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Crampton ready for challenges of Four-Wide Nationals


CHARLOTTE (April 8) - At nearly every event this season, GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster driver Richie Crampton will compete at the host racetrack for the first time.

That will be the case this weekend when he races in Charlotte, but another variable is in the equation at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals: Instead of racing against one other competitor, Crampton will square off against three other drivers at the same time in the event's unique format.

"It's another stepping-stone in all the various things I have to learn about driving these cars," Crampton said. "That's the next step, to try to get used to that Four-Wide race because that's going to be part of our schedule for the future. I'm still learning, but it's definitely going to be a little different."

The rookie has gone through the four-wide staging procedure as a crewmember for Morgan Lucas Racing, guiding team owner Morgan Lucas into the beams at each of the previous four Four-Wide races. Now, though, Crampton will be behind the wheel, and his approach for this event began with conversations with Lucas.

"I'll lean on Morgan for advice on how to handle the Four-Wide race," Crampton said. "I was there with Morgan, guiding him into the staging beams, and I paid close attention to all of the other three cars that we raced against and how that staging procedure works.

"From a crewmember standpoint, I think I understood it well, so I think I have a pretty good idea on it."

Crampton is keeping a positive outlook on the staging technique that still has many veteran drivers baffled.

"The only major difference that I'm concerned about running four-wide is the staging procedure," Crampton said. "Once we get there and make that first run and get used to the procedures for four dragsters on the starting line, it will be smooth sailing."

Many veterans continue to be flummoxed by having to pay attention to three other lights during staging, but Crampton hopes he is up to the task.

"Drivers put a lot of pressure on themselves and overthink a regular race with two vehicles," Crampton said. "Definitely, four-wide racing adds a whole other element, and that's where you see veteran drivers who don't get rattled by anything shine the best. When there's something a little different going on, they rise to the occasion."

Qualifying rounds for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals are set for 2 and 5 p.m., on both Friday and Saturday. Final eliminations, which will be broadcast in tape delay on ESPN2, will begin at noon, Sunday.