SONOMA, CA – July 23, 2019 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – Richie Crampton isn’t all the way there yet, but he feels like his Kalitta Motorsports team is on the right track heading into this weekend’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at scenic Sonoma Raceway. With the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship quickly approaching, that’s a good thing for the Top Fuel standout and his talented team.
Crampton started the Western Swing with a round win on Sunday in Denver, which was preceded by a semifinal appearance in Epping in his 11,000-horsepower DHL dragster. There’s plenty more to accomplish during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but Crampton is confident his team will get there when it counts. Sitting eighth in points, Crampton is ready to see his team continue its upward ascension as he seeks his first playoff berth since 2016.
“We’re real close to being where we want to be to get that raceday consistency,” Crampton said. “I feel like (crew chiefs) Connie (Kalitta) and Kurt (Elliott) are where they want to be with the car. That’s just them working on our combination all season. I know Connie can win in Sonoma. I’ve seen it first-hand driving against this car, so it’s pretty exciting for me that they know how to get down these hotter race tracks. These next few races are going to be pretty critical for me.”
Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 15th of 24 races during the 2019 NHRA season and the second of three races during the famed NHRA Western Swing. Crampton will try for his first Sonoma win, but the dragster he’s campaigning has recent success at the facility with J.R. Todd’s win in 2016.
Todd is now the defending world champ in Funny Car, but that victory gives Crampton confidence. All four Kalitta Motorsports cars have wins this season, including Crampton’s victory in Gainesville, but he’s ready for more. He lost to Todd in that 2016 final and Crampton is ready for his first victory at Sonoma, which is one of his favorite tracks on the NHRA circuit.
“I have a ton of confidence at a track like Sonoma,” said Crampton, who has nine career Top Fuel wins. “I love Sonoma. It’s a grade-A facility with a great fanbase and a beautiful part of the country. Before I’m done, I hope to have a Wally at Sonoma. We have to get down the racetrack, qualify well and I need to do my job inside the car. I haven’t been totally happy with my performance the last few races, but I think I’ll thrive on the pressure when the time comes.”
That means a “whatever it takes to get to the finish line first” mindset, especially in a loaded Top Fuel class that starts with points leader and defending world champ Steve Torrence, who has won eight of the past nine races in 2019. Crampton will also have to deal with the likes of Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, Antron Brown and teammate Doug Kalitta. He’s currently ahead of Scott Palmer, Terry McMillen and Austin Prock, who he beat in the first round on Sunday in Denver, and Crampton is determined to keep pushing forward.
“This is another race where I’m going to show up and do my best to try to win,” Crampton said. “You definitely look at and pay attention to the points, and it is an important crossroads of the season for me. But I love it. When you look at the car I get to drive and the team I get to drive for, I really relish the position I’m in. I keep that in mind when I go up to race. I love it and I’m hungry to win, and I know my team is as well.”
Funny Car’s Hight will look to strengthen his points lead with another Sonoma victory, but he’ll face off against Denver winner Tommy Johnson Jr., defending world champ J.R. Todd, and John Force.
Three-time Sonoma winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. aims to add another in Pro Stock against points leader Bo Butner, and 2019 season winners Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha and Deric Kramer.
Andrew Hines will look to keep his hot streak going in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He’s won six of the eight races in 2019 and will compete against defending world champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec and Hector Arana Jr. On Saturday, the class takes center stage with the Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle, a special race-within-a-race on Saturday featuring eight top riders. Smith grabbed the win last year, taking home the $25,000 prize.
The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock Motorcycle school at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, as well as Nitro School to learn how the cars and motorcycles operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Sonoma Raceway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their NHRA Sonoma Nationals victories.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:15 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 27 at 1:20 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.
The first round of the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m. with the finals slated for 5:30 p.m.
Television coverage includes Friday Night Nitro Live at 7 p.m. ET on Friday on FS1, and live finals action at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday before a live, two-hour broadcast on FOX starting at 5 p.m. There will also be a special hour-long Pro Stock episode at 10 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
To purchase tickets, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. First responders save 50% on adult reserved or general admission tickets on Saturday only. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. 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 program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; 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