NHRA standout Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton has landed a ride.
Crampton, who was the full-time driver of a Morgan Lucas Racing Top Fuel dragster for the past three years, has signed on to drive for Lamattina Top Fuel Racing to pilot the team’s Fuchs Lubricants dragster at the Nitro Thunder event at Sydney (Australia) Dragway May 5-7.
Crampton, a native of Adelaide, South Australia, is thrilled to have this opportunity to race in Australia.
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“I have wanted to race back on Aussie soil for quite some time, and to now have that chance and drive the LTFR dragster for the Lamattina family is quite an honor,” Crampton said in a press release. “Lamattina Top Fuel Racing is a world-class team with world-class equipment, and while we’re up against some very strong opposition we’ll be going all out to achieve a great result at Sydney Dragway.”
Team boss Phil Lamattina is excited to bring Crampton onboard.
“You don’t get opportunities to put drivers of Richie’s caliber in your race car very often, so when he became available we grabbed the opportunity with both hands,” Lamattina said in a press release.
“Australia’s Top Fuel competition is tough, we’re up against outstanding teams like Rapisarda Autosport International, and signing an international star like Richie Crampton means Sydney Dragway’s race fans are in for one fantastic show.”
Crampton became available when Morgan Lucas announced following the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Nov. 13 his team was disbanding.
Crampton showed from 2014-16 that he is a superstar NHRA driver. He competed in 72 races for MLR, winning seven national events – five in 2015 and two in 2014 – and finishing a career-best third in the point standings in 2015.
This past season, Crampton came in ninth in the points and had one runner-up effort at Sonoma, Calif., July 31, losing in the finals to J.R. Todd. He also qualified No. 1 five times in his career.
This weekend he plans on enjoying NHRA’s season-opening Winternationals from another perspective – as a fan.
“It’s a refreshing change, he said. “As much as I miss the competition aspect of racing a Top Fuel car at 300 mph, it’s good to roll in here as a fan because first and foremost, that’s what I am, I’m a fan of this sport. I love hanging out with all of the friends and awesome people that I’ve met here over the years. Yeah, I mean, I took (racing) seriously as everyone can imagine, you get up in the morning with a gut ache hoping you’re going to run good that weekend and try and win, and do the right thing for everyone. It’s good to step back now and not have that pressure, and look at how cool it is to be at the drag strip and watching these cars race and everyone that’s out here doing it.”
Despite Crampton’s success, he wasn’t stunned he didn’t land a full-time for NHRA’s 2017 season.
“You know, honestly, I’m not surprised,” Crampton said. “There are not a ton of empty race cars around, everyone knows that. Because of the way our situation unfolded, I had not pursued sponsorship backing for 2017. That’s neither here nor there, I guess. I just wasn’t in that mode of trying to find backing to go race someone else’s car. I’d love to drive any type of race car, not just Top Fuel. Whether it be Funny Car, or Pro Mod, or even Top Alcohol. I’m going to keep my eyes out and ears open and see what happens.”
Crampton acknowledged when MLR shutdown in November at season’s end it blindsided him.
“I definitely had no idea that we were going to park the team, you know,” he said. “If it were a situation where they decided to change driver, or change crew chief, or whatever that may have put me out of the seat, or however, I would have kind of expected maybe something like that could happen. But for them to completely shut down the operation really just blew my mind a little bit, you know. Well I guess we all took for granted that the Lucas family would run Top Fuel cars forever. I think the harsh realities of it is that this is motorsports and things like that can happen and it just did.”
Although Crampton is no longer driving for Morgan Lucas Racing, he still works for the family as a fabricator.
“I’m still a Lucas employee,” he said. “Myself and three other guys, we still work out of the same race shop that we’ve been in. Our focus now is on Lucas Oil Race Fab and that’s something that’s near and dear to me. I always built my own race cars, my own Top Fuel cars, and helped build other race cars for people like Steve Torrence and other competitors. Yeah I absolutely still work for Lucas. They were really good to every one of the employees on the team, including myself. Obviously they’ve given me the opportunity to stay and maintain a job within the company. It’s not racing a car anymore, it’s welding and cutting pipe during the week and I enjoy that too. So it’s a win-win.”
Crampton’s new plight has also given him more time to be at home.
“I like being at home. It’s going to be different,” Crampton said. “I’ve been on the NHRA tour for geez, 13 years. So, it’s going to be different for me to not have to travel to 24 events plus testing all year long. I’m kind of looking forward to that. I think by summertime I might be getting a little antsy and you might see me just hanging out at some more races to get out of the house.”
Tracy Renck is a senior writer for CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus