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Southern Nationals Give Lucas First Win

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 19 2009

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

nhra_plain_oval_4cCommerce, Ga. – Great moments in motor sports tend to occur at the strangest places and the strangest times. That was the case on Sunday in the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Persistent sprinkles interrupted the show almost from the 11 a.m. start,  pushing the finals to well past 8 p.m. But the fans who waited out the rain – and got soaked soon afterwards – were well rewarded.

The Top Fuel division eliminations produced a final guaranteed to produce a first-time Wally recipient. Morgan Lucas, winless in 106 events and out of the finals since 2005, lined up against Spencer Massey under the relatively dim track lights and with heavy rain moving in and certain to hit at any minute.

 Both drivers bobbled almost from the blink of the green light. Both cars bobbled back and forth, with the on-and-off again flames from the exhaust signaling some serious pedaling by the two drivers. Finally Lucas pulled away and coasted across the line, his blower belt gone for the final few feet.

It was nowhere near picture perfect, but it really didn’t matter.

“When I hit the gas, the front end snapped up,” he said. “It started shaking. Spencer said his shook him up where he couldn’t even see where he was.

 “I just kept hitting the gas and it wouldn’t hook up, and finally I got to the point of no return so I just kept it to the floor.”

 Afterwards, he seemed to have a new outlook entirely.

 “This is probably one of the most, if not the most exciting moment, of my life,” Lucas said as he clutched his Wally trophy during his winner’s interview, hoisting the 12-pound prize occasionally and gazing often at it. “I can’t wait to go to the next race now, and there have been a lot of time when I was dreading going to the next race.”

Massey also left with lots to be proud about, including some kind words from six-time series champion Tony Schumacher, whom he took out en route to the finals.

“Spencer is a rookie, but he certainly doesn’t drive like one,” Schumacher said. “You have to tip your hat to him. He got off the line better and made it work.”

In the Funny Car final, veteran Jack Beckman beat Ashley Force Hood and her Mustang, which had been the division’s dominant car all weekend. She and Beckman had a great race going, also under darkness and threatening skies, but she lost power as she neared the finish line.

It was Beckman’s seventh win in Funny Car, his first of the season, and the 128th overall professional victory for his Don Schumacher Racing team.

Beckman, 42, said his eyesight isn’t what it was earlier in his life, so he struggled with fogging glasses and a fogging visor in the finals but still managed a win.

“On paper Ashley’s car had us whipped,” he said. “But that’s why we race. Anything can happen when you have 8,000 horsepower and nitro in the tank.”

Eddie Krawiec added his name to the first-time winner list, as he defeated rookie Douglas Horne in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. The Pro Stock final between Jeg Coughlin and Mike Edwards was postponed until Monday.

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 19 2009
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