Big Expectations at Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Just Fine for Top Fuel Standout Richie Champton

15 08 2016

BRAINERD, MN – August 15, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) –  With a 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season that has not gone the way as planned to this point, count Richie Crampton as one who is excited to be heading to Brainerd International Raceway this weekend.

Crampton and his team have made noticeable improvements in recent races, including a runner-up finish in Sonoma, giving the Top Fuel standout added momentum heading to an important race where he is the defending event winner.

NHRA Top Fuel Richie Crampton action

The 35th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals is also the penultimate race of the regular season before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins, and Crampton can sense the growing excitement of his team surrounding his 10,000-horsepower Lucas Oil dragster heading to his sponsor’s race in Brainerd.

“For me, it’s just feeding off the confidence of the team in general,” said Crampton, who is currently eighth in points. Brainerd’s been exceptionally good to everyone at (Morgan Lucas Racing) over the last few years, and obviously Indianapolis has as well. This is a pretty exciting part of the year for us, and to have a race car that appears to have turned a corner performance-wise gives us the momentum we’re going to need to try and make a run at this thing in the last six races of the Countdown.”

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the pivotal NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event that will be broadcast on FS1 for the first time. FS1 is also adding 30 minutes of live NHRA programming on Saturday, Aug. 20, to televise the postponed final rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car from the postponed event in Seattle. The added telecast will air from 3 to 3:30 p.m. ET and will feature the Top Fuel final between Antron Brown and Steve Torrence as well as the Funny Car final between Del Worsham and Ron Capps. Both final rounds will take place during the third round of qualifying.

The race is also the 17th of 24 events in the 2016 season and after winning five races a season ago, Crampton is still searching for his first this year.

That has been a frustrating turn of events for Crampton and his team, led by standout crew chief Aaron Brooks, but the Australia native can sense a turnaround is near. With the Countdown to the Championship looming, it could be coming at a perfect time for Crampton. He has put together solid results at the last two events in fast conditions, giving Crampton confidence he will be able to thrive with whatever comes his way in Brainerd and beyond.

“Over the last two races, we’ve seen a little bit of warm weather and a little bit of cool weather, and in both of those settings, our Lucas Oil dragster has run pretty good,” said Crampton, who has seven career Top Fuel wins. “That gives me a lot of confidence, knowing Aaron Brooks has got a handle on the race car. We can run really good on a 110-degree race track, and we can run really good on an 80-degree race track. This is obviously the business time of the year. I’m excited that we know we’ve got a race car that can work in both conditions.”

Conditions are only one factor, however, as Crampton must also deal with a talent-filled Top Fuel class headed by points leader and reigning world champion Antron Brown. Others to watch in Brainerd include three-time event winner and eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, three-time 2016 winner Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, who won in Sonoma, Texan Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett and Shawn Langdon.

It will make moving up the standings heading into the Countdown to the Championship difficult, but Crampton obviously wants to start the six-race playoffs in the best position possible. He is just 82 points out of seventh and a strong finish in Brainerd, including a possible back-to-back victory at the race, would go a long way in helping that.

“I look at the points every week, out of curiosity,” Crampton said. “But there are so many variables that can change the outcome of any given race that I wouldn’t even try to predict where we could be or where someone else could be to begin the Countdown. I pay attention to it, but we really know that if our race car goes rounds, we’re going to accrue those valuable points and be sitting in a better position.”

Crampton was incredible in Brainerd a year ago to close out a record-setting weekending of action, running an impressive 3.695 at 325.30 mph in the final around against Brittany Force. Cool conditions led to a number of thrilling runs, something that may repeat itself this weekend. Crampton is prepared if that’s the case and going to a race where he has had previous success also provides a boost.

“It’s huge for me as a driver, and it’s huge for my team,” Crampton said. “We’ve been to one final so far in 2016. By this point last year, we had won several races, so for me, the excitement of trying to get back into the winner’s circle is really mounting. This Brainerd race is going to be a perfect place to try and do that because it means so much to us.

“Another win in Brainerd would be a cherry on top, as far as the last three or four years racing there. We’ve been fortunate enough to do well there, and it’s our home away from home. There’s something real familiar about that place for us, and it would be definitely be very cool to win another Top Fuel trophy in front of those great Brainerd fans at the Lucas Oil Nationals.”

In Funny Car, Hight defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. here one year ago to notch his first victory of the 2015 season. Everyone is chasing points leader Ron Capps, who has four wins in 2016, but Capps, who has five Brainerd victories, will have his hands full. He will deal with a loaded class that includes 11-time Brainerd winner John Force, who has won back-to-back races in 2016, Jack Beckman, Courtney Force, reigning world champion Del Worsham, Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson.

Pro Stock’s Erica Enders raced to her fifth victory of the 2015 season last year en route to her second consecutive world championship, but it’s been a different story in 2016. Enders is still after her first win, while Jason Line and Greg Anderson both have seven victories in what has been a dominant campaign for the teammates thus far. Others to watch in Pro Stock include four-time Brainerd winner Jeg Coughlin, Bo Butner, Allen Johnson, who won in Denver, 2015 top rookie Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile, Chicago No. 1 qualifier Shane Gray and Texan Chris McGaha.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec powered to his third consecutive victory of the 2015 season last year at Brainerd International Raceway and is the current points leader. His teammate and reigning world champion Andrew Hines is right behind in second thanks to three victories this season. But the Pro Stock Motorcycle field and deep and talented, and features the likes of LE Tonglet, who won in Sonoma, Angelle Sampey, who recently won her first race since 2007 in Englishtown, N.J., Jerry Savoie, veteran Steve Johnson, Matt Smith, Hector Arana, Hector Arana Jr. and Chip Ellis.

The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 20, at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 21.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 218-824-RACE (7223) or 866-444-4455. Tickets also are available online at www.brainerdraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.

NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals logo

LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS

WHAT: 35th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.

WHERE: Brainerd International Raceway and Resort, Brainerd, Minn. Track is located a few miles north of the Brainerd area off Highway 371. The track is located on the east side of the highway.

COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,200 feet above sea level; Track direction is west to east.

WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 18-21

SCHEDULE:

THURSDAY, Aug. 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying

FRIDAY, Aug. 19 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3 and 5:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, Aug. 20 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1 and 3:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, Aug. 21 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION:

Saturday, Aug. 20, FS1 will televise thirty minutes of live coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).

Saturday, Aug. 20, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Aug. 21, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).

2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 11, FC; Joe Amato, 6, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 5, FC/TF; Antron Brown, 5, TF/PSM; Ron Capps, 5, FC;  Bruce Allen, 4, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Bob Glidden, 4, PS; Kurt Johnson, 4, PS; Warren Johnson, 4, PS.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.662 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Aug. ’15; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. and 329.58 mph by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.541 sec. by Erica Enders, Aug. ’15; 211.39 mph by Shane Gray, Aug. ’15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.788 sec. and 197.39 by Eddie Krawiec, Aug. ’15.

NATIONAL  RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.832 sec. by Del Worsham, Aug. ’16, Seattle; 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.;  215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.

TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (218) 824-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.brainerdraceway.com.

About National Hot Rod Association

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 23 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Source: National Hot Rod Association

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