NHRA Top Fuel rookie Richie Crampton is no stranger to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series – he has worked for Morgan Lucas Racing since 2007. This year, however, the 33-year-old native of Adelaide, South Australia gets behind the wheel of the GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster that was vacated at the end of the 2013 season by team owner Morgan Lucas. Unlike many rookies in the sport, Crampton has what he feels is an advantage.
“I think one of the biggest things I have up my sleeve, which isn't necessarily a driving related thing, is the fact that I've just worked with this team for so long,” said Crampton in a recent NHRA teleconference. “The team chemistry is there right away. I've seen the way this team operates and how I paid close attention to how Morgan (Lucas) goes about handling things during the race weekend as a driver. I think the fact that I've been around it for so long is probably my biggest benefit. Beyond that, I definitely am a rookie. There are a lot of great alcohol racers and such that have got a lot of runs up their sleeve that probably could have made the transition a lot easier. But, no, I think just the fact that I've been around this team and this car for so long, it just made it that much easier.”
Crampton’s main job with MLR for the past seven years has been the clutch department, which he will still be somewhat involved in during the team’s transition from Lucas to Crampton.
“A lot of times I've got to remind myself to basically stay away a little bit, and I don't need to be worrying about a lot of the little things I used to worry about and just concentrate on being ready to get in the racecar when it it's time to drive,” said Crampton. “It is going to be a little transition period where I'm still going to try to be involved with the clutch department because that was kind of my baby for the last seven years. It can be the smallest little thing that one person does differently to the next guy that can make or break the way these cars run. So I'm going to try to have input where it's just basically questions on how I used to do things and still try to be involved as much as I can. But Andrew Polk, the guy that's filled my position, he was working side by side with me in the clutch department for all that time anyhow. So it should be a fairly smooth transition.”
He’ll also have Lucas to fall back on for advice. “The fact that he's driven at the top level for so long, he's able to put it into words very well what you need to be feeling and thinking and how to drive these cars,” said Crampton. “Because there is definitely an art to it. I'm definitely going to be relying on Morgan throughout the season to help me get better. I just hope that I can fill his shoes.”
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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