Richie Crampton drove his DHL Toyota dragster to a holeshot victory over Clay Millican in the finals of Sunday’s 50thannual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, becoming just the seventh Top Fuel driver in history to win back-to-back at the historic event.
Crampton knocked off fellow Toyota driver Antron Brown in the opening round and then defeated Leah Pritchett on a holeshot in round two. He then beat T.J. Zizzo in the semifinals to set up the match-up with Millican. In the finals, Crampton had a .016 advantage on the tree and then had the power to hold on for the holeshot win with a margin of victory of just 0.0032 seconds or approximately 18 inches.
“It was just a career day for me to win the 50th Gatornationals,” said Crampton, who earned his ninth career Top Fuel win. “We had a really good DHL Toyota dragster. Everyone had to work hard – from Connie (Kalitta) to the crew guys to myself. I feel like we earned it here today. We live and die on our reaction times. Coming into the race today, I knew I needed to be on it. The field we have in Top Fuel now is the cream of the crop. You’re winning and losing everything on the starting line and I’m focusing on that. I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished today.”
Crampton wasn’t the only Kalitta Motorsports Toyota Top Fuel driver to enjoy success on Sunday as Doug Kalitta advanced to the semifinals and took over the series point lead in the process. Kalitta outran Terry McMillen in the opening round and then dispatched 2018 series champion Steve Torrence in round two with a blistering 3.703-second pass. In the semifinals versus Millican, Kalitta had an .023 advantage at the starting line, then pulled away to a sizable .078 lead at 330’, before losing a belt and going up in smoke on the way to a 4.920-second effort in a losing cause.
“I was really hoping that we could have had this Mac Tools Toyota dragster in the finals with Richie,” relayed Kalitta. “It just wasn’t meant to be today. We’re really happy with how we’ve started off the season. (Crew chiefs) Rob Flynn and Troy Fasching and all of these guys have really been dialing it in. It’s been really fun to watch. We had a really good car today and I’m really proud of this team. Now we just have to take it to the next one.”
In Funny Car, both J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon were eliminated in the opening round.
The 2019 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads west to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second running of the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 5-7.
|Top Fuel||NHRA Gatornationals Results||Qual/Finish|
|Richie Crampton||CRAFTSMAN Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||12/Winner|
|Doug Kalitta||Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||11/Semis|
|Antron Brown||Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster||5/Rd. 1|
|Shawn Langdon||Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry FC||10/Rd. 1|
|J.R. Todd||DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car||11/Rd. 1|
2019 Toyota Wins (2)
Top Fuel (2) – Kalitta, Pomona1, Crampton, Gainesville
– Richie Crampton’s victory today is his first of the season and the ninth of his Top Fuel career. It also marks his second consecutive Gatornationals win. He is one of just seven Top Fuel drivers in history to win back-to-back Gatornationals, joining Tony Schumacher (2007-08), Larry Dixon (2001-02), Eddie Hill (1992-93), Darrell Gwynn (1989-90), Shirley Muldowney (1981-82) and ‘Big Daddy’ Don Garlits (1977-78).
– Toyota Top Fuel drivers have now won five of the last nine Gatornationals – with wins coming from Richie Crampton (2019, 2018), Antron Brown (2013), Morgan Lucas (2012) and Del Worsham (2011).
– Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel drivers have now won two of the season’s first three events with Richie Crampton joining Doug Kalitta, who won the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona.
– By advancing to the semifinals today, Doug Kalitta moves back into the Top Fuel point lead. He currently has a 42-point advantage over Leah Pritchett.
Richie Crampton, DHL Toyota Top Fuel Dragster:
Tell us about your day:
“It was just a career day for me to win the 50th Gatornationals. We had a really good DHL Toyota dragster. Everyone had to work hard – from Connie (Kalitta), to the crew guys to myself. I feel like we earned it here today.”
How does it feel to become just the seventh Top Fuel driver in history to win back-to -back Gatornationals?
“It’s pretty amazing. I don’t know why I get so lucky with things like this (he also won the 2014 U.S. Nationals). Coming into this weekend, I had that feeling that we had won this this last year and we knew how to win here. I knew it was going to be a long day. To win it back-to-back is awesome. This is such a big race and I’m so excited just to be a part of it.”
How does it feel knowing that of the other six drivers to win back-to-back here, three were among the Legends involved with this week’s Unfinished Business?
“It’s great. The whole Unfinished Business thing this week was really cool. To even do something remotely similar to what any one of them have ever done is more than I could have ever wished for. I drive for the biggest legend of them all, though, in Connie Kalitta and I think all the credit has to go to him for what he does.”
Where do you go from here?
“The whole DHL Toyota team just has to keep digging. You’re only as good as your last race. We got the trophy today, but now we have to continue to improve. We’ll go into Las Vegas for the Four-Wide race, which is always a bit of a wildcard event and just try to dig deep and continue to win rounds.”
The team had struggled somewhat early on, did this get a monkey off your back?
“I’ve been to 10 or 11 finals now and I’ve won nine races, so I know that we know how to win. I’m just relieved for my guys. They deserve it and Connie deserves it. I want to try to get as many trophies with Connie as I can before he hangs it up. When it’s all said and done, everybody knows that we know how to win, now we need to bear down and execute on race day and keep doing it.”
You won two races on hole-shots what was the key?
“We live and die on our reaction times. There’s no question that I’ve been struggling in qualifying this year. So it’s key to hit the tree correctly. I was good in the first round at Pomona and i was good in the first round at Phoenix. Coming into the race today, I knew I needed to be on it. The field we have in Top Fuel now is the cream of the crop. You’re winning and losing everything on the starting line and I’m focusing on that without getting too carried away. I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished today.”
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “It was a little disappointing on that last run. It looks like we may have broke a lifter. It ended up hurting the drive train and then knocked a belt off. It was unfortunate. But Richie won in the final so we did really well with our dragsters today. I was really hoping that we could have had this Mac Tools Toyota dragster in the finals with Richie. It just wasn’t meant to be today. We’re really happy with how we’ve started off the season. (Crew chiefs) Rob Flynn and Troy Fasching and all of these guys have really been dialing it in. It’s been really fun to watch. We had a really good car today and I’m really proud of this team. Now we just have to take it to the next one.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster:“We made some great strides here, especially in our clutch department. That first-round run, we just had a malfunction with our management system where it actually sent the clutch early and when it did, it just got a lot of clutch for no reason. We made two clean runs on Saturday, I was really pumped up for today, but we’ll lick our wounds, move on to Vegas and come out swinging there.”
J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “We never really found our groove this weekend. We may stay and test here on Monday. We head to Las Vegas next and we have had a lot of good fortune in winning twice there last year. Hopefully, we can get a few things sorted out and get our DHL Toyota Camry headed back in the right direction.”
|Toyota DriversFunny Car||Points Behind Leader (330)||2019Wins||2019W-L||Career Races||CareerWins||Career W-L|
|8. J.R. Todd||159 (-171)||0||3-3||203||16||214-182|
|10. Shawn Langdon||143 (-287)||0||2-3||235||14||265-218|
|1. Doug Kalitta||(Leader)||1||7-2||492||45||659-440|
|4. Richie Crampton||178 (-68)||1||4-2||106||9||92-98|
|9. Antron Brown||150 (-96)||0||2-3||409||66||704-340|
Toyota Drivers NHRA Gatornationals Eliminations Round-by-Round
|Top Fuel||Rd 1 Win-Loss||Rd 2 Win-Loss||Semis Win-Loss||Finals Win-Loss|
|Crampton||W – Brown,3.783-4.376||W – Pritchett,3.785-3.739||W – Zizzo,3.734-3.804||W – Millican,3.769-3.756|
|Kalitta||W – McMillen,3.749-3.749||W – Torrence,3.703-3..7.08||L – Millican,4.920-3.909|
|Brown||L – Crampton,3.783-4.376||**|
|Funny Car||Rd 1 Win-Loss|
|Langdon||L – Pedregon,3.924-3.966||**||**|
|Todd||L – Beckman,3.905-4.353||**||**|
Toyota Racing PR