St. Louis, Missouri (September 23, 2016) - Have Richie Crampton and the Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster team picked the right time to get hot?
Crampton sped to the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on Friday at Gateway Motorsports Park, ripping off a pass of 3.733 seconds at 323.50 mph.
"Obviously in the Countdown is when you want to run your best," Crampton said. "You can't start a weekend much better than being on the pole. Hopefully that'll give us a softer first-round draw on Sunday, but you can't take anyone lightly anymore either.
"It's all about what we can do in the hot weather on Sunday, but it is pretty cool to be back on the pole because it's been a long time."
Crampton has had one No. 1 qualifier in 2016, in the third race of the season in Gainesville, Fla. He reached the Countdown to the Championship -- the six-race NHRA playoffs -- but lost in the first round of the first race in Charlotte.
He sits 10th in the Top Fuel standings after battling for the title and finishing third in the points standings in 2015. Crampton, a winner of two races in his rookie season of 2014 and five last year, hasn't had the season he expected in 2016.
"I think (competitors) take us a little lighter than they did last year when we finished No. 3 in the championship and won five races," Crampton said. "We've only been to one final round this year, but if we get our race car back like we know (crew chief) Aaron Brooks can run one, we might catch a lot of them by surprise. No better time to do it than these last five races. It's pretty exciting for me."
Crampton made a solid pass in the first session Friday, but a dropped cylinder limited him to a pass of 3.883 seconds at 209.70 mph. As conditions improved for Q2, so did the Lucas Oil dragster, and Crampton knew it was a good pass.
But as he glanced at the scoreboard, he questioned the 3.733 that flashed. That's because bulbs on the board made an earlier 3.77-second pass look like 3.73.
"I probably shouldn't be looking up at the scoreboard going 323 mph, but I saw the .73 pop up," Crampton said. "What was weird about that was I saw J.R. (Todd's) run, and he ran a .77 but it looked like a .73 on the scoreboard from where I was sitting in the lanes. After my run, I thought, 'That looked like a .73 and felt really good, but I'm not going to jump out of the race car and do anything until I see the e.t. slip."