CLOSE FINISH ENDS LUCAS' STRONG RUN SEATTLE (July 24) -- The powerful momentum that 21-year old Morgan Lucas carried into the CarQuest Auto Parts Nationals at Pacific Raceways with consecutive final round appearances was subsided in the ...
CLOSE FINISH ENDS LUCAS' STRONG RUN
SEATTLE (July 24) -- The powerful momentum that 21-year old Morgan Lucas carried into the CarQuest Auto Parts Nationals at Pacific Raceways with consecutive final round appearances was subsided in the semi-final round against Tony Schumacher in one of the more dramatic drag races that has been seen in quite some time.
Lucas started his Sunday's eliminations in the No. 3 starting position after running his best time and speed of the weekend on Saturday morning qualifying at 4.548 seconds, 323.35 mph, earning the right to race No. 14 qualifier, Scott Weis, who ironically was the same opening round foe he raced just a week ago in Denver.
In a close first round match-up, Morgan had to be on his game as Weis left nothing to chance. Lucas reacted first, in what turned out to be a tight side-by-side race with Morgan taking the win light despite dramatically losing his engine at the finish line in a fireball. The margin of victory was .0463-of a second after Lucas blazed through the speed traps with an elapsed time of 4.639 seconds, 309.98 mph to Weis' time of 4.682 seconds, 316.45 mph.
The quarterfinals produced another round win for the Riverside, Calif. driver as Scott Kalitta red-lighted his chances away. Lucas raced the time clocks from that point on, running across the finish line to record a time of 4.591 seconds, 312.86 mph advancing him to the semi-finals, where he would look to unseat the 2004 Top Fuel champion, Tony Schumacher.
Since there are only nine races remaining on the NHRA POWERade schedule, Lucas wanted to improve his standing in the POWERade points and a win over Tony Schumacher is just one segment of his plan. He had everything going his way up until the last 10 feet of the 1,320 that make up the Pacific Raceways' quarter-mile. Schumacher lost traction early, with Morgan sprinting out to an early 10-car length lead. Just as it seemed he was ready to advance to the final round, Lucas suddenly lost traction himself and earnestly tried to gather it all back together and was successful only to see his lead evaporate with Schumacher just nipping him at the finish line. The margin of victory was a .0551 of a second or just three feet.
Lucas ran a time of 5.749 seconds, 272.12 mph to Schumacher's quicker elapsed time of 5.653 seconds, 305.70 mph.
"A seal in the clutch system went bad which is unusual for us," said Lucas. "It was just enough to let the clutch come in at the wrong point and time. We just need a car to out-perform the luck of the other racers.
"Our Lucas Oil guys just don't quit, they have fun, and we're not going to let anything like this get us down. It wasn't the tune-up, me or anything else. It was a $3 part failure that is checked every round. It was just one of those things that you really can't do a whole lot about until the next race. We'll get it fixed and be all right. Our crew is very capable and we know that it will never happen again."
John Stewart, the team's clutch specialist and co-crew chief went into further technical detail about the bizarre situation that befell the downfall of the Lucas Oil team.
"We had an issue with the cannon (clutch system)," said co-crew chief, John Stewart "There's an O-ring in the can that controls the fluid away from the air. Looking at the computer it appears the O-ring broke or had a flat spot on it and let the fluid leak by and that allow a couple of extra levers to come in. It was just enough to go out, yank the driveshaft up, and smoke the tires.
"The first round we put a hole out and had a little problem. Second round we came back, moved some things around, went down the racetrack, and ran 4.59 seconds. In the third round that's all we were trying to do again and it was on its way there. As soon as the O-ring let go at that point, it let a bunch of clutch come in."
With nine races remaining on the schedule, Lucas knows that if he has any chance of recouping his lost ground in the chase for the championship, now is the time to make his forward move.
"It's going to take a serious turn-around in the next couple of races and we have to turn on some win lights to make this happen," said Lucas. "It's hard when you have four of those guys you're chasing down because you need the luck of having them all go out early and we know that isn't going to happen. We have to be there for all the rounds and let it slowly come to you and not really focus too much on it and let it happen with competitive passes on the track."
Lucas, who currently holds the fifth position in the POWERade Top Fuel points now trails leader, Tony Schumacher by 170 points.
The co-crew chiefs of the Lucas Oil/Keystone Automotive dragster, Jim Dupuy and John Stewart have combined their efforts to create a formidable force and those labors keep giving Morgan the results he needs to be championship caliber driver.
"We're holding our heads up, we've got a good car, a great team and have a good future here," said Jim Dupuy, co-crew chief on the Joe Amato-owned Top Fuel dragster. "Morgan's driving great. We had a bad break and that's just part of racing. We just don't have the luck right now. Who's to say that in a couple of races Morgan will be the one with all the luck. I hope that we can get back at it and place the luck on our side.
"It just shows how hard we dedicate ourselves to work on this car to keep it a consistent race car. Our main goal is to just go down the track and try to keep it consistent. That doesn't necessarily mean the quickest car and all we want to do is be strong enough to beat the guy in the other lane. That's all we're trying to do."
Next week's NHRA POWERade National event will be the third leg of the three race "Western Swing' with the running of the 18th annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California on July 29-31.