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Defending Brainerd champ Richie Crampton ready for another Lucas Oil Nationals win

Brainerd, Minnesota (August 15, 2016) - Richie Crampton's victory at last year's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals remains one of the highlights of his brief career for many reasons. It happened at his title sponsor's event with Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas on the starting line, his father Al was visiting from Australia and on hand at the event, and he got to collect the Top Fuel trophy from Lucas Oil matriarch Charlotte Lucas at the top end.

"It was pretty much far beyond any dream scenario you could imagine," Crampton said. "Everything you could wish for happened, and certainly coming around the corner at the top end and seeing Mrs. Lucas there with such a big smile on her face was something I'll never forget.

"Forrest, Charlotte, their son Morgan, and his wife Katie, they're the reason I'm out here. They collectively gave me this chance of a lifetime, and in our world the best way to say 'thank you' is to win races. It's what we're always striving to do. To get them that win at this race, well, it was pretty special."

Last year's victory at Brainerd International Raceway was the fourth of five wins Crampton would amass during the 2015 season en route to a team-best third-place finish in the championship points. This time through, Crampton finds himself winless on the year with a runner-up result two races ago in Sonoma, Calif., his best outing to date.

The good news for Crampton is he gathered five elimination round-wins during the three-race Western Swing, lifting him to a solid eighth in the points with the start to the Countdown to the Championship playoffs just two races away. Although he hasn't mathematically clinched a third straight playoff berth, with a 202-point advantage over 10th place he seems a virtual lock.

"The good thing about the Countdown is the NHRA resets the points for the 10 drivers that make it into the field, so it places a premium on how you do down the stretch," Crampton said. "We've seen in the past that the last driver to make it in has turned it on at the perfect time and walked away with the championship. Basically, if you're in the Countdown field you have a chance.

"The key for our team is to keep up this performance increase we've had the last few races. If the car runs like it has during the Western Swing, we can definitely make a big move.

"Having another big Brainerd race also would be a great boost for us. There's no doubt it's a very special weekend for this team. And we'll have Morgan driving the second car, so we'll have all that extra data to work with. I'm excited."

Top Fuel qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 and 6 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at 11 a.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 9 to 11 p.m., Saturday, and eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in CT).

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