G’day, mate: NHRA Top Fuel racer Richie Crampton heads home to Australia for V8 Supercars race

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With the NHRA Mello Yellow national event tour off for nearly three weeks until resuming at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 13-16, drivers do different things with their time off.

Some go on vacation. Others, naturally, work on their Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars or Pro Stock cars or motorcycles.

Not Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton. He’s going home, back to his native Australia.

It will be Crampton’s first time back in his home town of Adelaide in quite some time, according to a press release from Geico/Lucas Oil.

“I’m heading back to my hometown for the first time in 18 months,” Crampton said.

In addition to visiting family and friends, you can’t get the racer out of Crampton: he’ll also attend one of Australia’s biggest races of the year, the V8 Supercar event in Adelaide.

“The V8 Supercar race is a huge event, and I’ll be hanging out with several of the teams that are currently using Lucas Oil (which sponsors his Top Fuel dragster in NHRA competition),” Crampton said.

The race will be held on a street circuit through Adelaide’s downtown area.

“I’m pretty excited to get back and watch that great race on the streets of my hometown,” Crampton said. “I’m also excited to see family and friends who I haven’t seen in quite a long time.”

The trip will not be all R&R for Crampton, who holds duel citizenships in both Australia and the United States. There is a business aspect of it, as well, as Crampton will tell Australian reporters about his exploits on the NHRA circuit in the U.S.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to meet with a lot of the Australian motorsports media who are interested in what’s been going in with me here lately,” Crampton said. “I know there are several television and radio personalities who are going to be in attendance who have scheduled some time to get with me, and I’m appreciative of that.

“I’m looking forward to explaining what I’ve been up to in the U.S., and the homecoming story about how I got to drive the GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster.”

Crampton left Los Angeles on Monday night and was scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Wednesday night (due to the international date line, he essentially skips forward a day).

The V8 Supercars race weekend begins Thursday and runs through Sunday before Crampton returns to the United States next Tuesday.

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Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/