|Race Recap: Richie Crampton became the 10th driver to win for NHRA icon Connie Kalitta as he picked up his first Gatornationals win earlier today.
The weekend did not go completely as planned as qualifying was not what Crampton or crew chiefs, Rob Flynn and Connie Kalitta, envisioned. The Kalitta Air/DHL dragster failed to make it down the track cleanly in any of the four qualifying attempts. Their best, a 3.942 second pass, was only at 305.49 mph.
That seeded Crampton in the 10th starting spot and gave him a draw of his teammate, Doug Kalitta, for the second time in three races to start the year. Crampton and Kalitta had a great race, and the Kalitta Air driver was able to nose ahead at the finish line via Crampton’s stellar reaction time.
Crampton moved to the quarterfinals for the first time this year. His opponent was class newcomer Mike Salinas. Crampton got the jump at the line, recording the best reaction time in the class in the round, and was out ahead of Salinas, when he had issues. Salinas was suffering his own woes and crossed the centerline attempting to catch back up to Crampton, giving the Kalitta Air team the round win.
In the semi-finals, Crampton faced fellow Toyota Racing driver Antron Brown. Both drivers had problems soon after the race began. Crampton had his second and was able to use his momentum to beat Brown to the line. That allowed Crampton to reach his 10th career final round and second in 10 races since joining Kalitta Motorsports. It was his first Gatornationals final round appearance.
In the finals, Crampton drew first time finalist Shawn Reed. However, when Shawn Reed was shutoff after the burnout due to a fuel leak, the first Gatornationals title for Crampton was secured. It was his eighth career win and first for Connie Kalitta; it was the 96th NHRA win overall for Kalitta Motorsports.
With the win, Crampton moved from 15th to sixth in the point standings.
Qualified: No. 10 (3.942 sec., 305.49 mph)
E1: Crampton defeated Kalitta – 3.776 sec., 317.49 mph to 3.769 sec., 327.98 mph
E2: Crampton defeated Salinas – 4.413 sec., 258.81 mph to DQ (Center Line Infraction)
E3: Crampton defeated Brown – 5.097 sec., 204.85 mph to 6.132 sec., 196.92 mph
Final: Crampton defeated Reed – 3.854 sec., 314.90 mph to no run
Quotable: ““It was a great day for Connie and everyone with this Kalitta Air team. We had a lot of great help from Slugger (Labbe) and the TRD team trying to figure out this hot race track. We had it dialed in for the final run. The 3.85 was a heck of a run, but it was unfortunate that Shawn wasn’t able to make a pass. You hate to take a win by default like that, but I’ll take it. It feels good to win again.”
“It was pretty interesting. As always we were able to make great power at Gainesville. The track temps were just up a bit and it make the crew chiefs just pull their hair out. It made it a little bit more of a drivers race and it evened the playing field a little bit. I thrived on it. I loved it. It was one of my most rewarding wins ever.”
“It wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting on the sidelines, reminiscing about when I used to drive a Top Fuel car. So to be back in a car for Connie, Kalitta Air, DHL, Toyota and everyone, I’m just really lucky. So I’m just working hard to try to make sure I deserve to drive for this team. It’s going to be a good year.”
“It’s tough out here. We’ve seen so much out here this year. This season is going to be tougher than it was last year, which was tougher than it was the year before. It’s just going to be a hard year, so we just have to dig it and try to win some more. I think we have all the tools we need. Connie, my crew chief Rob Flynn and all the guys on the crew are great. We’re going to keep digging and try to bring home some more trophies.”
Point Standings: Sixth; leads Scott Palmer by two points for seventh; trails Doug Kalitta by 19 points for fifth