Crampton Riding A Rocket In Houston

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2015
Richie Crampton, left, is looking to collect his second straight Top Fuel Wally this weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

Richie Crampton, left, is looking to collect his second straight Top Fuel Wally this weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

While driving a 320-plus mph Top Fuel car never will be classified as easy, Richie Crampton insists his comfort level is growing exponentially with each pass this season in the Lucas Oil dragster.

The NHRA’s reigning Rookie of the Year, Crampton hasn’t lost a first-round matchup through five races in 2015 – a streak capped by a victory in the most recent national event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Crampton will attempt to go back-to-back this weekend during the 28th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas, east of Houston.

“It’s absolutely a lot more comfortable the second time around,” said Crampton, who scored his third career victory at Las Vegas. “I know it’s my sophomore season, but a lot of times I forget that I’m still so new to this. I’m getting more and more comfortable every week and trying to focus on doing a good job of driving that race car. I’m extremely excited with how our 2015 season is looking. (Crew chief) Aaron Brooks and the team have got a really consistent, good race car. It’s exciting to start out the year like this.”

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised on ESPN2, including three hours of live final-round coverage Sunday. The SpringNationals marks the sixth of 24 races on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

After recording solid second-round performances at the first three events of 2015, Crampton advanced to the final foursome during the unique NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. Brown, the 2012 world champion, emerged with the win in his Matco Tools dragster. Crampton’s victory at Vegas followed, with the native Australian beating three-time world champion Larry Dixon and the C&J Energy Services dragster fielded by Bob Vandergriff Jr. in the final to climb to fifth in points.

Crampton became the fifth different winner in Top Fuel through as many events. Brown, of Don Schumacher Racing, leads teammate/eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher and his U.S. Army dragster by 10 points (385-375) heading into Friday’s scheduled opening rounds of qualifications.

“There is no easy side of the ladder and there are no easy rounds,” said Crampton, a naturalized U.S. citizen. “Anyone can win in 2015, it seems like. It makes everyone dig that much deeper and try that much harder, knowing that every guy you line up against can send you home on race day. It’s an amazing amount of competition; the level all the teams have risen to this year is unparalleled.”

Crampton qualified for the Countdown to the Championship as a rookie and finished ninth. But his increased comfort level could pay real dividends as the schedule grinds toward the six-race playoffs.

“The top five in the points are bunched-up by less than two rounds,” said Crampton, referring to the spread between Brown and himself, with 349 points. “If you got to the U.S. Nationals at Indy with the points standings as tight as they are right now, it could make a world of difference if you start in the second, third, fourth, fifth position in points, based upon one bad round of racing earlier in the season. As close as the points are going to stay, I believe, having early momentum like this and being within striking distance of those top few positions is key to having a good Countdown.”

Crampton, who claimed the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as one of his two wins in 2014, is a huge fan of crew chief Brooks and his ability to tune the car to any weather condition. “I believe the key to success in Houston is possibly going to be Aaron’s way of running our race car on a hot racetrack as of late,” Crampton said. “The temperature is probably going to be fairly warm and we may see some tricky track conditions.”

In Funny Car, Hight, of John Force Racing, claimed his second victory at Baytown when he defeated Jack Beckman of Don Schumacher Racing in the final round last season. John Force, Hight’s car-owner and a 16-time Funny Car world champion, drove his Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro SS to its first victory at Las Vegas. Force has posted seven wins in Baytown _ most of any driver in a pro category _ but none since 2002.

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens claimed the 99th NHRA victory by a female driver when she won at her home track last spring, an emotional stepping stone to her first Pro Stock world championship in the Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Four-time world champ Greg Anderson has two wins at Baytown and is looking to continue his early season momentum in the Summit Racing Equipment Camaro.

NHRA Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday with a pair of late afternoon sessions. The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday afternoon, with final eliminations set for 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage Saturday at 5 p.m. (EDT). The network will carry three hours of live eliminations Sunday at 2 p.m. (EDT).

Ashley Force Hood has added another title to that of “fulltime mom.” The former NHRA Funny Car competitor has been appointed vice president of John Force Racing, CEO John Force announced Thursday.

Force Hood previously held the position of president of John Force Entertainment, Inc., a company that now will fall under the umbrella of John Force Racing, Inc. The consolidation of corporations was a streamlining/cost-cutting measure instituted by company founder John Force.

While Force Hood’s day-to-day role will continue to revolve around entertainment production and commercial development, she also will be more involved in the racing side of the family business. The two-time U.S. Nationals champion has a current Funny Car license and would be available to return to the driver’s seat at any time. For now, the mother of two will continue as an advisor and confidante for racing sisters Brittany (Top Fuel) and Courtney (Funny Car).

“There will be no noticeable change as far as how we are doing business,” said John Force, who scored his record 142nd career victory at Las Vegas. “Ashley will continue to build and manage the entertainment area of the John Force Racing company. It just made more sense to have one company since most of the entertainment business revolved around racing projects for our sponsors or for our own use. She is coming to more races as Jacob and Noah get older and we have a fire suit and helmet in the haulers for her if we needed it.”

John Force and JFR President Robert Hight, driver of the AAA Texas Chevy Camaro SS Funny Car, will continue to guide business development and race operations for John Force Racing, Inc. The company won its category-best 238th Funny Car title at the recent SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.



John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 6, PS; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Jeg Coughlin Jr., 4, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 3, TF; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Cruz Pedregon, 3, FC; Mike Edwards, 3, PS; Bob Glidden, 3, PS.


Top Fuel _3.772-seconds by Larry Dixon, April ’10; 328.86 mph by Steve Torrence, April ’14.

Funny Car _ 4.021-seconds by John Force, April ’10; 316.08 mph by Force, April ’10.

Pro Stock _ 6.539-seconds by Mike Edwards, April ’10; 212.66 mph by Edwards, April ’13.


Top Fuel _ 3.701-seconds by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Concord, N.C.

Funny Car _ 3.965-seconds and 324.12 mph by John Force, Feb. ’14, Pomona, Calif.

Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.


Top-10 in professional points following the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Antron Brown, 385; 2. Tony Schumacher, 375; 3. Shawn Langdon, 370; 4. Spencer Massey, 358; 5. Richie Crampton, 349; 6. Steve Torrence, 273; 7. Doug Kalitta, 272; 8. Larry Dixon, 263; 9. J.R. Todd, 261; 10. Clay Millican, 241.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan, 369; 2. Del Worsham, 360; 3. Robert Hight, 323; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 316; 5. Ron Capps, 313; 6. John Force, 287; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 271; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 257; 9. John Hale, 256; 10. Jack Beckman, 249.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, 426; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, 391; 3. Greg Anderson, 379; 4. Rodger Brogdon, 352; 5. Chris McGaha, 338; 6. Drew Skillman, 300; 7. Vincent Nobile, 285; 8. Larry Morgan, 268; 9. Allen Johnson, 249; 10. Shane Gray, 233.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 24 2015
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