LUCAS OIL RACING REACHES FOURTH FINAL ROUND Crew Chiefs, Jim Dupuy and John Stewart Prove to be Talented Tandem ST. LOUIS (June 26) -- Despite the hot Midwestern summer temperatures at Gateway International Raceway, 21-year old Morgan Lucas,...
LUCAS OIL RACING REACHES FOURTH FINAL ROUND
Crew Chiefs, Jim Dupuy and John Stewart Prove to be Talented Tandem
ST. LOUIS (June 26) -- Despite the hot Midwestern summer temperatures at Gateway International Raceway, 21-year old Morgan Lucas, driving the Lucas Oil dragster, blazed a trail to the fourth final round appearance of his 20-race professional career only for it to end with his opponent, Brandon Bernstein taking the winning honors of the Top Fuel finals at the Sears-Craftsman Nationals.
With the team having undergone a realignment that changed things around earlier in the week, Lucas' new co-crew chiefs, Jim Dupuy and John Stewart marched forward and battled the tough conditions to produce a winning formula.
In qualifying, the Amato Racing team pushed the limits of the quarter-mile to capture the No. 3 starting position with a time of 4.588 seconds, 323.19 mph.
It was on Sunday that Lucas set the winning precedent early, posting the low elapsed time of the first round of eliminations when he clicked the clocks to the tune of 4.738 seconds, 308.07 mph under extremely hot track temperatures of over 130 degrees. His opponent, Mitch King lost traction at the midpoint of the quarter-mile leaving him languishing to a time of 6.777 seconds, 121.55 mph.
Advancing to the quarterfinal round, he met Rod Fuller for the first time in professional competition. He immediately set out to make quick work of his opponent leaving the starting line first (R/T .079 -- .097) and never looking back, completing his superb pass with a time of 4.688 seconds, 314.53 mph to Fuller's competitive time of 4.745 seconds, 309.98 mph.
It was during the semi-finals, as the sun was setting, that the Lucas Oil crew tried to step up the pace and fortunately won the round over David Grubnic after the Kalitta team smoked the tires. Lucas was able to run 4.744 seconds, 310.70 mph despite his engine letting go, to Grubnic's effort of 6.437 seconds, 170.11 mph.
In making his fourth final round appearance, the future of the National Hot Rod Association became apparent as he raced against good friend and foe, Brandon Bernstein. The young pair had only previously met twice in eliminations, with Lucas taking both round wins.
In the final, Lucas launched off the starting line, taking a significant jump as a result of his excellent reaction time (.040 - .103) only to experience severe tire shake around 400 feet down the track. He tried to save the run by back-pedaling his charging dragster, but it was to no avail, as Bernstein motored past him with the quickest time of the event, making a pass of 4.553 seconds, 324.59 mph to Morgan's elapsed time of 4.793 seconds, 314.31 mph.
"It was a hard track to figure out," said Jim Dupuy, co-crew chief of the Lucas Oil team. "But John and I decided to take baby steps. We got the car running consistently and we wanted to stay with it to go down the track. We figured that was our best shot at winning. I knew the setup of this car and when Stewart wanted to make some changes, we knew how it would react and he let us do our thing. He learned more about the car on every run and it worked out great."
"We couldn't ask for any more," said fellow co-crew John Stewart. "We've got a great group of guys over here. I came in and Jimmy (Dupuy) and I get along great, in fact, everyone has been fantastic to work with. In the beginning, we talked and summed it up that if we can qualify and be consistent, that was our goal. We ended up making it all the way to the finals. We roll the car out and this being a new deal where I've never worked before, I'm happy with the outcome. Jimmy is a sharp kid and between the two of us, we made the car run. We'll keep working on it and make it better from here."
Car owner, Joe Amato was extremely happy about how his team performed all weekend since adding John Stewart to the crew earlier this week joining Jim Dupuy as the tuners of the team.
"You can't say enough about the team as a total," said a pleased Amato. "With the addition of John Stewart and with Jimmy Dupuy stepping up, they worked together like 'Two Peas in a Pod', appearing as if they had been working together for a long time. I think there's a great future in there with the two of them. We got to the finals and maybe we were a little too conservative, which shook the tires. There's no doubt that Morgan can drive the car. Everyone is gelling as a team and I feel there's a victory in our future."
Morgan Lucas had his mind on getting to the finals and picking up valuable lost ground in the POWERade points chase after two recent first round losses and did make up significant ground. He's now trailing Doug Kalitta by 150 points as he reaches the halfway point of the season.
He wished that he could have sliced even more points away with a trip to the winner's circle, but he was so pleased by his team working so well together taking him to his fourth final round of his young career.
"The track came around better than we thought in the finals and started rattling the tires," said an optimistic Lucas. "We'll come back next race and we'll be fine. I can't be more proud of my team with our new crew chiefs. Jimmy and Stewart pulled together and did everything they had to do to come into St. Louis and accomplish their best. I'm so looking forward to Denver, Seattle and Sonoma. I think we'll have something for everybody."
Underneath his fire suit, he wore a T-Shirt that simply stated on it 'Forever, Darrell' and throughout the entire weekend, it was on his mind.
"Darrell was with us today, said poignant Lucas. "I'm sure he likes what we're doing here and I know he can hear me when I say 'We appreciate it Darrell, you're a true hero and we're still going to win one for you."
The next event after a welcomed two-week midseason break will be Mopar Mile-High Nationals at the scenic Bandimere Speedway on July 15-17.