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Crampton qualifies No. 1 in St. Louis, hopes to keep moving up in points on Sunday

St Louis, Missouri (September 24, 2016) - Richie Crampton gained ground in NHRA's Countdown to the Championship playoffs even before tomorrow's eliminations at the 5th annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park just outside St. Louis.

Crampton, driver of the 10,000-horsepower Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, raced to the No. 1 qualifying position with a stellar 3.733-second, 323.50-mph run in Friday night's second qualifying session. With extra points awarded in qualifying, Crampton has already moved up two spots in the Countdown to the Championship standings, from 10th to eighth.

Crampton has six wins in his three-year Top Fuel career but has not visited the winner's circle as of yet in the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. He is hopeful that will change tomorrow, beginning with his first-round matchup with No. 16 qualifier Kebin Kinsley.

With track temperatures soaring in today's sun, Crampton and the Lucas Oil team struggled to get completely down the 1,000-foot track with full power, but the ever-affable native Australian is still confident about his team's efforts tomorrow.

"We were trying to get down the racetrack today and it just didn't work out," Crampton said. "It's not like we were trying to swing for the fence or anything. We just wanted to put a good run on the board.

"Friday night is really a good thing and it shows with us maintaining the No. 1 position. It was a good run yesterday, and I'm glad we got that run on the board. I'm sure we left a little on the table today, and I'm sure Aaron (Brooks, crew chief) is pulling his hair out right now.

"I don't think we were trying anything out of the ordinary today. By all accounts we were just a little underpowered today in both of our sessions and maybe we were just trying to tread a little too lightly. I think what Aaron has learned today is definitely going to help us tomorrow."

Crampton still has high confidence that tomorrow will be a good day for him and the Lucas Oil team.

"It's a matter of going out there and trying to do my job," Crampton said. "I've got all the confidence in my team and Aaron, and I think we can do it."

Top Fuel eliminations start at 11 a.m., Sunday, and will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. (All times listed in CT).

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