GEICO's Stoffer stays third with strong semifinal run in Houston; Lucas going rounds
HOUSTON (May 1) – Karen Stoffer is having such a good time racing the GEICO Suzuki, it's almost like 2010 never happened.
"It's so much fun to ride right now," Stoffer said. "I want to race it as much as I can every weekend. It feels like more than a whole new year, it feels like a whole new life.
"It's a 180 degree turnaround from what was going on last year. The bike and I are in sync better than ever and I'm enjoying it immensely."
Stoffer reached the semifinals of the 24th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals on Sunday, marking the second straight race she's won at least two elimination rounds. It's a far cry from her 2010 season, which saw more gnashed teeth than smiles.
"We've started the year with back-to-back consistent races," Stoffer said. "We just had one issue where we had to abort one qualifying run; that's it. We're trying for consistency this year and we've accomplished it so far."
Morgan Lucas, Stoffer's GEICO teammate, reached the second round of Top Fuel eliminations for the first time since his victory in the season opener.
Stoffer had one of the fastest bikes on the property all weekend. She qualified No. 2 and easily beat Angie Smith in the first round before following it up with a victory over Shawn Gann.
However, Stoffer and her crew could see that the performance was slipping just a touch with each passing round.
"It's not the direction you want to go on elimination day," she said. "You want to get faster and faster. It bit us in the end."
In the first round, Stoffer ran a 6.880 second pass at 196.62 mph to win by almost .2 seconds over Smith and claim low ET of the round. In the second, she ran a 6.904 at 195.73 which beat Gann's 6.975 at 190.54 mph.
In the semifinals against eventual race winner Andrew Hines, the lag caught up to the GEICO Suzuki. Stoffer got off the line first but could only muster a 6.974 at 195.59 mph lap, which wasn't enough to stay ahead of Hines, who ran a 6.888 at 195.70 mph.
"We still had a good, consistent bike, it was just a little off on the tuneup," Stoffer said. "We spun the rear tire pretty hard against Andrew.
"We are still feeling good and we're looking forward to another strong outing in Atlanta."
Lucas had a wild ride in the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster in his first round win over Terry McMillen before a clutch issue proved to be his undoing in against quarterfinal foe Tony Schumacher.
Lucas and McMillen were the first pair out on a track that was unpredictable at best. The pair put on a show for the fans as they smoked, pedaled and weaved their way down the track. Lucas won on the most unlikeliest of hole shots. McMillen's 5.530 second pass at 146.93 mph was quicker than Lucas' 5.624 at 177.56 mph, but Lucas' .074 second reaction time was more than enough of cushion against McMillen's .348 reaction.
"We just shook the tires loose," Lucas said. "The track was way better than it had been all weekend. We just underestimated it a little bit.
"We learned a lot all weekend. We went down three out of four runs in qualifying, it's testimony to the progress we made in testing."
In the second round, Schumacher sailed down with a 3.991 second pass at 298.93 mph was too much for Lucas' wounded dragster, which ran a 4.938 at 157.65 mph.
"Losing still stinks, but we're happy to get that first round loss monkey off our back," Lucas said. "We're going to get out of here with our heads held high and look forward to our next race."
Up next for both Lucas and Stoffer is the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals May 13-15 from Atlanta Dragway.
-source: morgan lucas racing