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Crampton confident GEICO/Lucas Oil team will bring its A-game on Sunday

 

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PHOENIX (Feb. 22) - The start of the Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals this weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park hasn't been a smooth one for the GEICO/Lucas Oil team, but rookie driver Richie Crampton is confident crew chief Aaron Brooks can get the team's new car working better for eliminations on Sunday.

"We know it's going to be a tough day, a long day tomorrow, so we better bring our A-game," Crampton said. "Everyone on this crew knows that Brooks will get it figured out."

Crampton is racing a new chassis out of the Morgan Lucas Racing shop, and though it performed well at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., Phoenix is a completely different track with different weather conditions.

Officials resurfaced part of the track, leaving an older concrete launch pad and asphalt finish line. Three of Crampton's runs were aborted because of spinning tires, but he qualified No. 12 with a pass of 3.836 seconds at 316.67 mph in the third qualifying session.

"Q3 was a good baseline run for us," Crampton said. "We kind of got a little behind on Friday with the new-car gremlins still kind of biting us on the butt a little bit. We've got a brand-new car, brand-new clutch controller, and we're still trying to weed through those problems.

"Aaron Brooks got it figured it out on Q3. I'm not sure what happened in Q4, but I've got every bit of confidence in the world that Aaron will have it dialed in for tomorrow morning."

In addition to the new chassis and clutch controller, the team switched to new clutch discs this season, adding another variable to the tune-up.

"We had to change our disc combination because it was that time," Crampton said. "We had run out of last year's inventory, and we're trying to get a handle on hot-track conditions with this new disc package, in conjunction with a brand-new clutch controller that acts slightly different to our old one.

"It's a lot to figure out, but Aaron's doing a great job and I know that he'll get it all figured out for the morning."

Crampton will line up against No. 5 qualifier Antron Brown in the first round of eliminations, with Brown posting a best pass of 3.768 seconds at 323.27 mph. Brown is the 2012 Top Fuel champion and considered one of the top drivers in the sport.

"I try not to think about who we have to run too much, but definitely racing one of the best in the world in Antron Brown is going to be a lot of fun," Crampton said. "It's still very exciting to me to compete against people of his caliber. I know that I've got to bring my A-game and do my best job for this GEICO team."

Eliminations will kick off at 11 a.m., Sunday. ESPN2 will air eliminations action at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.