NHRA: Lucas looking for repeat performance at BIR
Driving 300 mph is a lot less stressful for Morgan Lucas than sitting in a meeting. Winning his main sponsor's title event is also lot more fun than closing a business deal. But despite his success in a Top Fuel dragster and his tremendous achiev...
Driving 300 mph is a lot less stressful for Morgan Lucas than sitting in a meeting.
Winning his main sponsor's title event is also lot more fun than closing a business deal.
But despite his success in a Top Fuel dragster and his tremendous achievements at Brainerd International Raceway, where Lucas Oil Products, his parents company is the main sponsor, Lucas is slowly transitioning into the business life.
But not completely.
Hometown: Upland, Calif.
Car: Lucas Oil dragster
Division: Top Fuel
Crew Chief: Aaron Brooks/Rod Centorbi
Top Fuel driver Morgan Lucas on Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (The Colts play at Lucas Oil Stadium): "Andrew Luck, he's the real deal," Lucas said. "He's a good guy. I've got to spend, not a lot of time around him, but enough time to know that he is a good person. He has a real level head on his shoulders. He's a competitive guy, but he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who is going to go out there and make any enemies. He's not one of those guys that has a chip on his shoulder when he plays football. He just seems like he keeps his head on straight and when he makes a mistake he owns it. I just feel like when the Colts made the decision that they made, as difficult as it was, they replaced a football icon with a leader for our team and somebody that I think is going to be a good franchise quarterback for a long time, hopefully. I can say he has impressed a lot of people in our city. We're glad to have him and we're glad he's on our side."
Lucas will bring his Lucas Oil Dragster to BIR where he is the defending Top Fuel champion. It will be only his fifth event out of the 17 possible NHRA events this season. It's a part-time schedule that started last year and has continued. And while round wins have been hard to come by this year for Lucas, you can't count the two-time BIR champ out for next weekend's event.
"I can't say what it is about racing there for me," Lucas said. "Sometimes racers have tracks that they just feel good at. Sometimes the mindset is right, I don't know. Sometimes racers have horrible luck at their sponsor's event. It's a crazy dynamic and just something that fits for us. Not every year does it go great, but to have the success that we have had there it's gone from one of my favorite tracks to easily my favorite track."
Two wins certainly helps, but Lucas and his family have grown attached to the fans, the zoo and BIR as a whole.
"To be honest, and I'm not trying to be cliche with this, but the fans are what make that event special," said Lucas. "My parents sponsor a few races throughout the season - sometimes three - it just depends on the year and what's available, but the relationship that my parents and myself and our family, our team, everybody has gotten to establish with the fans and the people in the zoo (the name of the BIR campground), those that have attended every year, it's just become a home away from home for us. It has such great hospitality from them.
"That event does add pressure to the whole situation. You want to race well for your sponsors when it's their title event. You want to dominate it. Sometimes that works in a negative. Sometimes you can try too hard and you mess up. Last year, going into that part-time schedule, we didn't know what to expect. Then you throw in the rain on the finals and all the different scenarios we went through it was probably one of the cooler wins I've ever had."
And despite only competing in seven events last year, Lucas managed two wins. He's hoping his accomplishments on the track will transfer over to the business world where he's taken his talents full time.
"We have a full-time team with Richie Crampton driving that car and they've won three races this year so we wanted to keep that flagship car out there," Lucas said. "That was the team that I drove with for multiple years. When I made the decision to step back from racing full time it was based around a few factors. One being that it's time for me to get more involved in Lucas Oil Products. It's a family business. I got to race Top Fuel cars for a long time and I have enjoyed every second of it. But some point in time you have to put priorities ahead of the fun things you get to do in life. I took racing serious as a career and job, but I also am also very aware of the fact that the amount of time I have to spend with my father and everybody that is in place at Lucas Oil Products right now it's not as abundant as the number of years I have left to go racing. I wanted to take a chance and go do that.
"My wife and I also had a son in the last 20 months. Some decisions that were made all came to a head all at one time. It was a tough decision to make, but it was the right one."
Lucas' parents Forrest and Charlotte started Lucas Oil Products and turned it into a top selling additive line in the American truck stop industry along with a growing presence in the automotive industry not to mention its work with engine and gear oils in the racing industry.
It's a profession the husband and father is learning on the job.
"It's definitely a lot more stressful, but not because of the workload," Lucas said. "The workload is not bad. It's the unknown. It's funny because I spent my whole life racing and being around racing and I'm having to make up for lost time now because I should have been working with Lucas Oil Products and racing. I was living life a little bit too much and I should have been more focused. I'm learning a whole different set of things I didn't know. It's one of those situations where when I'm at the track I'm in my comfort zone because that's what I know. When I'm sitting in a meeting with the buyers for a major auto parts chain or flying with my dad to go meet with a customer or whatever it is, there's times where I know that I don't know nearly as much about it as the people I'm in the room with. I have to sit there. I have to be quiet and just try to learn. That's a totally different situation for me."
It's the known that keeps calling Lucas back to the race track. It's not his priority any more. It's become his hobby. As he called it - his release.
"My goals as driver have changed," said Lucas. "It used to be that I would sometimes daydream about winning a championship. That's something I feel like I have been in a close position to have a run at a championship a couple different times and just never quite got over the hump. That's something that I always thought about. I always dreamed about. Now, I don't know when my last race is going to happen. I don't when there is going to be that official moment when I'm just done. I just now appreciate it. I just go out and have fun and it's something I've always wanted to do on the side of Top Fuel. I don't have to be, I guess, business first when it comes to driving a car. Now my real job entails a totally different set of responsibilities. When I go to the track it's kind of my release. My hobby. My thing that I enjoy to do. It's fun and I think my wife even sees it when I go to the track and come back I seem a little more settled."
Settled? After reaching speeds of 320 mph in a quarter mile? Sitting inside a nitro bomb?
"It's funny, it's like when you're a kid and you go away from your parents house and you come home to visit and something just feels really cozy about that place," said Lucas. "When I get in a car, it's fun.
"When I grew up my dad use to race local dirt track and some asphalt round-de-round stuff. I remember going to the track with him. He was just so happy and anxious to get to the track that he would get so fired up about traffic and everything else. He's competitive. He just wanted to get there and get things done. But on our way home he just always seemed happy and relaxed. I thought that was always kind of funny at the time, but now I get it. Now I can wrap my head around it."
And he has. Lucas is finally having more fun with the sport. The pressure isn't there as it once was. He's free to drive.
"I'm always concerned that I might forget what I need to do," Lucas said. "I might forget what I've done for so many years. It's funny because it's kind of like riding a bike. Before that first run I have some nerves and some anxiety about it. Then I get into the car and put the helmet on and it all starts just coming back. It's only a few months off at a time. It's not like it's a couple years or anything like that. But it's still one of those things, like I said, it was all I did for a very long time. I physically trained and worked out just to be a better driver and I don't do that anymore. I don't have to be on that regiment anymore. I'm not letting myself get fat or anything, but I do know it helps. I worry about that stuff as a driver, but at the same time there is some upside to it. I feel more relaxed when I come to a track because you're not worried about points. Any of the stuff that can add to the stress you don't think about that anymore. You're just allowed to have more fun."
Winning is fun and Lucas knows how to win at BIR so don't count this part timer out of the hunt for another Lucas Oil Nationals trophy.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .