Phoenix: Round two preview

NEW STRATEGY AND ATTITUDE FOR MORGAN LUCAS IN 2009 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES CHANDLER, Ariz. - Morgan Lucas thinks this could be his breakout year. The 25-year-old drag racing phenom, who has already raced enough years to be ...

NEW STRATEGY AND ATTITUDE FOR MORGAN LUCAS IN 2009 NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Morgan Lucas thinks this could be his breakout year.

The 25-year-old drag racing phenom, who has already raced enough years to be classified as a veteran in the 300 mph NHRA Top Fuel world, has developed a certain feeling in his gut as his GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster team begins its quest to win the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

That feeling is confidence.

Not the over-confidence kind.

Rather, his is the confidence that comes from experience and having great trust in the team around him.

Lucas, who opened his 2009 season with a semifinal finish at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., is hungry for more at this weekend's Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals (Feb. 20-22) at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix. The race, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the second of 24 events in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and V. Gaines (Pro Stock) are the defending winners.

"I've never started a season with as much confidence in my car and crew as I have this year," Lucas said. "We feel like we match up well with anyone out there."

That confidence begins with his crew chief, Jimmy Walsh. Walsh's consistent tune-up on the GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster has already produced positive results through pre-season testing and the first event in Pomona.

Now, Lucas will begin to use his consistent racecar to work toward fulfilling his goal of winning his first national event and the greater quest of claiming a world championship title. His career-best points finish came in 2005 (fifth) when he raced to three runner-up finishes. Since then he has been on a rollercoaster ride of three consecutive finishes outside the top 10. He hopes this year will be the turning point to get things back on track.

"Consistency is key in this sport, and that goes way beyond having a consistent racecar, which is obviously very important," said Lucas, who is currently tied for third in the Full Throttle point standings. "You need consistency in the way you conduct business. You need it in the crew you have around you. It's important to hire the right people and then allow them to be the best they can be. We're going to do that this year and I'm pretty sure the results are going to come. It's our time to step up."

His challenge awaits with several championship-proven contenders, such as the defending and six-time Full Throttle Series Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher, driver of the U.S. Army dragster. Two-time champ Dixon has a new team with Al-Anabi Racing and a renewed enthusiasm. Veterans Cory McClenathan, Brandon Bernstein and Doug Kalitta, who won the season-opener, also will be solid. Antron Brown, who was runner-up in Pomona, has proven to be fast in his Matco Tools dragster. Two rookies, Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon, Lucas' teammate, also will provide great competition.

"We know we need to prove ourselves on the racetrack before anyone is going to look at us as serious championship contenders," Lucas said. "We understand that, and I think that's going to make the difference this year."

In Funny Car, Ron Capps has the early lead in his NAPA Dodge Charger. He raced to the win at Pomona over veteran Jim Head. Capps' teammates Beckman and rookie Matt Hagan also are ones to watch. John Force Racing will field four Ford Mustangs in the event, including John Force, Ashley Force Hood, Robert Hight and Mike Neff. Defending world champ Cruz Pedregon and brother Tony also will be in the hunt, as will two-time Phoenix winner Del Worsham, who is now driving the Al-Anabi Racing Toyota for Alan Johnson.

In Pro Stock, Gaines will try to defend his title while new national record holder Greg Anderson (6.528 seconds) looks for his second win at the track. Kurt and Warren Johnson have won the most at Firebird among active drivers with three wins each. Allen Johnson, Jeg Coughlin and Pomona winner Jason Line all will be looking to add a victory to their resumes.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Feb. 20 and at noon and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 21. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals by calling Firebird International Raceway at (602) 268-0200 or via ticketforce.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 22. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 12:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 22. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 22.

LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals also will feature competition in four categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on Feb. 20. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on Feb. 21.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Jack Beckman , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Shawn Langdon , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey