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Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals: Crampton wins Wally on record-breaking BIR weekend

Richie Crampton, driving at a speed of 325.30 miles per hour, recorded an ET of 3.695 seconds and was the only No. 1 qualifier to win a Wally trophy during the final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.

Richie Crampton smiles with Charlotte Lucas after winning the Top Fuel final over Brittany Force Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
Richie Crampton smiles with Charlotte Lucas after winning the Top Fuel final over Brittany Force Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)

Richie Crampton, driving at a speed of 325.30 miles per hour, recorded an ET of 3.695 seconds and was the only No. 1 qualifier to win a Wally trophy during the final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.

Runner-up Brittany Force ran a great race, finishing with an ET of 3.771 at 293.79 mph.

Like Morgan Lucas last year at BIR, Crampton had the honor of receiving his Wally from Forest and Charlotte Lucas, sponsors of the event and his team owners,.

"Winning the Lucas Oil Nationals when you drive the Lucas Oil car is exactly what you want to do," Crampton said. "Morgan has done it in the past and there was nothing cooler than getting the trophy from Charlotte at the end.

"When the weather is (cool) like this I know our team can run some really good numbers. We were trying to swing for the fence in the first two rounds and that was evident because we got into a little trouble. We had some luck too."

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Crampton survived a first-round scare when he ran against Morgan Lucas. Lucas got the early lead coming off of the ladder but his chutes prematurely deployed and Crampton moved past him for the win.

Force was looking to give the John Force Racing Team its second trophy of the day as teammate Robert Hight won the Funny Car final. Force came in as the No. 11 seed and defeated No. 6 Dave Connolly in the first round, Doug Kalitta in the second and Antron Brown in the semifinals.

In the first round, Brown won with an ET of 3.680 which was a track record before Shawn Langdon broke it with an ET of 3.662. Spencer Massey set the track speed record at 332.75 but lost to Larry Dixon.

Brown faced Force in one semifinal with Crampton going up against Langdon in the other. Brown ended up smoking his tires and Force came away with a margin of 3.738-8.025 and moved on to the finals.

Crampton and Langdon staged a much closer battle with Crampton getting the victory by a 3.719-4.196 margin before getting the winning pass over Force.

"This race is going to do down in the history books," Crampton said. "It was amazing racing in a very fast car. It was a long day waiting for the rain to pass all the while anticipating how fast we would be able to run out there. Brainerd fans are tough and they are what makes this our favorite race on the series and we can't thank them enough."

Hight rides high in Funny Car

The Lucas Oil Nationals were all about speed and record-breaking passes for the Funny Cars with cool conditions pushing the cars to BIR speed and ET records.

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Robert Hight was looking for his first win of the season and got it with a win over Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round. Hight grabbed the Wally with a speed of 323.58 and an ET of 3.956 to get the win.

"Brainerd has been a horrible race for me," Hight said. "It has been the worst one on tour for me and to finally get a win will give me more confidence coming back next year."

Johnson Jr. had a speed of 316.52 mph with an ET of 4.130.

Johnson Jr. was in the No. 5 qualifying position at the start of the day with Hight in No. 6. Johnson scored wins over Cruz Pedregon, John Hale and Jack Beckman to reach the finals.

Hight made it to the final with wins over Ron Capps, Brian Stewart, and Tim Wilkerson.

There was no hotter driver coming to BIR than Jack Beckman and he didn't disappoint as he set the track speed record of 325.69 mph and the low ET of 3.901 to come in as the No. 1 qualifier.

However, Sunday was disappointing as he lost to Johnson in the semifinals and he never really had chance, finishing with an ET of 8.636 as he fish-tailed three times in the early part of the run to wipe out any chance of moving to the finals.

No. 4-seeded Courtney Force also had to work hard to keep her car under control and was upset by No. 13 John Hale. Alexis DeJoria, who entered the opening round in the No. 3 spot, also had handling issues and fell to 14th-seeded Brian Stewart.

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The semifinals pitted Tim Wilkerson against Hight and Johnson Jr. against Beckman. In his first round, Wilkerson had the fourth-fastest run in history before Matt Hagan topped it with a 3.879 to set the track ET record and the track speed record at 329.58.

Enders-Stevens denies Line in Pro Stock Car

Last year Jason Line won his first Lucas Oil Nationals Pro Stock Wally but the race didn't finish at BIR. Because of darkness, the final round was moved to Indianapolis so Line was still in search of his first win in front of a home crowd Sunday.

Erica Enders-Stevens denied him that opportunity as she defeated Line in the final with an ET of 6.552 at 210.34 mph. Line's final time was 6.541 at 211.06 mph.

Stevens entered the elimination round as the No. 2 seed with Line No. 5. Shane Gray won the top qualifying spot.

"I would be lying if I told you it didn't matter," Enders-Stevens said of the chance to play the spoiler of Line. "I do go in with the mentality that I have the best team and the best car and that is what you have to tell yourself when you are in the car.

"My sister did tell me when I was in the staging lane to remember how many times drivers stole a hometown victory from me and to go out and do that against Jason so that was kind of cool and all in good fun of course."

In the first round, there was one upset as No. 10-seeded Bo Butner upset No. 7 Drew Skillman. Duluth native Greg Anderson ran a low weekend ET of 6.578 to a first-round win but Chris McGaha topped that with a time of 6.557 later in the opening round. Grey also set a track record with a speed of 211.20 mph.

Greg Anderson ran the low ET of 6.578 for the weekend to get the win the first round on a hole shot. Chris McGaha topped that with a 6.557 later in the opening round.

Gray set a speed record in the second round breaking his own mark with a speed of 211.39 mph in defeating Anderson.

The semifinals pitted Gray against Line and Enders-Stevens against McGaha with Line and Enders-Stevens advancing to the finals.

Krawiec paces Pro Stock Motorcycle

Eddie Krawiec hoisted the Wally in 2012 and on the return of Pro Stock Motorcycles to BIR, Krawiec reclaimed his trophy with a final round win over teammate Andrew Hines running at a speed of 194.30 miles per hour.

Hines had the No. 1 qualifying position at the start of the day and opened by running a track record ET of 6.827 to move to the second round.

The upset in the first round had No. 12 Chaz Kennedy defeating No. 5 Chip Ellis on a hole shot. Hector Arana Jr. also set a track record in the opening round at 197.05 mph but that was broken by Eddie Krawiec later in the eliminations at 197.39 mph. Krawiec also set the ET track record of 6.788 in that run.

Semifinal matchups paired the top-seeded Hines against No. 12 Kennedy with No. 2 Krawiec against No. 6 Matt Smith.

Hines defeated Kennedy with an ET 6.847 to 7.001 and Krawiec defeated Smith with an ET of 6.835 to 6.902.

"I think it was the fans that got us back here to Brainerd," Krawiec said of the crowd support after a 3-year absence. "Everyone voiced their opinion and really spoke to the NHRA. I think Brainerd has always had a huge motorcycle following of support."

Record-breaking weekend

Several national records were broken at BIR along with track records. Below is a list of the national records that were set.

Top Fuel ET record: 3.680 seconds, Antron Brown

Top Fuel speed record: 332.75 mph, Spencer Massey

Funny Car ET record: 3.901 seconds, Jack Beckman

Funny Car speed record: 329.58 mph, Matt Hagan

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