NHRA: Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton enjoying sophomore trump, not slump

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No matter if it’s on four or two wheels, many racers experience a sophomore slump in their second full-time season as a pro.

But NHRA Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton is having a sophomore trump, you might say, as he keeps getting better and better.

Crampton enters this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, ranked fourth in the Top Fuel driver standings.

Sure, he’s a distant 320 points behind Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher, but Crampton proves with every race that he is not only a force to be reckoned with now, but will continue to be for many seasons to come.

In the first 16 races of the 24-race NHRA schedule, Crampton has amassed three wins (Las Vegas, Topeka and Bristol), picking up from where he left off in 2014, when he was named the sport’s top rookie driver.

Next on his agenda is to qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s championship playoff series.

“Our focus is on race day consistency and not trying to change too much,” Crampton said in an NHRA media release. “We have a good race car right now, and we need to focus on every little detail and continue doing what we’ve been doing.

“The entire team is excited about the outlook of the Countdown, given our current position in points. We’re going to try to put an exclamation point on that.”

Crampton’s teammate, Morgan Lucas, is defending Top Fuel winner at Brainerd (as well as Funny Car’s Ron Capps and Pro Stock’s Jason Line).

“A lot of the pressure of being the new guy is obviously gone now,” Crampton said. “There’s no pressure to win the rookie of the year award.

“My comfort level is a lot higher inside the race car and outside the race. All of that being said, being able to just concentrate on going and racing each event is where I’m at right now.”

Doing well at Brainerd is important. Not only is Crampton part of the Morgan Lucas Racing team, its primary sponsor, Lucas Oil, is also the event’s primary sponsor, as well.

“Racing in Brainerd is huge to the entire MLR team and any Lucas Oil car, for that matter,” Crampton said. “Particularly for me, driving for the Lucas family and coming back to a racetrack where the Lucas team has had a lot of success – and also where we have a lot of fun with the amazing fans – is very exciting. It’s one of the highlights of the tour for the Lucas team.

“We have the staff, we have great racecars that we build ourselves, and we have all the resources we need to try and contend for a championship.”

LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 20-23

TELEVISION:      

Saturday, Aug. 22, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, Aug. 23, ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 9 p.m. (ET).

2014 EVENT WINNERS: Morgan Lucas, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 11, FC; Joe Amato, 6, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 5, FC/TF; Antron Brown, 5, TF/PSM; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS;.

TRACK RECORDS:            

Top Fuel – 3.722 sec. by Doug Kalitta, Aug. ’14; 328.54 mph by Richie Crampton, Aug. ’14.

Funny Car – 3.998 sec. by Alexis DeJoria, Aug. ’14; 320.89 mph by John Force, Aug. ’14.

Pro Stock – 6.542 sec. by Erica Enders, Aug. ’12; 210.87 mph by Allen Johnson, Aug. ’12.

Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.865 sec. by Andrew Hines, Aug. ’12; 196.82 mph by Andrew Hines, Aug. ’05.

NATIONAL RECORDS:    

Top Fuel – 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.51 mph by Larry Dixon, June ’15, Norwalk, Ohio.

Funny Car – 3.921 sec. by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’15, Sonoma, Calif.; 325.06 mph by Courtney Force, May ’15, Topeka, Kan.

Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88mph by Hector Arana Jr., April ’15, Charlotte, N.C.

POINTS STANDINGS

Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 1,289*; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,202*; 3.  Larry Dixon, 1,034; 4.  Richie Crampton, 969; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 944; 6.  J.R. Todd, 896; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 872; 8.  Spencer Massey, 855; 9. Brittany Force, 851; 10.  Steve Torrence, 835.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 1,177*; 2.  Jack Beckman, 1,172*; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,063; 4.  John Force, 1,025; 5.  Del Worsham, 1,004; 6.  Ron Capps, 988; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 872; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 870; 9.  (tie) Alexis DeJoria, 819; Robert Hight, 819.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 1,322*; 2.  Erica Enders, 1,271*; 3.  Chris McGaha, 1,175*; 4.  Jason Line, 1,102*; 5.  Allen Johnson, 951; 6.  Larry Morgan, 906; 7.  Shane Gray, 834; 8.  Jonathan Gray, 823; 9.  Vincent Nobile, 787; 10.  Drew Skillman, 779.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 702; 2.  Hector Arana Jr, 596; 3.  Andrew Hines, 546; 4.  Karen Stoffer, 468; 5. Jim Underdahl, 459; 6.  Jerry Savoie, 429; 7.  Hector Arana, 417; 8.  Matt Smith, 389; 9.  Scotty Pollacheck, 376; 10.  Angelle Sampey, 336.

* Secured a berth in Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs.

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.