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Crampton, GEICO/Lucas Oil team go for broke in first-round defeat



PHOENIX (Feb. 23) - GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton went down swinging in his matchup with 2012 champion Antron Brown at the Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Crampton and crew chief Aaron Brooks knew they'd need a quick pass to beat Brown, so they installed an aggressive setup in the Morgan Lucas Racing dragster.

"Antron Brown is tough," Crampton said. "We knew we had to go out and try to run a high 3.70 or low .80 to get around him. That team is so tough to beat when they're on fire like they are, so we went for it."

But Crampton's tires started to smoke not long after he launched, and he slowed to a pass of 5.067 seconds at 149.48 mph. Brown, meanwhile, had a solid run of 3.825 seconds at 314.83 mph to get the first-round win.

"Unfortunately, it didn't stick," Crampton said. "But not a lot of cars appeared to go down that right lane, so it wasn't just us."

Crampton and his team struggled with the car in Phoenix after a solid performance at the season-opening race in Pomona, Calif. Crampton qualified No. 9 and advanced to the second round there, but Phoenix was a different animal.

Crampton's team will test at Wild Horse Pass on Monday, continuing to develop the tune-up for the new car.

"We'll get it figured out tomorrow," Crampton said. "We plan on testing, and we'll try to get back where we left off in Pomona."

Crampton, though, remains one of the happiest drivers in the sport. The 33-year-old from Australia is living his dream as a professional driver.

"I'm still having so much fun coming out each day and meeting so many great fans," Crampton said. "We're hanging with some fans at the GEICO footprint on the Midway, giving out T-shirts and all the fun stuff to kids and families who were here enjoying this great race. I'm still the luckiest guy in the world."