Ten years ago Morgan Lucas attended his first NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series national event in Sonoma, Calif.
At Sonoma the 20-year-old Lucas met late Top Fuel pilot Darrell Russell, who treated him nicely.
Russell, who qualified for every national event in which he competed, died in a horrific crash June 27 in an NHRA event at Madison, Ill.
Lucas will honor Russell's family and team by racing the back-up dragster owned by five-time Top Fuel champion Joe Amato in the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Thursday through Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.
This is Lucas' first NHRA nationals race and it's the first time anyone has driven Amato's Top Fueler. Amato is the sport's all-time leader in Top Fuel victories with 52.
"I want to try and do my own thing and race for Darrell in respect and for his honor," Lucas said in a phone interview. "He deserves at least that. I want to do the best I can to represent his family and the team and everybody involved to give me this opportunity."
Opportunity came knocking for Morgan Lucas while he was at an NHRA divisional race in Oregon. He had just completed his first round in his Top Alcohol Dragster and was on his way to the concession stand.
The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals run Thursday through Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. For a complete schedule, see Page 4B.
That's when Lucas received the call from Amato asking him to be his driver.
"I was literally floored," Morgan Lucas said. "I just said, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe that just happened.'"
In the midst of the exciting turn of fortune, Lucas forgot to buy any food, which was for him and his team. When he returned to his team he apologized for forgetting the food but that he had bigger concerns.
Marital status: Single, son of Forrest and Charlotte Lucas. Forrest Lucas is owner of Lucas Oil.
Accomplishments: Won 2003 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Division 7 Top Fuel points championship; finished second in Top Alcohol Dragster in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series; has won eight national events in Top Alcohol Dragster.
Lucas, the son of Forrest Lucas, who owns Lucas Oil, wasn't concerned about going from a dragster that goes down the strip at more than 270 mph to a rocket that goes more than 320 mph.
"The thing just keeps going and going," he said.
Lucas earned his Top Fuel license at Maple Grove Speedway in Reading, Pa., last weekend. On Aug. 7, he made two full passes at 4.76 seconds and 307 mph and 4.82, 305 mph. A racer must make two full passes at least 5.20 seconds or quicker at a top speed of at least 260 mph to earn his license.
He began his racing career in the Super Comp class during the first half of the 2002 season and posted two wins.
The rest of the year he drove a Top Alcohol Dragster for Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows, whose list of racers include three-time Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi and Brandon Bernstein, who holds the Top Fuel speed record of 333.41 mph. Morgan raced in six events, was low qualifier five times and posting three wins and one runner-up finish.
The next season Lucas raced full-time for Darien and Meadows, earning six low qualifying times, winning two divisionals, four national events, the Division 7 points championship and finishing second in national points.
This season he has been driving a dragster owned by himself and his parents. His most recent national win was at Sonoma Aug. 1. Lucas said he will race this dragster and his Top Fueler at BIR. He also isn't the only Lucas racing. His mother Charlotte races a Super Comp dragster.
What will Lucas do after his first run in his Top Fueler at BIR?
I'm going to exhale," he said. "I'm going to sit down and think about what just happened."
clint wood can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5869.
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