Morgan Lucas had a hell of a day at the recent Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, giving drag racing fans the quickest passes of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello season: 3.707 and 3.704 seconds to win the Top Fuel category, taking down Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher on his way to the winner’s circle.
The magnificent day at the season-ending event had Lucas looking back in near disbelief. He’d be the first to tell you it didn’t seem real. Near record elapsed times when everything goes off so quick will do that.
“That was the craziest thing about that day,” said the beaming Lucas, recalling his swift Sunday. “It was an awesome day, it seemed everything clicked. As impressive as it is just to win for us, it was even more impressive for the car to respond the way it did on the last run of the day. We all definitely feel that we left a little bit on the table. The early incrementals showed we were running fast enough to run a 3.68 or 3.69 and it started knocking the rings off the pistons somewhere before halftrack and it kind of flattened the motor out a little bit. Even though the numbers to the halftrack were the best, in a sport as far as ET (elapsed time) goes, you look at that and kind of know that ‘aw man, how cool it would have been to leave with the National record on top of everything else’. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers and we take exactly what we get and be really happy with it. Just knowing the fact we’re blessed and to be able to go out and race, let alone win. That’s a big deal for us.”
Lucas entered the Auto Club Finals from the No. 3 spot in the lineup right behind, No. 1 qualifier and teammate, Richie Crampton with a 3.711 second time, followed closely by Antron Brown with his time of 3.720
seconds along with Lucas running a 3.738 ET.
The weather conditions were prime: a partial marine layer covered the track with patches of sunshine beaming through long enough to keep the track ready for new track records. Lucas’ crew chief Aaron Brooks felt it was go time as the sun set and unleashed near record times in eliminations.
“That’s Aaron’s style,” Lucas said with a broad smile. “He never wants to be the guy that just went up there and does just enough. He wants to be the guy to do it all. That’s the cool thing about Aaron, he just a really aggressive kind of a person.”
After ripping a 3.707 second time in the semi-finals, they discussed what could be done to improve on what they just did. Would it be worth it?
“When we got back to the pit, Aaron and I talked a little bit about it. Did we want to go for the win or try to set the record and win? We said let’s go set the record since we don’t have anything to lose points-wise, let’s go up there and go for it. It’s kind of fun to race like that. We never had that luxury and were feeling pretty blessed. On top of that my wife and son got to be there for a win. It was actually his first time at the track when I won. His first race was at the U.S. Nationals when Richie (Crampton) won and we got pictures of him in the winner’s circle then.
“That was probably the most special win I’ve ever had just because I got to get pictures with my whole family. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about happening and at times I thought that I would never get my chance to do that after I quit racing full time. It was really a great, great weekend.”
Lucas’ heritage with the Pomona track began in 1994 when his dad, Forrest, took him to the track at age 9. It was love at first flag drop. At 19, he nearly won his first race at a Pomona event in 2004, reaching his second final round before losing to Tony Schumacher driving the Joe Amato Top Fuel ride.
“It was the 10 year anniversary of the final when we got beat by Tony Schumacher. It’s kind of a fun little payback 10 years later.”
Lucas’ biggest supporters have been his mother and father, and now his lovely wife, Katie and son, Hunter, all of whom got to join in on the celebration when he finally made eye contact after returning back up the track.
“You couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces,” laughed Lucas. “They were grinning ear to ear, elated. The best part is they saw the potential the team has and what we have accomplished. Aaron is such a young, aggressive, but very smart crew chief to deliver that on Sunday. We felt confident making big moves going into the semis and finals. We put a motor and clutch from Richie’s car in our car and took it up there to run. That’s goes back to the fact we build our own chassis’ in house now and Aaron was in on the design process and Richie worked on it as the driver. Now we have cars that are so identical we are closer than ever before and can take the clutch and motor out of one car, put it in another and know exactly what it is going to do.”
In 2014, Lucas ran seven races reaching the semi-finals in three of them resulting in two victories (Brainerd and Pomona) for his part-time racing excursion. So what are his plans for 2015?
After the win, Lucas was repeatedly asked by fans and media alike if he had made a mistake in leaving the sport when his car is so capable of winning.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask if it makes me miss racing full time and did I need to second guess what I did,” said Lucas shaking his head, no. “I can honestly say without a doubt, I don’t regret any decision I’ve made. I’ve got to spend some time with my family and with my mom and dad. Also with people in the company and I’m learning more how to run that.
“Then sometimes I can run with my racing family and I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world. The fact that I got to win two races this year coming out only seven times and Richie won the other two we raced in that was a really big deal for me to be there and take part in something we worked so hard for. I hope to continue to do the same thing in the future. Who knows, maybe one day down the road we may come back to racing full time on tour. You know the Greek (Chris Karamesines) is in his 80s and he’s still doing it so I guess I have a long time to make that decision.”
All photos courtesy of Geiger Media Global/Mark Rebilas.