One plum NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel seat has been secured for the 2018 season.
Australian Richie Crampton, who drove the SealMaster dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports in the last seven races of 2017, has been retained for next year. Crampton earned the seat after coming to the team at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals last Labor Day weekend when Troy Coughlin Jr. resigned the seat he’d held since the first race of the year; this was race 18.
Although Crampton’s resume shows fewer than 80 career NHRA Top Fuel starts, he’s accomplished a lot in a short period of time. Named the 2014 NHRA Auto Club Road to the Future (rookie of the year) award recipient, Crampton has seven career dragster victories, including the coveted U.S. Nationals Wally trophy. In only his second race with Kalitta Motorsports, Crampton raced his way to the finals at Charlotte, falling to teammate Doug Kalitta, who earned his first and sole win of the season.
“It’s an absolute honor to get the opportunity to race for Connie Kalitta in 2018,” Crampton said of his legendary team owner. “I can’t thank Connie, Jim O (Oberhofer, vice president of operations) and the entire Kalitta organization for giving me a shot this year and helping to turn this into a full season [ride] in 2018. This is something I always wanted but never thought possible. It’s pretty amazing to be a driver for Connie Kalitta and I am forever grateful.”
Previously affiliated with Morgan Lucas Racing, where he was a crew member before securing a racer’s seat, Crampton resides in Indianapolis with wife Stephanie, daughter Emma and an expected son, scheduled to be born in early 2018.
“We are really excited to have Richie full-time as part of Team Kalitta,” Oberhofer said. “I know Connie is very excited to have Richie drive his car next season; he did a great job coming into a tough situation this year and jumped right in. We’re hoping that trend continues and can’t wait to see what the 2018 season will hold for this team.”
Crampton’s dragster is tuned by Kalitta, NHRA’s sole Lifetime Achievement honoree, together with Rob Flynn. Crampton is scheduled to race all 24 events on the Mello Yello calendar; Kalitta Motorsports will announce the sponsorship partnerships it has secured for Crampton’s entry at a later date.