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Top Fuel’s Richie Crampton Hopes Team’s Positive Direction Leads to Win at NHRA Sonoma Nationals



Sonoma 19SONOMA, Calif. (July 23, 2019) – Richie Crampton isn’t all the way there yet, but he feels like his Kalitta Motorsports team is on the right track heading into this weekend’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at scenic Sonoma Raceway. With the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship quickly approaching, that’s a good thing for the Top Fuel standout and his talented team.

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

Crampton started the Western Swing with a round win on Sunday in Denver, which was preceded by a semifinal appearance in Epping in his 11,000-horsepower DHL dragster. There’s plenty more to accomplish during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but Crampton is confident his team will get there when it counts. Sitting eighth in points, Crampton is ready to see his team continue its upward ascension as he seeks his first playoff berth since 2016.

“We’re real close to being where we want to be to get that raceday consistency,” Crampton said. “I feel like (crew chiefs) Connie (Kalitta) and Kurt (Elliott) are where they want to be with the car. That’s just them working on our combination all season. I know Connie can win in Sonoma. I’ve seen it first-hand driving against this car, so it’s pretty exciting for me that they know how to get down these hotter race tracks. These next few races are going to be pretty critical for me.”

Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 15th of 24 races during the 2019 NHRA season and the second of three races during the famed NHRA Western Swing. Crampton will try for his first Sonoma win, but the dragster he’s campaigning has recent success at the facility with J.R. Todd’s win in 2016.

Todd is now the defending world champ in Funny Car, but that victory gives Crampton confidence. All four Kalitta Motorsports cars have wins this season, including Crampton’s victory in Gainesville, but he’s ready for more. He lost to Todd in that 2016 final and Crampton is ready for his first victory at Sonoma, which is one of his favorite tracks on the NHRA circuit.

“I have a ton of confidence at a track like Sonoma,” said Crampton, who has nine career Top Fuel wins. “I love Sonoma. It’s a grade-A facility with a great fanbase and a beautiful part of the country. Before I’m done, I hope to have a Wally at Sonoma. We have to get down the racetrack, qualify well and I need to do my job inside the car. I haven’t been totally happy with my performance the last few races, but I think I’ll thrive on the pressure when the time comes.”

That means a “whatever it takes to get to the finish line first” mindset, especially in a loaded Top Fuel class that starts with points leader and defending world champ Steve Torrence, who has won eight of the past nine races in 2019. Crampton will also have to deal with the likes of Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, Antron Brown and teammate Doug Kalitta. He’s currently ahead of Scott Palmer, Terry McMillen and Austin Prock, who he beat in the first round on Sunday in Denver, and Crampton is determined to keep pushing forward.

“This is another race where I’m going to show up and do my best to try to win,” Crampton said. “You definitely look at and pay attention to the points, and it is an important crossroads of the season for me. But I love it. When you look at the car I get to drive and the team I get to drive for, I really relish the position I’m in. I keep that in mind when I go up to race. I love it and I’m hungry to win, and I know my team is as well.”

Richie Crampton

Richie Crampton

Funny Car’s Hight will look to strengthen his points lead with another Sonoma victory, but he’ll face off against Denver winner Tommy Johnson Jr., defending world champ J.R. Todd, and John Force.

Three-time Sonoma winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. aims to add another in Pro Stock against points leader Bo Butner, and 2019 season winners Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha and Deric bike battleAndrew Hines will look to keep his hot streak going in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He’s won six of the eight races in 2019 and will compete against defending world champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec and Hector Arana Jr. On Saturday, the class takes center stage with the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, a special race-within-a-race on Saturday featuring eight top riders. Smith grabbed the win last year, taking home the $25,000 prize.

The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well, showcasing the future stars of the sport.

NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Pro Stock Motorcycle school at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, as well as Nitro School to learn how the cars and motorcycles operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Sonoma Raceway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their NHRA Sonoma Nationals victories.

As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:15 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 27 at 1:20 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.

The first round of the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m. with the finals slated for 5:30 p.m.

Television coverage includes Friday Night Nitro Live at 7 p.m. ET on Friday on FS1, and live finals action at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday before a live, two-hour broadcast on FOX starting at 5 p.m. There will also be a special hour-long Pro Stock episode at 10 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.

To purchase tickets, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at First responders save 50% on adult reserved or general admission tickets on Saturday only. For more information about the NHRA visit


WHAT: 32nd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.

WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121

COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 15 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 26-28SonomaSCHEDULE:

FRIDAY, July 26- LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, July 27- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:20 and 6:15 p.m.

SUNDAY, July 28 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 logo 18TELEVISION:

Saturday, July 28, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).

Sunday, July 29, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).

2018 EVENT WINNERS: Blake Alexander, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock, LE Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 8, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 5, PS; Antron Brown, 4, TF; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Eddie Krawiec, 3, PSM; Jason Line, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.nhra logoTRACK RECORDS:

Top Fuel – 3.669 sec. by Leah Pritchett, July ‘17; 332.75 mph by Clay Millican, July ’18.
Funny Car – 3.807 sec. and 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ‘17.
Pro Stock – 6.499 sec. by Chris McGaha, July ’15; 213.00 mph by Shane Gray, July ‘15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.730 sec. by Angelle Sampey, July ’16; 200.35 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ‘18.


Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.720 sec. by Andrew Hines, March ‘19, Gainesville, Fla., PA.; 201.76 mph by Matt Smith, March ‘19, Gainesville, Fla.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at

Photos courtesy of NHRA

About NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.

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