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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15) - The NHRA Gatornationals this weekend at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville has been a case of good news, bad news for GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster driver Richie Crampton.

First, the good news: The 33-year-old rookie snagged his best qualifying effort of his young career with a No. 3 spot after a pass of 3.816 seconds at 316.97 mph.

"Really happy with that," Crampton said. "We unloaded fast Friday. The first lap down the track was an .81, and it felt good. I was really hoping to hang on to that No. 1 spot for at least one night."

Crampton was bumped back to No. 2 after Q2, then he slid back to No. 3 in the final session.

That brings the bad news: The No. 14 qualifier -- and his opponent in the first round of eliminations on Sunday -- is Morgan Lucas Racing teammate Morgan Lucas, the very man Crampton replaced in the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster.

"We ran good again this afternoon, and I'm pretty confident about tomorrow," Crampton said. "Unfortunately, we didn't want to have to race Morgan in the first round. We'll see how that plays out. It's not fair."

Lucas is racing part-time this season, with the Gatornationals being his first race of 2014. Aaron Brooks, Crampton's crew chief, has been helping Lucas this weekend, but Lucas said that is likely to end Sunday morning, leaving Lucas and his team on their own.

"That still doesn't mean that they're going to be an easy car to beat," Crampton said. "Hat's off to what they've done this weekend, running their own car over there. It's definitely going to be a good race.

"Morgan and I joked about it a lot during the week. We hoped it would be in the final, but nonetheless, I'm pretty excited to race the boss and see how we fare."

Lucas qualified No. 14 with a best pass of 3.867 seconds at 319.45 mph.

Crampton has been busy this weekend, making a suite appearance, as well as signing autographs at a track session and at the GEICO Racing display.

"Racing at the Gatornationals has always been one of my favorites as a crew guy," Crampton said. "It's a great, historic event, and there are so many drag racing fans here in Florida. They come out on droves, and getting to spend time at the autograph sessions has been great. I'm kind of overwhelmed, but it feels great to hang with the fans and talk to the kids. It's been a good time for me."

Final eliminations for the NHRA Gatornationals start at noon on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 1 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 7 p.m.