Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Consistency is Key: Interview With Morgan Lucas

     "I've been preaching all year to the guys that we need to be consistent, we don't always need to be the quickest car on the grounds _— just need to be within striking distance, giving us the opportunity to win without getting ahead of ourselves."

That sums up every racers thoughts as the 6 race "Countdown to the Championship" gets underway with this weekends Carlyle Tools Carolina Nationals. Morgan Lucas is seeded eighth going into the countdown, knowing fully that there is still much work to be done

     " At the beginning of the year we just couldn't get there. I know Aaron was trying so hard, everyone  on the team was putting in 100% to get the car to where it needed to be." Morgan Said "But it got to the point where we had to make aggressive changes to the combination a little bit, it wasn't that we weren't running good in eliminations because of the lack of consistency and performance. In qualifying, we went racing against the wrong guys and that was our demise. If we had qualified better, our team would have had greater opportunities to challenge for wins."

     Morgan would be the first person to say that he is proud of the teams' continued progress towards becoming contenders for the Top Fuel Title

     " The thing that I am most proud of is the progress we made in testing after the Norwalk event in Indianapolis. Aaron made wholesale drastic changes and the car responded quite well to those changes. We seemed to be way to conservative with any setup change last season,"  said Morgan "But with the changes that we made in testing, it helped us achieve a lot more horsepower and run a bit similar to the car that we had last season." Morgan added "It's a big feeling of relief and it's awesome to see everyone on the team smiling, enjoying themselves.

     But the Indiana native isn't ready to count his team a contender for the title in Top fuel just yet

     " I do not want to say that we are there and ready to chase for the Top Fuel title as of yet, our priorities are on winning as many rounds as possible which is a key ingredient to wining a championship and our Geico Team is at the stage of winning one round at a time. " Morgan said "To be honest, we try not to set goals that are too high, doing so leads to backfiring on us quite a bit. We try not to put any undue pressure on the team, and helps us to move forwards rather than backwards."

     The addition of Brandon Bernstein to the team paid dividends in 2012, but no doubt Morgan misses his teammate due to recent back problems

     " The Protect The Harvest team have worked very hard, trying their best to have a great season. But you cannot go thru the stress on your back when you launch at nearly 5 times the force of gravity, so Brandon needed to have his back taken care of, knowing his long term health is of the utmost importance. I admire Brandon for having the wherewithall to make such a tough decision.

     The competitive spirit is alive and well in Brandon and Morgan knows it

     "First and foremost, Brandon is a competitor and racer. He wants to win races just as much as any other driver would. To him, it's excruciating to see someone else driver his car. But  J.R. Todd is a very capable driver and is a perfect fit, plus he gets along great with Brandon really well. "

     Morgan's win at the O' Reilly Northwest Nationals made him the eight different winner in the Top Fuel class in 2013, he thrives on such close competition

     " I would not be surprised that by the end of this season we see as many as 11 different winners in Top Fuel. Although her points do not show it but Brittany Force and her team are turning the corner in terms of performance, David Grubnic has also run well (though he just missed the countdown by a few points), and who would be remiss in not mentioning how close Clay Millican and his team are to their first win. It shows that the Top Fuel class is so competitive and so close; anyone can win."

     The O'Reilly Northwest nationals win marked Morgan's 19th career win, but the pending birth of his and wife Katherine's first child made it much more special

     " I told my wife in victory lane that I believe in sympathy pains." Morgan laughed " everyone has said that things change and life has certainly changed for us, and our child hasn't been born yet. It is a very exciting time for the both of us as we await the birth of our first child. He added "I would get upset at the track and see my wife's tummy growing, it places everything into proper perspective. We are at an exciting point in our lives and so thankful.

     Morgan is already sensing a rivalry between his soon to be son Hunter and Antron Brown's son Anson who is already a Jr. Dragster in the coming future

      " That would be awesome to have that, a rivalry between our two sons compete against one another in the future. Most important thing is to let Hunter choose his own path. If he chooses to become a drag racer that is great. But of course Katherine and I will fully support him not matter what he wants to become in life."

      6 races to determine a champion, 4 months until the birth of his and Katherine's son. Yes, The Countdown is On!

   
   

         

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Momentum with a bullet; Interview with DSR Driver Spencer Massey

This weekend is the biggest of them all, The US Nationals takes place at Lucas Oil Raceway Park, the event that determines who makes the countdown and who doesn't. Coming off the win in Top Fuel at Brainerd Minn, DSR Battery Extender Driver Spencer Massey has momentum going his way heading into the event known as "The Big Go"


1. The win at the Lucas Oil Nationals has to be such a momentum builder for you and your Battery Extender Team heading into the countdown?


     ' The win at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd definitely gives you a tremendous amount of momentum heading into the US Nationals, which has our team pumped. We tested at Indy last week and ran very well, and that has the DSR Battery Extender team excited, ready to win the US Nationals



2. The Battery Extender car was very consistent throughout eliminations, 3.791 3.799, 3.820, and the final round 3.811. In capturing the win at Brainerd. Talk about each of the 4 runs



     ' Looking back to the 2011 season, this particular car (sans canopy) went 40 runs in a row without smoking the tires, we still have Todd Okuhara & Phil Shuler as crew chiefs, the same driver and tune up; It is a very consistent car. As a Top Fuel driver, you just have to sit back and enjoy stepping into a car such as this, realizing how good it is on every run down the race track.'



3. That fireball in the first round was a scary one. Bet it Must feel much safer with the enclosed cockpit canopy.


     ' I had no idea there was a fire. If that same fire occurred while running the more traditional dragster, some of the fire plus oil from the engine would have made its way into the cockpit; Thankfully none of that happened. By far, this car is a joy to drive, i feel so much safer behind the wheel.' 
     

4. This year by far, has been one of the best in your career. 4 wins, which is the most that you have had in an entire season


    ' It has been an amazing season up to this point for everyone on the team. The win at the ZMax 4-Wide Nationals at Charlotte (first win of season) was a great win due to the fact that we run so well there, plus it's such a cool race to win. We are fortunate to have won 4 times this season, we hope the wins keep on coming to help us stay in the fight for the championship.' 



5. This 2013 season, you have any number of Top Fuelers that can win. Thinking back, could you have imagined Top Fuel being so close this season?


     ' Over the last few seasons, championships have come down to the last event, plus the fact that the competition has become even tighter. When you look at the Top Fuel field, there are any number of race cars that run so well and are so consistent pass after pass, anyone can win. That is something i'm not surprised by with Top Fuel being so close this year.' 


6. One more question. Name one thing in your lifetime that you have yet to do but would love to?

     ' It would have to be winning the Top Fuel Championship, There is no life outside of drag racing for me, LOL.'

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shawn Langdon Interview: An Eye On The Prize! (originally posted on rpm2night.com)

    Expectations are high when a driver comes and joins one of the most dominant teams in drag racing, Al Anabi and Alan Johnson Racing. Mira Loma, CA native Shawn Langdon knew full well the expectations in becoming a driver for its top fuel car

 
Gary Nastase Photo
"With 4 event wins and a 121 point lead, It indeed has been a great year up to this point. When any driver joins a very successful team as Al Anabi has been for the last few seasons, those types of results are to be expected."


    But, it is clear, that the 2012 season for Shawn and the entire team is one they would soon like to forget.


    " Without doubt,  the 2012 season was a fairly tough one for us. There were quite a few things that I as a driver learned along with the team from last season. " Shawn said " It only served to help us prepare for 2013, to appreciate and enjoy the success that everyone at Al Anabi/Alan Johnson Racing has had so far this season. "

          
    It also doesn't hurt to have one of the greatest tuners in Drag Racing as manager, plus having an avid car enthusiast for an owner, whose clear intent is to win championships


    "When his Excellency Sheik Khalid put together this extraordinary group of individuals, it was done so with the full intent to win championships that both Larry Dixon & Del Worsham were able to accomplish. Said Langdon " The fact that the car has been running well upto this point in the season is a testament to the hard work that everyone at Al Anabi is putting in. Crew Chief Brian Husen has been in the position of chasing the championship many times. What a driver such as myself tries to do is  learn as much as possible from a crew chief with that level of experience. Couple that with the fact that the team is committed & focused with one goal in mind, becoming Top Fuel Champions for 2013 hopefully will make us a team that's hard to beat "


     Shawn admits the crew behind him is what makes the early season success worthwhile

   
     " You want to surround yourself with a great group of crewman that have been at the top of their game, that truly enjoy the sport of NHRA Drag Racing. I feel very fortunate to be associated with such successful people as these guys. What makes them an awesome group is that they know how to win with class and lose with class, which is something that I have tried to emulate from day one, the moment that I stepped into a Jr. Dragster, it's just at another level.


    Even for a top fuel veteran of 5 years, the learning process continues


     Learning from an individual such as Alan, who has worked alongside some of the greatest names in the sport and has driven as well, serves not only to help me to improve as a driver, but the improves the team as well. For example, if I impart to him that a certain thing happened during a run such as dropping a cylinder, or if I drove it out of the groove, he will understand the situation and do his level best to explain what can be done to remedy the situation. That's such a tremendous asset to have. " Langdon then added " As a driver, you learn as much as you possibly can on every single run, trying to improve yourself in certain situations, but I never thought of myself being a good driver. What I have tried to do is to surround myself with good people, always learning, always observing because a driver in any particular class is never going to be perfect. "


     Big speeds are a big part of the NHRA experience. Last season at the Maple Grove event, Langdon ran an ungodly 334 mph speed in 1,000 feet, but Rev Limits have put the kibosh on that


Ron Lewis Photo
     " At the moment, I don't believe we will see speeds rise much higher than what Top Fuel is currently running. If the conditions are right, a team could push and hit 330 MPH on a run. But in the interest of safety, rev limiters were put in place to prevent accidents such as the one Antron had at the Winternationals in Pomona in February. At the same time, Goodyear has put in a tremendous amount of work in making a safer tire that exhibits good traction. But as the season wears on, the elapsed times will climb, so the possibility of a 3.69 still exists. But the speeds will likely stay at around the 328-330 mark when we get to tracks such as Texas and Maple Grove."


     But one thing is for certain, the competition has been close with 8 different winners this season


" It does not matter where one car qualifies, every run must be as perfect as possible. Along with that, of course you must have some racing luck on your side due to the fact the competition being so close" Said Langdon "A prime example was running Troy Buff in the first round in Seattle. Though we got the win over Troy, he ran an 3.86 to our 3.82, which goes to show how close the top fuel class is. "


     The Mira Loma CA Native will be the first to say it's not cool being beaten on a hole shot


      " That is just how close the top fuel class has gotten over the years. Morgan Lucas became the most recent winner in Brainerd, making him the 8th different winner in top fuel this season. Said Shawn "When you put together 12 strong cars, plus those who may race from time to time, any number of cars are capable of winning at any given time. The reason for that is because every team is running the same parts and pieces on their cars, so the crew chiefs job is made just a bit tougher, working their magic to bring home the win. " He added " There were a few times this season where we could have certainly won more than we have, those are some mistakes that you learn from along the way, making our team stronger in the end. We are fortunate to have won four times this season, but we realize that there is much work to be done to continue the success we have enjoyed so far. "


     The driver of the Silver Al Anabi Top Fueler is firmly locked as the number one seed, but even he knows not to rest and take it easy going into the countdown


     Though we have clinched our position in the countdown, we still want to win. Building momentum in this sport is of the utmost importance, trying to win as many races as possible before the countdown begins, thats what it will take to win the championship.


      He added the significance of a US Nationals win would be amazing


 " You want to win the biggest race of the year, Indy is our Super Bowl, our Daytona 500. It is a race that any driver wants to put on their resume, and for me the hunger to win it is most definitely there. Look at some of the names that have won the "Big Go".   Names like Prudhomme, Garlits, Schumacher, John Force, Ashley Force Hood, Bob Glidden. The list goes on and on, and it would be amazing to add my name to that list of greats that have won the US Nationals

   
   

   

   


   


     

Friday, August 2, 2013

Untethering the debacle in Somona

     This past weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag racing series made its annual stop in Sonoma California, race number 2 in the Western Swing, The Sonoma Nationals. What started out as an exciting event for all drag racing fans and officials, quickly turned into one sore subject, overiding one of the most competitive weekends in the sport.

     On friday night qualifying, 2011 Funny Car Champ Matt Hagan, ran the 3rd quickest elapsed time to 1000 feet in funny car history, a 3.986 over 320 MPH. But Saturday afternoon in Sonoma, would paint an entirely different picture.

     Let's go back to April at the Z-Max 4-Wide Nationals. During Saturday qualifying, Robert Hight's Mustang Bodied Funny Car's engine exploded, sending the fiberglass body flying into the grandstands. Thankfully, no one in the crowd was injured. The NHRA then designed a tether system,  to keep the body atop the frame rails. Though it was well intended, the consequences of it were something that no one saw coming.

     In the final qualifying session, Bob Tasca III ran against Robert Hight.  Both ran nearly identical elapsed times, with the edge to Hight (4.076 to Tasca's 4.078). Just as both cars crossed the finish line, the burst panel on Tasca's Mustang exploded into the air as flames began to erupt from underneath the fiberglass body. As the Rhode Island Native exited his car, he motioned to the Safety Safari for a fire extinguisher and to lift the body from the chassis. Needless to say, it was a rather harrowing experience for the Motorcraft/Quicklane driver.

     Sunday during the second round of funny car eliminations, Pitch Energy driver Johnny Gray faced off with 15x Champ John Force in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. As both cars reached 1/2 track, Gray's engine exploded, as Force went on to capture the win. The firewall of the Pitch Energy Dodge blocked Johnny's view as he safely brought the car to a stop just passed the finish line.  Here is video of the incident below courtesy of the NHRA and ESPN:

     Johnny Gray Engine Explosion

     Ive long been a fan of making the sport of racing, be it Drag Racing, Nascar or any form of auto racing. Of course, safety is paramount, but making knee jerk reactions when it comes to keeping a funny car body on the chassis and the Safety safari cant figure out how to lift it? A better design must be made, or training on how to quickly unlatch the new system must take place immediately.

     Both Bob Tasca III, Johnny Gray and crews were right in voicing their displeasure in the new tethering system. If there were to be an engine explosion with the body being contained by the tether system, then not being able to lift the body in time, drivers lives' could be in serious danger. Greater care must be taken in devising a way to quickly unlatch the new body fasteners on the front of these funny cars.

     First and foremost, Take care of the drivers properly, then the racing wil, take care of itself

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Spark Is Back




Dickie Venables (DragRaceCentral.com)
Having gone thru a winless 2012 season, FC Champ Matt Hagan and DSR were determined to see a turnaround. With the hiring of Champion Crew Chief DickieVenables, 2 victories this season at both the ZMax 4-Wide Nationals and the recent Toyota SummerNationals have helped to return the 2011 Mello Yello Champ to front runner status. " Dickie and the Magnetti Marelli/Rocky Boots team have put together a great set up on the car that runs well in all types of weather conditions, the team has done a phenomenal job so far this season, working together and getting along very well."  Venables' methodical approach to preparation has everyone on the team focused. "The cars' performance has shown itself to be much improved, which speaks to how prepared everyone on the team is for race day. Those aspects are a testament to how focused our team is, which leaves me to focus on the driving, having the confidence that every time we step up to the line, the team will give us a great capable of winning."

     
The Magnetti Marelli Team (Courtesy of DodgeForum.com)
It is never easy, at any time, during the finals to win an event, in any class. That is something that Matt can attest to." It seems to matter not where a particular funny car qualifies. With myself having won from the 14th position, it means that any car is capable of winning on sunday." Though facing his teammates Johnny Gray and "Fast Jack" Beckman, Hagan knew getting the event win would be even harder. "Johnny has been on a hot streak as of late, so facing him in the second round ,then facing "Fast Jack" in the finals definitely made those races  "marque match-ups" Matt Said. "Those were races where you had to be focused on cutting a good reaction time, making sure you kept the car in the groove. We were able to do each of those things and won the event." 

     

Ron Lewis Phot

Championships are synonymous with Don Schumacher Racing, a team that has won 8 Top fuel Championships and three Funny Car Championships. Matt himself, feels lucky to be part of such a team. "It's fortunate to be part of a team such as DSR.  Don Schumacher has put together a great group of individuals, and expects great things to happen." Though the Virginia native knows first hand, hard work is the key to success. "We at DSR, know to win more races, and more championships, it takes lots of hard work, dedication and not resting on past laurels. That is something we hope continues for many years to come."

    


                                               
Magnetti Marelli Photo
Roger Richards Photo
Bringing new sponsors to a team helps to cultivate success. Rocky Footwear coming onboard as an associate sponsor on Matt's Dodge Charger Funny Car, he is very happy to work with them. "We are excited to be racing the Rocky Boots Funny Car, at the Bristol event, we look forward to continuing to grow the company. They are a brand that I have worn for years and am proud to stand behind. " Major online auto parts chain, Magnetti Marelli has also come aboard."If you have any make or model of any vehicle , they are sure to have the exact parts that you are looking for." That association has met with immediate success, winning the Zmax 4-Wide Nationals and the most recent Toyota Summernationals. "The yellow and blue paint scheme is a lucky charm to us, we hope to continue to win more races with not just Magnetti Marelli, but Rocky Footwear also."

   
Tumblr Photo
With the upcoming Bristol event just hours away from his home in Virginia, Matt considers it to be his home race, and is excited to not only have his family, but his friends to be part of the Thunder Valley experience. "Bristol was the first place that I ever attended an NHRA event, I was hooked immediately." Matt Said "It will be amazing, to have family and friends there, to be part of the experience that is an NHRA event. Everyone is excited and the team hopeful we can bring home the event win."

     



John Sturbin (Racin Today)
Most fans figure that after winning an event, most racers would take a few days off to relax and enjoy a weekends worth of success, but not Matt Hagan.  The day after his Summernationals win, Matt was hard at work on his farm in Virginia, repairing a broken hay bailer. He laughed and said " I hope that I can win a few more races to help with the repairs." he fully understands the value of hard work, and that has him and his team excited for the season to come. "Its not so much the money, we just want to win as many races and as many championships as we are capable of. Ive never before had this type of charisma, atmosphere, and chemistry within a team. That excites me for what is to come in the future."


Richard Muir Photo    
But the 2011 Champ expects a continued dogfight for the championship with  the Ford Camp of John Force racing, Tim Wilkerson, and Bob Tasca III. "Every year, that is what the fans of NHRA Drag racing expect, a dog fight." Hagan said "Last years title fight between my teammates Capps and Beckman went to the final event. Likewise in 2010 and 2011. Our team expects that trend to continue, and we will be ready, bringing the very best of what we have." He added "At the same time with new sponsors coming onboard, we at DSR will work to make the presence of Magnetti Marelli and Rocky Footwear become even greater, because sponsors such as those not only drive our team, but the sport of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing."


     New Crew Chief, New sponsors, and a new sense of excitement. Yes Fans, The Spark Is Back! 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Onboard the "Last Go Round" W/ DSR Driver Johnny Gray

What did it feel like getting such a prestegious win, The Gatornationals ?


" It is one of the races that has such a rich tradition associated with it, making it a race a driver really wants to win. It was a great day, the Pitch Energy Dodge Tuned by Co-Crew Chiefs Rob Wendland & Rip Reynolds was flawless in its performance, I couldn't have been more prouder of the guys and the awesome tune up they had on the car. Granted, we have had issues during eliminations, but during final eliminations, Rob, Rip and everyone on the team made the car run great E.T's and fast speeds, All around a fabulous day for the DSR Team."


Your Co-Crew Chiefs Rob Wendland and Rip Reynolds have had such a great set up on the Pitch Energy Dodge Funny Car, evidence by the fact that you have doubled up twice this season with your team mate Antron Brown:


"Yes, no doubt that it is amazing. The fact that Antron and I have doubled up twice in the last 2 seasons  is a testament to the success of the entire Don Schumacher Racing organization as a whole. One of the amazing pieces to the puzzle is being able to share information amongst the teams, that helps us perform to the best of our ability. Rob, Rip and everyone on the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger Team have really come together to give me a shot to win with the car week in and week out, and it performs so well that even I can't mess it up sometimes (laughter)


What is the dynamic like between your Co-Crew Chiefs Rob and Rip:


" Not only do they help one another, they are such great friends away from the track. Rob and I have had a great relationship as driver and crew chief, dating back to my time as an alcohol funny car driver. He tuned against me for a number of years, and we've built a strong friendship that has blossomed into the success we as a team share. When our team gets itself ready for an event, we feel so relaxed, that there isn't this feeling of anxiety from the guys. We are having fun, enjoying ourselves, and if it works to where we can put us in a position to win each week,we will win as much as we can. But we are going to enjoy the season, regardless if we win or lose."


What was the inspiration behind the amazing paint scheme on your Pitch Energy Funny Car?


"My Dad really loved to play the game of "Pitch"(Rules explaining the game of Pitch) The reason is the fact, he wasn't much into racing in general. When I became involved in the fuel classes in Drag Racing, my dad really took to liking to watching all the action. During each run, my Dad and some of his friends would set up a table and play "Pitch" as the team prepared the car for the next run. But before each run, they would set their cards down, go and watch our team make a run, and return to each game where they had left off."


Did you ever wonder to yourself  why your Dad always played cards after each and every run?


" Well, to be honest, my father just loved to play the game. It wasn't something that he or any of his friends made any great amount of money from. They would sit between rounds, drinking their Crown Royal and playing cards. To them, that was a lot of fun"


Talk about your feelings as you embark on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello, which will be your final season as a full time driver:


" As a driver, I try not to think about it, I would go crazy if I did so (laughter) beings that it is so early in the season. Of course there are emotions for sure, but the feeling of doubling up with Antron twice this season are the feelings one tends to remember as a driver. Those are the ones I will remember the most."


What were your feelings on doubling up twice this season with teammate Antron:


" The feeling of not doing it once but twice, I cannot help but wonder how honored it is to be part of not only those wins, but to be part of such an organization like Don Schumacher Racing. Having a teammate such as Antron is amazing. He is one of the nicest, most caring individuals to have not only as a friend, but as a teammate as well. As I was told just a few days ago, the win in Atlanta marks the fourth time that both Antron and I have been in Victory Circle together, that is something that both he and I hope to continue doing a few more times this season."


Antron and you share such a bond between each other, what is that like:


" What makes it a great friendship is that each of the crews are so relaxed, joking around with each other in many ways. That in turn loosens the atmosphere, making it easier to work together as a team. Mark Oswald, Brian Corradi, Rob and Rip are such good friends, bouncing ideas between the Pitch Energy and the Matco Tools teams, though they are two different types of vehicles. When you work in an enviornment such as that, it makes everyone come together as a whole, making every event so much fun to be a part of."


And the meet and greets that DSR shares must be such a laugh fest:


" On raceday, each of the drivers at DSR has the opportunity to share with the fans insights into the race weekend. But the trouble is, when I get the chance to talk to the fans, none seem to understand how to play the game of "Pitch". At some point, I will have to come up with some funny jokes to tell because my teammates have such a great sense of humor. Antron, Ron, Matt, Jack, Spencer and Tony are the best to be quite honest, you would be hard pressed to find such a wonderful group of drivers to be teammates with."


As you embark on the "Last Go Around" what does the support of the fans mean to not only you but the sport of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing:


" What makes the fans such an intergral part of our sport is the interaction. The feeling that comes over a driver when a young child asks for an autograph or picture with their favorite driver is a very humbling experience. For example, In Gainsville, a young fan loves to come to the Gatornationals, comes our pit area and helps pack the chutes on my funny car. In both 2012 and 2013,  that same young was with our team as we won Back to Back Gatornationals. That type of fan interaction energizes not only myself, but the entire DSR organization, and the sport of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing as well. That will be a memory that I will carry with me, sharing the thrill of winning in Victory Circle with him and his family."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Morgan Lucas Interview

In the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season, Geico powersports Top Fuel Pilot and Team Owner Morgan Lucas, looks to build on the success of 2012. With teammate Brandon Bernstein ending the season on such a dramatic fashion, hopes are high for 2013. In a sit down interview that took place in Pomona, Morgan talked about his team, his ideals for the top fuel class, and the exciting ending to the 2012 Top Fuel season:



 The difference in your teams' performance since hiring Aaron Brooks & Rod Centorbi has been amazing, it has literally turned the team around:



"Aaron has tremendous experience as a crew chief, mostly working on a funny car not on a dragster though.We (Morgan Lucas Racing) went to testing (West Palm Beach FL) found a very good baseline which to tune from. That allowed us to go down the track, gather as much information to help the team improve for the upcoming 2013 season. What is great about our team is that Aaron likes to receieve input from our crew. He is always asking "what did you see, what did you notice on this run or the run prior."


So, do you feel the sense of confidence from Aaron and the team about the prospects for the 2013 Mello Yello season?


" I certainly do, because a crew chief has to be good at preparing the dragster for a run much the same way as a golfer does putting a deliberate fade on a shot. The Crew chief  will look at the track, read track temps and tune based on the conditions at the time. With Brandon's crew chief Joe Barlam, he tends to be more timid, more consistent than Aaron who is more aggressive and not as consistent as far as both cars going down the track. What we are doing for the 2013 Mello Yello season is become more consistent rather than trying to be the quickest of the event. With that, We at Morgan Lucas Racing are excited, looking forward to what the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season brings."


Now that there is new found sense of excitement within the team, do you feel that Morgan Lucas Racing can go after the title, not that you didn't do so in the 2012 season:


"I feel that at the moment, we are still not quite there in terms of chasing the championship, and I know that sounds strange. For a lot of drivers and teams, the process of chasing a championship is learned as the season goes on, realizing as they get close, they minimize as much of the mistakes as possible. A lot of the success of Don Schumacher Racing is predicated on minimizing first round loses, being consistent as possible every run. At Morgan Lucas racing, our goal is to be consistent on every run. Last season, we averaged a 6th place finish at each event. Yes, we do want to chase the championship, but we realize that the competition isn't letting up on anyone. Consistency is the key for us for the 2013 season."


The fact that there is no longer any testing bans during the season, do you feel that will help in someways yours' and Brandon's cars in terms of setups. Do you share those setups between each other?


"The fact that the tune up on Brandon's car was so wide after working on it so much during last season, the Protect The Harvest Team would tune it to run a .79, and the car would run quicker than what was anticipated. If you were to talk to crew chiefs who have been a part of this sport for some time is that once your tune up is close, most of the time, a great run will come up on the board. That is a great thing to see and be part of. The Geico Top Fueler seems to need more of a  tune-up than the Protect The Harvest car does, as far as  power is concerned. But the performance seems to be very close between the two. There is a lot of communication between the teams, finding what setup works and whats doesn't work, that apsect really helps us alot during an event."


In terms of engine development, not much has changed over the last few seasons, except cylinder head configuration, which had made the top fuel class so close that any car can win:


"It has become more of a drivers sport, plus tuneups being nearly identical have made it that way. One of the big reasons that the class is so close, the NHRA created a rule freeze during the off-season, which will save teams a tremendous amount of money in the long run. For example, one run alone is in the neighborhood of 250,000. It's true that even though Lucas Oil is a large corporation, the budget to run our top fuel teams grows exponentially due to testing, which can run 30,000 to 40,000 each session. As you look at the scope of what the NHRA has done in terms of money spent by teams, it is a positive step in the right direction."


Does the process of going through a 3-4 or 5 day event (US Nationals) have any affect on the crews:


It has an effect on the guys. I know that it sounds peculiar, but when the crew readies everything from the maintenance, to the preparation at the track, then driving 2 days to get to an event, it has an adverse affect. Only making one run a day at certain events (US Nationals being the exception), being away from family and friends also takes its toll upon the crew. For us, if there were a way re-organize the race weekend, to save the fans, and the teams a bit of money. Look at the overhead costs, try to see if a two day event in the place of a three-day event would be feasible, that in turn might bring in more fans, giving them a much better show. A good friend once told me that live sports, is the best form of reality TV. With NHRA event is such an amazing sense of speed and power, the fact that they are pursuing live events later in the season, along with racing being so close will only serve to help the sport grow even more.


The Epic Top Fuel Final last November in Pomona had to be one the greatest ever seen. Tell me what you felt seeing your teammate Brandon winning thus giving your good friend Antron Brown the Top Fuel Title


" It was such an amazing thing to see, I was more excited to see Brandon win than any other win in my career. He is such a gentlemen, has a wonderful family, he puts others ahead of himself which speaks to his character. When it comes to rooting for him and his Protect The Harvest Team, it is an exciting feeling knowing that the winless streak was finally over in such dramatic fashion, beating Tony Schumacher with whom Brandon loves to race against.


At the same time, some thought must be given to how amazing it was to see Antron Brown become Top Fuel Champion in a dramatic way:


Antron is such a tremendous person, we were so happy to see him become the champion in dramatic fashion. He has a great personality, easy to deal with. Fans gravitate towards him due to the fact he is outgoing, well loved by all the competitors. It is hard to put into words how excited everyone was last november at Pomona. From the teams, to the fans, to the officials, to the audience watching the finals on TV when the finals in top fuel took place to determine a champion between teammates Antron and Tony, it was a final for the ages.


It is amazing how far the sport has come with speeds reaching 330 MPH at 1,000 Ft. What do you feel are some changes that the NHRA can do to help slow the cars:


" Certain teams are very good at pushing the envelope, it is the NHRA's responsibility to take a look at what can be done to help curb the astronomical speeds, The rules freeze goes a long in doing just that. During pre-season testing that took place at West Palm Beach in January, MSD ignition tested a box which in turn limited the RPM's. The concern that I have with that is this, as hard as the teams run these motors, the risk of damaging parts during a run becomes great. I feel that there is a better way of finding a solution to slowing Top Fuel down. One way would be to return back to what Top Fuel teams ran in 2008-09, that would produce less cost for teams rather than replacing the entire engine which costs upwards of 20,000-30,000 to replace due to an engine explosion. Smaller market teams will certainly appreciate that because they are part of the lifeblood of our sport. It is also wonderful to see that smaller teams can compete, putting their families name or local business on the side of their dragster. That fact helps everyone stay interested and excited about what our sport has to offer."


The economy as we know it is in a bit of trouble, what is something that the sport of Drag Racing can do to bring more sponsors, fans and teams into viewing the NHRA for the first time:


"Live TV will definitely go a long towards doing that, I for one am very excited because of it. NHRA at the moment have not told us which event will be televised live (rumor is houston), they have also tried a 50 minute turnaround time which teams are readily adapting to everyone for when the sport is on live TV. Emotions around the pit area are high,we at Morgan Lucas Racing are hopeful for what the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello season will bring."