Christmas has come early for drag racer Richie Crampton.
Kalitta Motorsports announced today that Crampton will become a permanent addition to the team, joining Doug Kalitta as the team’s two Top Fuel drivers for the 2018 NHRA season.
The Australian native joined Kalitta Motorsports prior to last season’s U.S. Nationals, replacing Troy Coughlin Jr. in the Sealmaster dragster. At the time, it was looked at as just a seven-race fill-in ride for Crampton.
But Crampton performed well, developed a strong rapport with everyone in the organization, and when it came time for team owner Connie Kalitta to permanently fill the role for 2018, he didn’t have to look any further on who would fill the driver’s seat of the Kalitta Air dragster.
“It all came about from getting a shot in 2017 and we’re able to transition to a full-time schedule for 2018,” Crampton told NBC Sports. “I’m pretty excited, pretty lucky.
“Getting some round wins and getting to know everyone within the teams at Kalitta, everyone from top to bottom has been just awesome,” Crampton said. “They made it feel like home.
“I’m definitely glad I got the shot in 2017 and it’s going to make it to the point to where we can really hit the ground running in 2018.”
The 2017 Top Fuel season was one of numerous upsets and surprises, capped off by Brittany Force defeating Steve Torrence for her first career NHRA championship (ironically, during the week, Crampton works as a fabricator building race cars, including dragsters for Torrence).
Crampton expects 2018 to be just as unpredictable.
“I can foresee it being just as exciting and maybe as surprising as 2017,” he said. “From what I understand, there’s a possibility of having other new dragsters in the category, as well as a changing of the guard, the crew chief changes you’ll get in the offseason.
“I think it’s going to be anyone’s season again and going to be another great year for the fans. You couldn’t have scripted 2017 and I’m pretty sure we’ll continue that trend.”
The 2014 NHRA Auto Club Road to the Future winner (NHRA’s rookie of the year award) has compiled seven wins in his career, including the U.S. Nationals. During his seven races with the Kalitta clan, he reached the finals in just his second race with the team in Charlotte.
In addition to Doug Kalitta and Crampton in Top Fuel, Kalitta Motorsports will also field two Funny Cars in 2018 driven by Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd.
Crampton is looking forward to his first full season with the organization, with hopes of winning one or more races for legendary owner Connie Kalitta.
Kalitta Motorsports is one of the most successful teams in drag racing history, including six world championships and over 100 national event wins since the team was formed in 1959.
“Connie is a legend,” Crampton said. “He’s going down in the record books as one of the greatest drag racers and team owners of all-time. To get thrown the keys to drive one of his cars – I grew up in Australia and dreamed of competing in the NHRA, to do what I’ve been able to do the last three years is fantastic, but to drive for one of my heroes – is just fantastic.
“I don’t think there’d be anything cooler than standing in the winner’s circle with Connie Kalitta. … I’m going to try and win them all.”