Charlotte, North Carolina (September 18, 2016) - Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton described his current mood as "desperate" Sunday after a first-round exit at the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, the first of six playoff races in the Countdown to the Championship.
"I desperately want to get this Lucas Oil dragster back to its winning ways," Crampton said. "It's so frustrating when you do everything the same way we did a year ago when we won five races and finished third in the national rankings only this time through we can't get the results we want.
"This happens to every team, but that doesn't make it feel any better when it happens to you. The thing I hang my hat on is the fact we have the same group of hard-working guys wrenching on this thing as we did when we were running at the top of the charts, so I know we'll get it turned around very soon."
The weekend started extremely well for Crampton as he was the No. 1 qualifier after the first timed session on Friday afternoon with a pass of 3.770 at 318.84 mph. He later improved to a 3.744 at 320.51 mph and posted a third 3.7-second pass in Q3, eventually qualifying eighth overall.
But on race day his car was too hopped up, and it barely made it off the starting line before he started to smoke the tires.
"It shuddered right at the hit and then started spinning the tires," Crampton said. "We're not sure why, but we'll examine all the data and try to figure it out. It's a quick turn this week as we race again in St. Louis starting Friday, so we'll be busy.
"I saw the other car streaking away from me and there was no point trying to get back on the gas and potentially blow something up. I decided to save the parts and live to fight another day."
In the end, opponent Leah Pritchett posted a 3.840 at 310.20 mph, well ahead of Crampton's resigned 7.051 at 97.33 mph.
"Seeing her win with a beatable 3.840 added some sting to the loss, but there's nothing we can do at this point," Crampton said. "It was a pretty shocking first round with Tony Schumacher, Shawn Langdon, and JR Todd all losing as well. That may help us a bit, but we'd much rather win our races to gain ground."
Crampton won't have long to wait for redemption as the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals takes place Sept. 23-25 at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.