Lucas To Start Gatornationals Eliminations From P1

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 10 2012

Morgan Lucas wins pole in Gainesville. (Mark J. Rebilas photo courtesy of Toyota)

Morgan Lucas raced his GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fueler to the No. 1 qualifying spot for the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville on Saturday afternoon.

Cruz Pedregon leads Funny Car in his Snap-On Tools Toyota Camry heading into eliminations Sunday, while Allen Johnson topped Pro Stock in his Mopar Dodge Avenger and two-time Gatornationals champ Eddie Krawiec ran the quickest pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle history en route to the No. 1 spot on his Harley-Davidson.

Lucas earned the second No. 1 of the season and sixth of his career Saturday with a 3.766 second pass at 321.88 mph. In just the third race of 2012, Lucas equaled his career-high for No. 1 qualifying positions in a single season.

“I can honestly say this is the best racecar I’ve ever had,” Lucas said. “I can’t wait to hop in the thing. The problems we have this year have had to do with freak parts failures, not performance. This team is so strong right now.”

Lucas is not only the driver but also the team owner and for part of last season he was also the crew chief. After some changes in the offseason Lucas has been able to focus on what he knows best.

“I credit the guys on the team. I feel like we’ve had the ingredients to perform this whole time and didn’t know how to put it together. (Crew chiefs) Aaron Brooks and Rod Centorbi brought that to the table. With them here, I can focus and drive the car with a clear mind.”

Krawiec set the national record on his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod Saturday with a 6.750 second pass at 198.03 mph and collected not only the 10th No. 1 of his career, but also the 20 point bonus that comes with setting a national E.T. record.

“This morning we got some great weather and we were able to take advantage of it,” Krawiec said. “We had a stiff head wind so maybe tomorrow if the wind dies down and we can get that 200-mph run. We’re trying to run 200-mph but I keep telling everyone you can’t push it. Everything has to be just right. We want to go 200 but we also want to win a Wally.”

Last season, Krawiec set the speed record at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville and won the prestigious event which makes it a place he feels very comfortable.

“Being here [in Gainesville] is like walking in my front door,” Krawiec said. “I’m very comfortable here. This is a great facility and everyone gets excited for Gainesville.”

Pedregon took the No. 1 spot from defending event champ Mike Neff during the final qualifying session Saturday evening when he laid down a 4.026 second pass at 311.05 mph. This is the third No. 1 at the Gatornationals for Pedregon, first of the season and 46th of his career.

“I was looking for some kind of 4.0, and sometimes these cars will surprise you,” said Pedregon. “I always want to lay one down when I’m racing beside (John) Force, but I didn’t want to mess it up. It put me back in the seat really hard and got a little blurry around mid-track. It was a very good feeling, euphoric as they say. It’s nice to reward these guys with a run like that.”

After a DNQ and first round loss at the first two races of the season Pedregon feels the team may have found the right race day combination.

“We’re really going to enjoy it for tonight, but we’ll be focused on getting back into the points battle on race day,” Pedregon said. “We didn’t have much to show from the first two races, so we kind of considered them our test sessions. We had some consistency on Friday, and to cap it off with a run like that is beyond great.”

Johnson’s Mopar Dodge Avenger raced to the top spot Saturday morning with a 6.486 second pass at 211.93 mph. It’s Johnson’s first No. 1 of the season, first at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville and 19th of his career.

“Anytime you’re in Gainesville it is prestigious,” Johnson said. “This is Pro Stock country so it’s great to be No. 1 qualifier here. I really appreciate the [K&N Filters] bonus. The Mopar people are throwing us new parts and the Dodge Avenger is an awesome race car. I’m just looking forward to starting from No. 1 spot in this field.”

Eliminations for the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville will begin Sunday at 11 a.m. (EDT)

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 10 2012
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