One of the highlight images from the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey last weekend was Mark J. Rebilas’ photo (third from bottom of page) of team owner Morgan Lucas jumping for joy after his rookie Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton defeated Doug Kalitta in the finals for his first career Wally. Lucas took a “leap” of faith putting his former crew member in the driver’s seat when he stepped back from driving duties this season, and so far it looks like it’s paying off.
“First of all, that was an amazing shot,” said Crampton in a recent NHRA teleconference. “I didn't know he could jump so high. But no, when we finally got to have two seconds to talk after we won that final, and I just obviously thanked him again and told him that he would never understand how it felt for me to fulfill my dream like that and get that win. He just said ‘Hey, you did a good job today and I'm really proud of you and that is just a great day. Whatever you do, just enjoy it, because this first win is huge and savor every little thing.’ He said that Forrest and Charlotte (Lucas) were proud, and it was, what am I going to say, emotional, but it kind of was an emotional little back and forth there at the other end of the racetrack.”
After the first eight races of the season, Crampton had just three round wins, but something clicked at Englishtown – maybe the whirlwind couple of weeks he’s been having, after his girlfriend gave birth to their first child, daughter Emma.
“It's been a little bit of a blur for me,” admitted Crampton, a native of Adelaide, Australia. “The past two weeks have been pretty hectic. Fortunately, I was able to make it home from the Atlanta race in time to be there for the birth of our daughter, Emma, and most importantly her and my girlfriend, Stephanie, are doing fantastic. So couldn't have wished for anything better there. Yeah, and then to go to Englishtown and get my first win in Top Fuel against someone like Doug Kalitta, it truly was a dream come true. So my head is still spinning a little bit and my feet really haven't touched the ground. It's truly been an amazing two weeks for me.”
The rookie driver, who was a crew member at Morgan Lucas Racing since 2007, hopes that this was just the first of many Wallys he’ll be adding to his collection.
“It's the ultimate confidence booster for myself and the team,” said Crampton. “I think everyone kind of took a little leap of faith when I got offered or got given this position to drive for MLR. So I think everyone, you know, kind of makes everyone feel a little better about the decision, and at least they can see that there's definitely some more potential, if, you know, we can get to the winner's circle maybe another once or twice this season. It's a great feeling and everyone at MLR is on cloud nine right now.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series gets back on track Friday through Sunday, June 13th through 15th at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee, home of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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