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Defending U.S. Nationals champion Morgan Lucas battles for another Indy win

Indianapolis, Indiana (September 5, 2016) - Morgan Lucas experienced the pinnacle of drag racing in 2015 when he raced to victory in the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. And not only did he win the most prestigious drag race in the world, but he got to celebrate with family, including wife Katie, son Hunter, and his parents, Forrest and Charlotte.

Lucas, of course, would love to repeat as U.S. Nationals champion, and he begins his title defense from the No. 8 spot Monday, but he realizes how blessed he has been to win the race once.

"Honestly, having my family here, seeing how excited my son Hunter is to see the car run, that to me is what makes this race special," Lucas said. "I know there's a lot of history, a lot of heritage, and yeah we won the race last year. I've had the good fortune to win a lot of races and not win the next year, so I don't count on it. I just go out there and treat it like it's any other race and try to do the same thing over and over again.

"What makes this race cool is when you get to celebrate with your family, and God has blessed us enough that I've gotten to experience that a couple of times, so whatever He gives us, He gives us, and we'll be happy about it."

Lucas has had a solid Protect The Harvest/Lucas Oil dragster this weekend, as his top pass of 3.732 seconds at 326.63 mph put him in the top half of the field, but the veteran driver also knows there is more in the car.

"The car's running good right now," Lucas said. "As far as going down the track, we've dropped holes, we've been lean, had different little scenarios happen. It's slow off the starting line. Last night we had really good splits in the middle of the track. We broke a piston, but prior to that happening, it was trucking with 292 (mph) to half-track for speed, which I mean isn't insane but it's definitely fast.

"The problem is it was about two-hundredths off the pace at the 60-foot, and we just never made it back up. So if we could find a way to split the difference in going down the track and maybe getting a little more aggressive early and still managing it, we should have a good, competitive car."

Lucas battles No. 9 qualifier J.R. Todd in the first round Monday, marking the second race in a row he has faced a Kalitta Motorsports car in the first round and the third race in a row there has been an MLR vs. Kalitta matchup in Round 1.

"One of our cars has raced a Kalitta car the last three races in a row at least, and I can tell you there's a number of other people I would rather race than a Kalitta car," Lucas said. "J.R.'s a good driver, and they've been doing a good job with the car over there, and you always have to be on your toes against them. But for us, we're going to set everything on the same page and at least give them a helluva run for their money and just see what happens."

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m., Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air the early part of Monday's eliminations live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live TV coverage will then shift to the main FOX Network with action from 1 to 4 p.m. (All times listed in ET).

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