CRAMPTON READY FOR A FULL SEASON AT KALITTA
Richie Crampton already has a stellar resume over his young career as an NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver.
The Australian-turned-U.S.-citizen has seven victories in his three-plus season, including winning the 2014 U.S. Nationals for Morgan Lucas Racing.
He's finished in the top 10 in the Countdown to the Championship in all three of his full-time seasons – with a best of third in 2015 – and won the 2014 Auto Club Road to the Future Award as NHRA's top rookie.
Now, Crampton is back as a full-time driver, having joined Kalitta Motorsports for the U.S. Nationals last season. He'll be behind the wheel of the Kalitta Air dragster, tuned by Connie Kalitta and Rob Flynn, for the 2018 NHRA season.
"Every weekend, you want to go out and win rounds and win races and do the best you can," Crampton said. "That's the bottom line for your sponsors, for your crew guys and for everybody involved. That was my mindset when I was able to get back at Indy in 2017. I definitely was disappointed to not be racing anymore when MLR closed the doors, so to be able to get back into a race car and compete again, I felt like I was right back at home doing what I wanted to do.
"This year, 2018, starting off fresh in the beginning of the year chasing the points and trying to contend for a championship, and most importantly standing in the winner's circle with Connie Kalitta, it's a slightly different mindset than 2017 for me, but, big picture, it's kind of the same thing. You've got to go out and do the best job you can and try and win."
Crampton made some decent runs in his seven races at the end of 2017 after taking over for Troy Coughlin Jr. In his second race with the team, at Charlotte, Crampton qualified No. 7 and raced to the final round.
He knows all the pieces are in place for a run at the 2018 title, and that's how he's approaching this season.
"We all know how capable the Kalitta Motorsports cars are, as far as winning races and winning rounds," Crampton said. "That showed when I jumped in with the Sealmaster Toyota team and all the resources they have. They got down a hot track, a cold track, whatever it takes. In 2018, especially, it's going to showcase what a great group of crew chiefs and crew members that Kalitta Motorsports has.
"I'm pretty happy to be part of such a good group of drivers with J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, and Doug Kalitta. Everywhere you look, from top to bottom, the staff, the personnel, the other drivers, the crew chiefs, we've got everything we need for 2018 to win."
Crampton's car was relatively consistent in those seven races, and Crampton himself improved behind the wheel. He was out of the car for nearly ten months, but his reaction times made an upward trend as he got more seat time. Crampton's confidence, then, is as high as it's ever been.
"It was extremely cool for me to get back in at Indy," Crampton said. "We qualified reasonably well, but went out in the first round, which was unfortunate. But to be able to go to the next event, which was Charlotte, and go to the final my second race back, that definitely helped put a little more spring in my step. It reconfirmed to me that I belonged driving again.
"I still want to do it; I still love it. We threw out some great numbers throughout the year in '17, and that's going to give me a ton of confidence coming into our test session and the beginning of the season in '18."
Crampton spent the first three years of his driving career at MLR after serving as a crew member for several years for the now-defunct team. His dream was to drive a Top Fuel car in NHRA, and he accomplished that – and more.
But he's not satisfied.
"It's very cool to be competing at all the events for a high-caliber team like I will be at Kalitta Motorsports," Crampton said. "This day and age, it's very hard to land a ride with such a great team like this. I've been fortunate in the past, and I'm pretty lucky again to be in this position. I'm pretty excited and ready to get the year started."