By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
This off-season, Richie Crampton realized a dream when he was named the driver of the Geico Top Fuel driver for Morgan Lucas Racing. Since that time, the rookie from Australia has had some growing pains in his car.
“I’ve had my fair share of stumbling blocks and I’ve made rookie mistakes,” Crampton admitted. “I’m still learning, and I’m no where near where I need to be. This team finished No. 4 in the world last year (with Morgan Lucas as the driver), and it’s obviously a great running car. I hoped to do a little better than we had done. I’m still working hard.”
While he said that he was learning as a driver, Crampton only needed 9 races to pick up his first career win. He picked up his first win at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.
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This was also a significant win, as it was the 100th different win by a Top Fuel driver. He beat local driver Dom Lagana in the first round, then beat J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon to reach the finals.
He then defeated Doug Kalitta in the final round for the win.
“A win would mean so much in my career,” Crampton said the day before his win. “It would be validation to so many people that Morgan [Lucas] made the right decision. It would be extra special as my father is here to see it.”
That was also the first win by an Australia-born driver in the NHRA in a little more than two years. In 2012, David Grubnic won after a long winless streak at Heartland Park Topeka.
This season, Grubnic was forced out of his car midway through the season. J.R. Todd replaced Grubnic for the rest of this season.
Grubnic now serves as a consultant to the Optima Batteries team.
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“I have always been proud of the fact that I am from Australia,” Crampton said. “I know I already have some great fans back home that’s following my career closely. It doesn’t change things for me when Grubnic left, as it has put me in the forefront when he has been for so many years. I am flying the flag, and Shane Tucker is a fellow Australian, who is out here on a part-time schedule.”
This past weekend, Crampton suffered another stumbling block when he was eliminated in the first round of the NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals to Antron Brown. This was the Australian’s seventh loss in the first round this season.
He still has time to improve his 6-9 round record with 14 races left in the season. He is a candidate for the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award.
Last season, Brittany Force had a 10-22 round record; however, she did not have a win. She went to eight quarterfinals and a semifinal en route to winning the 2013 Road to the Future Award.
“Morgan, Geico, and Morgan Lucas Racing has put me in the position to win it,” Crampton said. “I drive a great racecar for a great team. It’s going to be tough, as I’m competing with Jonathan Gray. I’m not taking it for granted that I’m going to get that award.”
Gray has a 4-7 round record with one runner-up finish, which came this past weekend when he lost to Erica Enders-Stevens in the Pro Stock final round. Jason Line was the last Pro Stock driver to win the Road to the Future Award in 2004.
Since Morgan Lucas Racing has been in existence, no MLR driver has ever won the award. Crampton is hoping to end that trend later this season.
“We’re still a long way before that award is being considered,” Crampton said. “I’m the driver of the Geico Top Fuel dragster for the remainder of this season, and we would like to have good showings in the rest of the season. I’m also finishing off the three-year deal with Geico has the main sponsor of Morgan Lucas Racing. I know Geico and Morgan Lucas Racing is trying to establish where we’re going to be in the future. I would love to win the award and seal the deal to be the driver of this car in the long term. I want to make a strong run for the Rookie of the Year, and that’s my goal.”
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