Columbus: Morgan Lucas preview

LUCAS WANTS TO DEFEND RUSSELL'S TOP FUEL TITLE COLUMBUS, Oh. (May 17) -- The Pontiac Performance Nationals at the National Trails Raceway will be a new track to sophomore driver, Morgan Lucas, but for his crew chief, Wayne Dupuy and the rest...

LUCAS WANTS TO DEFEND RUSSELL'S TOP FUEL TITLE

COLUMBUS, Oh. (May 17) -- The Pontiac Performance Nationals at the National Trails Raceway will be a new track to sophomore driver, Morgan Lucas, but for his crew chief, Wayne Dupuy and the rest of the Lucas Oil team, it's a place they'll never forget. It is the site of Darrell Russell's last victory for the Joe Amato team before his sudden and tragic death in a high speed racing accident the next weekend in St. Louis last year.

"Darrell Russell's last win was in Columbus and we definitely want to defend his title," said Lucas, who has driven the Joe Amato-owned Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster since August of 2004. "It's huge for us to run well in his honor. Wayne has a great hot track set up and last year the guys went right down a 120-degree track, ran a 4.56, and won the race. Actually, Darrell won it on Joe's birthday. It would nice to double up and make it back-to-back wins in Columbus for Amato Racing. It comes back to the 'big shoes to fill' situation and Darrell was an excellent driver. The style of car I'm driving now is a copy of the one they won the race with last year."

Lucas is coming off fresh with an impressive first-ever NHRA Budweiser low qualifier at the Atlanta race setting the pace in qualifying with his 4.541 elapsed time. With a quarterfinal round defeat, the Lucas Oil team tested Monday and found out improvements the car needs to enhance its performance.

"I just want to come to Columbus and do the best job I can and it wouldn't be bad to have another low qualifier spot and win this deal," said a positive thinking Lucas. "We ran our car on a 130 degree track at Atlanta on Monday in testing. It went straight down the track, smooth as glass and we figured out what made the difference in its handling. We got a bunch of bugs worked out in the new car and went 4.60 seconds.

That new design is something Dupuy has been working on the past couple of months and being a life long drag racer had a couple of ideas his creative mind is now implementing. Lucas, who is currently fourth in the NHRA POWERade Top Fuel standings, needs to gain ground on the leader and hopes Dupuy's chassis design, will pay dividends in the summer stretch of races.

"The new Hadman car is built to Wayne's preference," said Lucas. "I think this is our time to shine right now. We need to start winning more rounds and catch up some of the distance point leader, Doug Kalitta has on us. We're No. 3 in the Big Bud points and that's says we have the potential to be there. We just need to put it all together. I would rather go down the track one time in qualifying and four times in eliminations. It's just whatever we have to do to win these races."

Qualifying for the Pontiac Performance Nationals starts on Friday, May 20 with sessions at 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday's sessions are on the schedule to run at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. with Sunday's eliminations starting at 11 a.m., Sunday, May 22.

LUCAS OIL RACING DRIVER NOTES:

Morgan Lucas has three runner-up finishes, which the responsive driver reached in only his seventh, eighth, and 10th starts. He finished 16th in the 2004 NHRA Top Fuel Point standings with 502 points after competing in only eight races on the 23-race schedule. He is currently 159 points from the 2005 POWERade lead in fourth place with Lucas amassing a total of 428 points after the completion of seven events.

Lucas' quickest elapsed time is 4.474 seconds, set on Feb. 12, 2005 at Pomona Raceway. He sped to his fastest mile per hour of 326.40 mph set on the same qualifying pass at the 2005 CarQuest Winternationals in Pomona and at the 2005 Summit Southern Nationals on his fourth qualifying pass. He won his first Budweiser low qualifier on May 14 at Atlanta Dragway recording a time 4.541 seconds. Morgan Lucas' first Top Fuel event behind the wheel of the Joe Amato-owned dragster was the 2004 Lucas Oil Nationals at the Brainerd (MN.) International Raceway on August 15, 2004. DOB: November 27, 1983.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Morgan Lucas