Australian drag racer Richie Crampton has catapulted himself into World Championship contention with a stunning win at the Mopar Express Lane Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania, this morning.
Crampton ran a 3.73-second elapsed time at 529 km/h in his DHL/Toyota Top Fuel dragster to defeat Kalitta Motorsports teammate Doug Kalitta’s 3.77-second pass in a thrilling final round – the winning margin less than four-one hundredths of a second.
It was Crampton’s second win of the year, and tenth overall in his short but spectacular professional career.
With just five national events remaining in the 24-race NHRA season, the victory came at an important time for the Australian, allowing him to jump from ninth to fifth in series points for the Mello Yello World Top Fuel Championship.
The Adelaide-born driver defeated Dan Mercier and three-time World Champion Antron Brown in the first two elimination rounds.
He received a lucky break when top qualifier Brittany Force was shut off with a fuel leak before their semi-final match-up, with Crampton’s DHL dragster slowing on its solo run through to the final when it spun its tyres.
“I’m so lucky to be part of this Kalitta Motorsports team,” Crampton said. “I hated to race Doug [Kalitta] in the final, but it’s been a great day for our team overall.
“It’s the business time of the year, and we keep talking about how important getting round wins are if you’re going to run for the championship, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Crampton paid tribute to his team owner, drag racing legend Connie Kalitta, and co-crew chief Kurt Elliott.
“This win speaks volumes about them. Connie is one of my heroes, and he lets me drive his race car. I probably didn’t deserve to win the way I’ve been driving, but he and Kurt, and my crew got me here today.”
Crampton’s next event will be the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals in St Louis, Illinois, on 27-29 September.