LUCAS TAKES POINTS LEAD INTO GAINESVILLE – For the first time in his Top Fuel career, Morgan Lucas leads the championship heading into this weekend’s Gatornationals. Lucas earned his first prestigious Winternationals crown two weeks ago at Pomona by defeating Shawn Langdon in the finals for his fourth career NHRA Top Fuel victory.
FAST TIMES AT JURUPA VALLEY HIGH –Jurupa Valley High School (Mira Loma, Calif.) was well-represented in the Top Fuel finals at the season-opening Winternationals as classmates Morgan Lucas and Shawn Langdon squared off for top honors. The pair graduated from Jurupa Valley together in 2001 and have been close friends (and now teammates) since their senior years. The then-aspiring drag racers often would talk about their dream of facing each other in a Top Fuel final – that dream came true at Pomona as Morgan Lucas Racing put two cars in the finals for the first time in its existence. The two former Jaguars have both finished in the top-10 in each of the past two NHRA Top Fuel seasons.
DEFENDING CHAMP, NEW RECORD-HOLDER - Larry Dixon dominated last year’s Top Fuel championship with 12 victories on the way to the title, but he did something in this season’s first race that he wasn’t able to accomplish a year ago – set a new record for the quickest pass ever made in NHRA history at 1,000 feet. Dixon had a blistering 3.770-second run to put his name into the record books, as well as earn his first top qualifier position of the 2011 season. He was the top qualifier eight times last season.
PEDREGON PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF – After a roller-coaster ride over the past three seasons, Cruz Pedregon opened the season on the same roll he finished last year with in winning the pole at Pomona. He also registered the second-quickest Funny Car run in NHRA’s pre-season Florida testing. Pedregon won the 2008 Funny Car championship, then missed the playoffs the past two seasons, but ended the 2010 campaign winning two of the six Countdown events and qualifying in the top-six in 10 consecutive races.
WORSHAM MAKES SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO TOP FUEL – After campaigning a Toyota Camry Solara Funny Car the past two seasons with Al-Anabi Racing, Del Worsham made a successful return to the Top Fuel ranks with the team at Pomona. Worsham qualified fifth and then advanced to the semi-finals in his first Top Fuel event since 1995. Worsham has spent the majority of his 20-year NHRA career in Funny Car competition, but did compete in 22 Top Fuel races between 1993 and 1995.
GAINESVILLE WINNERS – Three current Toyota-sponsored drivers have previously won the Gatornationals. Larry Dixon has won four times in Gainesville, taking Top Fuel honors in 1995, 2001, 2002 and 2009. In addition to Dixon’s efforts, his Al-Anabi Racing Toyota teammate Del Worsham won in 2004 in Funny Cars, while Toyota Camry Solara Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon won in Florida in 1998.