Charolette, North Carolina (September 13, 2016) - The Fall Equinox may officially take place in a few days after the conclusion of this weekend's ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, but Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton of the powerful Lucas Oil Racing team is hoping autumn arrives a few days early.
"It's no secret we run better when the weather is a bit cooler and we can really pour all the horsepower (crew chief) Aaron Brooks has into the tune-up," Crampton said. "So yeah, we definitely favor spring and fall a bit more than the summertime.
"To win world titles you want to be able to run in any sort of conditions, but with the Countdown to the Championship in place, these last six races become so important, and fortunately for us they all take place in the fall."
The Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's version of the playoffs, represents a new beginning for all competitors in the professional categories as points are reset with each driver separated by just 10 points from No. 1 to No. 10 and the top qualifier getting a 20-point bonus.
Crampton, who hails from South Adelaide, Australia, has some work to do as he enters this year's chase in ninth place, but he knows drivers in the past have won from the final spot in the field, so there is no quit in the Lucas Oil group.
"The guys on this team, the first two years with me as a driver never missed a beat no matter what happened during the season," he said. "They dealt with a rookie back in 2014 and helped me win two races, including Indy, the biggest race of them all. Last year we stepped it up and won five times, finishing third in the points, which was a high mark for the organization.
"To say I have confidence with this group would be an understatement. I know what we're capable of doing. No one gets flustered or mad over here. We pick each other up and just get back to work. Sure, we all want to win just as much if not more than anyone else, but we also know how to stick together and fight through the downtimes that every team has. It makes me proud to be here."
One of the more popular pros in the pits, Crampton also took a moment before the Countdown to the Championship begins to thank his many sponsors.
"Everyone at Lucas Oil Products, they're just amazing in their support, from Forrest and Charlotte Lucas to Morgan and Katie on down to the local reps that join us each weekend. I simply have the best title sponsor in the sport, bar none," Crampton said. "Toyota, Protect The Harvest, MAVTV, Mac Tools, they make it happen for us.
"No matter how this season turns out, I'm still the luckiest kid in the world. Coming from Australia with nothing but a dream and working hard as a crew guy for many years, to be in the position I'm in now is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The best way to say thanks is to have a big finish, and it's our season, so we're ready."
Top Fuel qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon, Sunday. Eliminations will air live from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).