Morgan Lucas humble in first-day success

POMONA, Calif. -- Winning the 2011 Winternationals last February might as well have happened a hundred years ago. At least that's how National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel racer Morgan Lucas looks at it.

He used a 3.832-second elapsed time Thursday at the season opener at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., to seize the provisional top qualifying position. And he knew the media would be asking how terrific it felt to return here and run well again. It's a perfectly legitimate question, but Lucas had another, not-so-awesome thought about that.

"I know a lot of people want to know that," the Indianapolis-based the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster driver said. "But I think when you win as many races as guys like Tony Schumacher or Del Worsham or Larry Dixon, that becomes one of those things that people don't ask [about] a lot.

"To be honest with you," Lucas said, "the win last year is so far out of my mind it's not even funny.

"Last year was such a bad year toward the middle and ending of the year that for us it's more so more so trying to get the car down the racetrack. I didn't even think we were trying to run that fast on that session ," he said. "We just hit it right."

He topped No. 2 Tony Schumacher (who posted top speed at 320.58 mph) by six-thousandths of a second.

If that 3.832 holds up as quickest elapsed time, Lucas will have his fifth No. 1 spot of his career, first at this venue, and first at this event. However, he wasn't counting on that.

"I know it's just the first pass of the year, but we're all really excited to get this GEICO Dragster down the racetrack and hopefully get some more stuff to build off of and continue progress throughout the season," he said.

He called his mood optimistic yet "very guarded," saying, "In past years I've been very optimistic coming into the beginning of the season. I've learned not to get my hopes too far up and try to be a realist about it and just kind of try to take good when it comes at you and be able to keep you head up when the bad's hanging around, too."

New crew chiefs Aaron Brooks and Rod Centorbi, he said, present a balanced strategy and "more of a modern spin instead of the old-school approach to it."

Said Lucas, "Aaron's really aggressive, and Rod's really sound when it comes to putting the car together. They work great together, and they're a lot of fun to work with. Our core group worked well as a unit but when you bring guys in who has a more advanced maintenance program . . . it really opens your eyes to some of the areas you were missing out on, a lot of things that maybe created some inconsistencies or maybe caused a hindrance toward performance."

They appear to have solved some of those problems, for new teammate Brandon Bernstein put the MAV TV Dragster in the No. 5 slot Thursday, behind Nos. 3 and 4 Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence, respectively.

The dragsters are scheduled back on the track at 2 p.m. Friday to open the lone nitro qualifying session.

 

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