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Topeka could be turning point for Top Fuel rookie Crampton

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TOPEKA, Kan. (May 19) - Top Fuel rookie Richie Crampton may be a bit blurry-eyed when he arrives in Kansas for this weekend's NHRA national event as he and longtime girlfriend Stefanie Laski plan to induce the birth of daughter Emma Kathleen this week to avoid any conflicts with Crampton's racing schedule. But tired or not, the GEICO/Lucas Oil-sponsored pro says he'll be ready to fight for the trophy. "Topeka is normally a great race for this team," Crampton said. "The weather is usually fairly warm, and that typically levels the playing field a lot because you can't just pound all of your horsepower into the track. The crew chiefs have to find a way to finesse it down the strip.

"I've never raced Topeka as a driver before, but I'm excited to get out there and compete in the heartland of America. Heartland Park Topeka is a legendary racetrack and I know the first NHRA national event ever was held in Kansas, so even a kid from Adelaide, South Australia, knows how special racing in this state is for all of us."

Crampton says his crew is confident they can step up their performance this weekend. So far, his rookie campaign has been a struggle with only one round-win to show for their efforts in the first seven races.

"We're hoping to qualify better and make our own luck," Crampton said. "I know these boys will be doing their best. They're just as hungry as I am to get to Topeka and throw some runs down. It's been tough on all of us. I know every team has these down times and I've experienced them before as a crewman, but when you're the driver it's a lot harder because everyone is asking about it.

"We just haven't had that lucky first round that would allow us to get our feet under us and just race. One thing or the other has bitten us, but once we get all this bad luck out of the way early in the season things will be upward and onward for the rest of the year, which is when it really counts."

Remaining in the top 10 is the primary goal for the team and so far they've been able to maintain that ranking. After the 18-race regular season, only the top 10 teams are able to race for the championship, and to make things interesting the points are reset with each driver from No. 1 to No. 10 separated by just 10 points.

"We'll keep our chins up," Crampton said. "Making the Countdown is the biggest thing. We know what this team is capable of doing, so we'll go about our business as usual, and the results should come soon."

Four rounds of Top Fuel qualifying will feature sessions at 5 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, and 2 and 4:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are slated to start at 11 a.m., Sunday. Both qualifying and elimination action will be broadcast on ESPN2.