Photo courtesy Kalitta Motorsports

Richie Crampton named to drive Kalitta Motorsports’ 2nd Top Fuel dragster in 2018

Leave a comment

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.”

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.