Brainerd, Minnesota (August 20, 2016) - Aussie driver Richie Crampton may not be the top qualifier at this weekend's 35th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, but he says his Lucas Oil dragster is still fully capable of carrying him to a Brainerd title defense.
"This car's great," said the affable Aussie. "We didn't get all of it in Q4 when everyone else was running their best times of the weekend, but the fact we jumped up to No. 3 with our run of record, the 3.717 at 319.14 mph earlier today in conditions we are most likely going to see tomorrow, tells me we are right in the mix.
"Whenever you have a long rain delay like we had between rounds today and the cloud cover rolls in and it cools off so much, you know it's going to be crazy fast. We were all shooting for the moon there, and our car just wasn't completely perfect and we let one slip away. Still, like I said, we likely won't see mineshaft conditions again tomorrow."
Crampton marched through the Lucas Oil Nationals field from the top qualifying position last year en route to his fourth of five wins, collecting the trophy from company co-founder Charlotte Lucas at the top end to cap a perfect day. This time he'll have to work a bit harder as his best run has him slotted seventh overall. He's now scheduled for a first-round battle with good friend JR Todd.
"There's not much that can compare to last year's race," Crampton said. "To win your title sponsor's race and have Mrs. Lucas down there handing me the trophy was tops. We were totally on our game and it was rewarding to get it done.
"This time I really feel like we can do it all over again. We just didn't peak in the right session so we're down the sheet a bit, but it'll be a different environment tomorrow. I know the guys are working double-time, so we have a chance to impress Charlotte and Forrest again. We always love it when they join us at the track."
Todd is the first obstacle and his best of 3.734 at 326.24 mph proves he is dangerous. Although since he is the higher-ranked car of the pairing, Crampton will have the advantage of lane choice.
"JR's my buddy and people think that must change how you race one another," Crampton said. "I don't agree. When that helmet goes on, everything else vanishes. If anything, you want to beat on them even more so I don't have to hear about it at the gym for the next two weeks. We'll be friends either way, but I wouldn't mind having something to rib him about."
Top Fuel eliminations start at 11 a.m. CT, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will join eliminations live and broadcast all the action from 1 to 4 p.m.