we know Morgan has some magic associated with this racetrack. I won’t sleep well tonight. I guess the best news is for sure we’ll have a Morgan Lucas Racing dragster advancing to the second round.”

As for Lucas, who is wheeling an all-black Lucas Oil-branded rail at this event, he says the realities of running a partial schedule are a little more apparent this season than last, when he won twice in seven starts.

“It’s very difficult to get right back up to speed when you’re only running select events,” said Lucas, who has curtailed his racing while he learns the family business. “We probably got a little spoiled last year, to be honest, but I still have a tremendous amount of confidence in the team. We may be part-time but everyone over her knows how to win. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we run strong tomorrow.

“I’m really proud of Richie. I know Mom and Dad will be fired up when they see he’s No. 1 and set a track record. Plus, we didn’t blow anything up. That’ll put smiles on their faces for sure.”


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