Those who knew him recalled Hampson as focused, driven and one who always thought outside the box.
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Come morning, "Dr. Holloway would open the door, give us a kick and say, 'Time for class,'" said James Cooper, a classmate of Hampson's who works as an aerospace engineer for NASA. "We missed out on the college social scene, but by our own choice."
In appreciation, Hampson invited three Maryland engineering students to be part of the Newman-Haas team this week. He had them wheel tires around during practice and perform wax body work. He wanted to give them the kind of exposure to professional racing he only dreamed of in college.
"Had I had this opportunity at Maryland, I'd have driven 1,000 miles just to be up close," Hampson said.
The trio of Terps — C.J. Gorrell, Kevin Nichols and Steve Chung — placed fourth out of 80 college teams in a prestigious Formula SAE race in California in June.
"I think they had a really good time," Hampson said. "It was good for them to see a professional racing environment and see a real racecar up close. I'd like to think they came out of here with a couple good ideas of what to do. In a lot of ways, I think their car might be cooler than ours. It's a pretty impressive piece they built. They were all attentive and enthusiastic, and I think we made a fan out of a couple of them. It's tough to show them everything we're doing, but when I had a quiet moment, I tried to talk to them about fuel strategy or tire strategy. I think all the mechanics on the team were very gracious with them."
Greg Schultz, adviser to Maryland's racing program, said he hoped the experience would help the students learn the grueling side of an IndyCar career.
"They'll get bitten by the racing bug, sure, but they'll also see what has to happen to prepare the car — all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that you don't see on TV," Schutlz said. "There's a lot of grunt work to Craig's job. It's not all glorified engineering stuff."
That flip side, Hampson wrestles with daily.
"On one hand, I've been able to live out my dream. I won't go to my deathbed thinking, 'Boy, I wish I'd taken my shot,'" he said. "But it's a very hard life. We're like the carnival that comes to town for four days, performs and then moves on.
"Between doing research and writing reports, there are few days off and a huge amount of travel, pitfalls that make it hard on both your body and family."
Hampson, who is married, has two young daughters whom he misses during racing season (March-October). The family lives in Deerfield, Ill.
"My wife is supportive, but she thinks this whole business of cars running around in circles is completely silly," he said. "She's probably right."
Hampson confessed after the race he was a little bummed that Hinchcliffe — a 24-year-old contender for IndyCar Rookie of the Year — didn't have a better showing this week, in qualifying or on race day. Although Hampson oversees both teams, he manages Hinchcliffe's car, and based on a pair of fourth-place finishes on road courses in New Hampshire and Long Beach (Calif.), he thought Hinchcliffe might have a shot in Baltimore. But he had to look at the bigger picture and be happy for the team with Servia's runner-up finish.
"We had the good and the bad for the team," Hampson said. "It's really good for Oriol to finish second, especially after staring 16th. And [Hinchcliffe's] car was handling really well. It was probably the faster of the two cars, actually. But you get caught up in somebody's accident. Sometimes things happen, and a lot of [times] they're out of your control. You just have to roll with it."
On the bright side, Hinchcliffe didn't lose any ground to JR Hildebrand in the Rookie of the Year race because Hildebrand had a rough day himself. It's important to try and focus on the positive, Hampson said, because by nature, he tends to have a negative mindset. In his eyes, the gas tank is always half-empty rather than half-full.
"I operate with an appropriate sense of fear of the familiar and a suspicion that I have made the wrong choice," he said. "It's not a happy way to live, but it forces you to check your answers.
"I'm certainly not the brightest race engineer out there, but I am a grinder who works pretty hard to make sure that I've covered the bases as best I can."
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Van Valkenburg contributed to this article.