PHOENIX – Morgan Lucas and the GEICO/Lucas Oil finished runner-up in Top Fuel at Sunday’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Lucas beat Clay Millican, David Grubnic and Spencer Massey before falling to seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher in what became a smoking, fire-belching final.
“The car responded well all day,” Lucas said. “In the final, we got the tires loose early. It’s kind of baffling because it was the only weak spot in the car today.”
Lucas had a slight edge off the starting line over Schumacher but both cars smoked the tires in nearly the identical spot. As both drivers tried to get their cars going again, the rails slid and smoked down the track. Schumacher was able to get his car back under him first and he crossed the line just as Lucas’ engine let go in a small fireball.
“It just killed the tire,” Lucas said. “It must have been God’s way of telling us it wasn’t our day. I could have done a lot better job behind the wheel. I’m not hitting the tree as good as I’d like to and I didn’t do a good job pedaling it against Tony.
“He got out ahead of us and his car died. We pushed the head gaskets out when I was pedaling it. Our motor was wounded from about 300 feet on. I was just trying to get it down track and around Tony. Inside the car, it looked like we did. It was close.”
Schumacher’s lap time was 4.606 seconds at 213.20 mph, while Lucas finished in 4.652 seconds at 258.67 mph.
“I’ve got some work I’ve got to do,” Lucas said. “Some drivers, being able to pedal the car is a real strong suit. I’d like to be one of those guys. Tony had a great racecar all weekend and really a great car at both races this season.
“We’re holding our own. That’s the first final we’ve lost in the last seven tries. So there’s no reason to be mad.”
Lucas’ day started in similar fashion as it ended, with an opening round pedal-fest against Millican. The race unfolded in a similar fashion with both cars smoking and weaving their way down the track. Lucas’ engine stayed together long enough to hold off Millican with a holeshot victory, which started the GEICO rail’s march toward the final round.
“A lot of people were struggling during the first round,” Lucas said. “There was so much dust and silt on the track from when the wind picked up overnight. That was a close race with Clay. We had a lot of luck all day. We lost a cylinder against Spencer and it still ran strong.”
In the opening round, Lucas crossed the finish line in 4.074 seconds at 211.99 mph with Millican in his footsteps with a 4.073 at 256.89 mph. The margin of victory was Lucas’ .010 second advantage gained at the starting line.
Against Massey, Lucas’ had his second best run of the day despite losing a cylinder. He crossed the line in 3.860 seconds at 316.08 mph. Massey smoked the tires and crossed in 5.137 seconds at 141.82 mph.
The GEICO dragster’s best run of the day came in the second round against Grubnic. Lucas was off the line first in that race, finishing in 3.773 seconds at 327.43 mph. Grubnic also had problems and went across the line in 9.378 seconds at 62.38 mph.
“We’ve got such a good team effort going on in our pit,” Lucas said. “Both teams got together to get my car turned around for the semis, and it was amazing to watch. Our tuning window is bigger, but not quite where we want it to be and we have got to keep going.”
With the runner-up finish, Lucas climbs all the way up to fifth place in the Top Fuel points heading into the March 15-17 NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Fla., where Lucas is defending champion.
“We’re in the top 10 in points and I’m real happy about that,” Lucas said. “If the weather is like it was last year, a lot of cars are going to run well. We know we have a good racecar and can run with everybody. We just need to hang in there and keep that momentum going.”