RESPECTED CREW CHIEF TOBLER SELECTED TO RIGHT SHIP AT MORGAN LUCAS RACING BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 5) -- Top Fuel driver Morgan Lucas has hired three-time champion tuner Rahn Tobler as crew chief of his Lucas Oil dragster. Tobler spent the...
RESPECTED CREW CHIEF TOBLER SELECTED TO RIGHT SHIP AT MORGAN LUCAS RACING
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 5) -- Top Fuel driver Morgan Lucas has hired three-time champion tuner Rahn Tobler as crew chief of his Lucas Oil dragster. Tobler spent the last three years heading Doug Kalitta's operation and tuned the standout Pro to 14 national event wins and two second-place finishes in the POWERade points. Previously, with legend Shirley Muldowney, Tobler captained teams that won three world titles and 18 NHRA victories.
Lucas has struggled finding consistency over the past six months and has yet to win an elimination round this year. He currently holds the 14th spot in the Countdown to the Championship rankings and recorded the second DNQ of his career at the season opener in Pomona, Calif. Lucas' former crew chief, John Stewart, has been relived of his duties with the team effective immediately, while recently hired car chief Lance Larsen has been retained and will assist Tobler.
"I'm very excited to be working with a person of Rahn's abilities and talents," Lucas said. "He's such an easy-going guy and he's always been super nice to me ever since I got started. We knew someone as talented as Rahn wouldn't stay available for long so we moved quickly to get him when he became available.
"Letting Stewie go was the hardest thing I've ever done. I love the guy like a brother and I hope we remain friends forever. It breaks my heart to be parting ways with him. He's a great person and has been an asset to our team.
"From this point forward, we've retained the services of Rahn Tobler. We're moving ahead and doing whatever we have to do to win races. We had to make a business decision and Stewie understood we needed to go in a new direction."
Tobler, 52, got his start in racing with the Stevens & Venables Top Fuel team in 1971 and began working his way through the ranks from a basic crewman's position. In 1976, he joined forces with Marvin Graham, who won the 1974 U.S. Nationals Top Fuel title. The duo of Graham and Tobler went on to capture the Professional Drivers Association Top Fuel championship in 1976.
A year later, the Los Angeles native went to work for Muldowney's Top Fuel team. In addition to their success in the NHRA, Tobler and Muldowney captured eight AHRA and three IHRA event victories and an AHRA Top Fuel championship in 1981.
"Rahn's the sort of guy that can come in here and make an immediate impact," Lucas said. "At the same time, we're not expecting miracles. We have entered this deal with thoughts of being together for a long, long time. Rahn has always made his drivers into contenders and winners. He had great success with Doug Kalitta, who is a talented racer in his own right. I can't wait to start this new chapter in my career."
Tobler, whose last win with Kalitta came at the 2006 O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, feels that in time he can bring Lucas into Top Fuel prominence.
"I know how much they struggled last season and they got off to a bit of rocky start this year," Tobler said. "It seems they got it together as far as getting the car to run better in the last three races. I do know they truly want some round wins and to be able to qualify for the top eight by Indy. Our immediate goal will be winning rounds and trying to make the chase."
After suffering their third first-round loss out of four races, Lucas, taking direction from car owner and father Forrest Lucas, decided that Tobler was the right choice for the team.
"We got the green light and I've been very excited about coming on board," Tobler said. "Obviously, Lucas Oil is going to be in this sport for a while and I wanted to be with one of the better teams that had some security and the awareness of having a top-flight car. That's what I saw when I looked at this team.
"I feel Lance has done a terrific job with the engine the last three races. It runs fast and seems to be living. I've always felt I have been pretty good on Sunday racing the car, reading the racetrack, going from A to B, and giving the driver something to work with, so I hope to be able to do some things like that to bring a little more consistency to this Lucas car."
Taking the helm of a new team, Tobler will be patient until he gets the feel for the operation.
"My first job is going to come in there and learn how Lance and the rest of the guys do things," Tobler said. "Then I can start making contributions in putting together a winning car for them."
Lucas takes on the monumental task to rebuilding his program and sets his priorities in winning championships. Just to hone his skills further, he's also mounting a campaign in capturing the NHRA Lucas Oil Top Alcohol championship and has secured two wins so far in 2007 (Houston and Memphis) in Division 4 competition.
"If we're going to be contending for the NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship we needed make a move," said the 23-year old, Lucas. "It's where we need to be and what we need to be doing. We keep trying to improve ourselves. We're going to be trying to test a few things in the near future and work within some certain situations in hoping to improve things in the overall performance of this Lucas Oil race team."
The Lucas Oil Racing team will begin their new course starting April 12-15 with the eighth annual Summitracing.com Nationals on 'The Strip' at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.