Richie Crampton took home the Top Fuel victory Sunday afternoon at the 49th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also winners in their respective categories at the third of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Crampton got the uncontested win when he piloted his Kalitta Air/DHL dragster to the winning run of 3.854 seconds at 314.90 mph after Shawn Reed had to shut off his dragster on the starting line. This is Crampton’s first Wally since Dallas 2015, first event victory at Gainesville Raceway, and eighth overall.
“This is probably one of my most rewarding wins, ever," Crampton said. “All I ever wanted to do was stand in the winner’s circle with (team owner) Connie Kalitta. Not a lot of people have had that luxury and I’m not taking this one lightly."
"It was a great day for Connie and everyone with this Kalitta Air team," said the victorious Crampton. “We had a lot of great help from Slugger (Labbe) and the TRD team trying to figure out this hot race track. We had it dialed in for the final run. The 3.85 was a heck of a run, but it was unfortunate that Shawn wasn’t able to make a pass.
"You hate to take a win by default like that, but I’ll take it. It feels good to win again. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting on the sidelines, reminiscing about when I used to drive a Top Fuel car. So to be back in a car for Connie, Kalitta Air, DHL, Toyota and everyone, I’m just really lucky. I’m just working hard to try to make sure I deserve to drive for this team. It’s going to be a good year."
Reed, who raced to his first career final round, started from the No. 12 position and defeated Pat Dakin, Tony Schumacher, and No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican before the final.
Beckman claimed his first Funny Car victory at Gainesville with a hole-shot win of 4.035 at 323.58 in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T against teammate Matt Hagan. After earning the No. 1 qualifier on Saturday, Beckman secured his first victory since St. Louis 2017.
“Winning this race was such a bucket-list thing," Beckman said, “The Gatornationals came on the schedule in 1970, that year was a big year for our sport and it has been at this track ever since and I’ve never gotten close."
Beckman raced against Jim Campbell, Del Worsham, and Shawn Langdon before entering his first final round of the season.
Hagan and Robert Hight experienced side-by-side explosions during the quarterfinals destroying the Funny Car bodies of both competitors. Hagan brought out a back-up car to defeat teammate Ron Capps in the semi-finals to advance to his second final round of the season.
|Tanner Gray (Pro Stock)|
In Pro Stock, Gray powered his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to victory with a run of 6.588 at 210.18 to defeat defending category world champion Bo Butner in the final round. This is his first career win at Gainesville and is a third-generation event winner.
“We’ve been struggling since the beginning of the season," Gray said. “Today was our first-round win of the season. It has definitely been a struggle, but I think it is starting to come around."
Gray was the first driver since 2015 to win from the No. 11 qualifier position and defeated Deric Kramer, Chris McGaha, and Vincent Nobile. Butner qualified in the fifth position and bested Jeg Coughlin Jr., Alan Prusiensky, and Drew Skillman before facing Gray.
Defending event and world champion Eddie Krawiec rode his bike to winner’s circle with a pass of 6.824 at 198.44 on his Screamin’ Eagles Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. This is his sixth event victory and third consecutive win at Gainesville.
|Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle)|
“Right now, I’m riding with the confidence that no one can beat me," Krawiec stated. “I have a great motorcycle underneath me and a great team behind me. Anytime a rider or a driver has confidence it just makes them that much better."
Krawiec was the No. 2 qualifier and was victorious against LE Tonglet, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana, the No. 1 qualifier, and teammate Andrew Hines in the final round.
The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the DENSO Spark Plug NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway April 6-8 in Las Vegas.
Richie Crampton, Kalitta Air Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “It was a great day for Connie and everyone with this Kalitta Air team. We had a lot of great help from Slugger (Labbe) and the TRD team trying to figure out this hot race track. We had it dialed in for the final run. The 3.85 was a heck of a run, but it was unfortunate that Shawn wasn’t able to make a pass. You hate to take a win by default like that, but I’ll take it. It feels good to win again."
How were the track conditions:
It was pretty interesting. As always we were able to make great power at Gainesville. The track temps were just up a bit and it make the crew chiefs just pull their hair out. It made it a little bit more of a drivers race and it evened the playing field a little bit. I thrived on it. I loved it. It was one of my most rewarding wins ever."
Was there a time when you didn’t think you’d win a race again?
It wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting on the sidelines, reminiscing about when I used to drive a Top Fuel car. So to be back in a car for Connie, Kalitta Air, DHL, Toyota and everyone, I’m just really lucky. So I’m just working hard to try to make sure I deserve to drive for this team. It’s going to be a good year."
“It’s tough out here. We’ve seen so much out here this year. This season is going to be tougher than it was last year, which was tougher than it was the year before. It’s just going to be a hard year, so we just have to dig it and try to win some more. I think we have all the tools we need. Connie, my crew chief Rob Flynn and all the guys on the crew are great. We’re going to keep digging and try to bring home some more trophies."
Thoughts on moving up to sixth-place?
“It’s good. It’s early, but we still had our eyes on these points. I’m just really happy right now."