HOUSTON (April 30) — GEICO teammates Karen Stoffer and Morgan Lucas will charge into race day at the 24th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals with some considerable momentum after concluding Saturday’s qualifying rounds with big passes.
Both racers overcame hot and humid conditions at the southeast Texas speedplant to earn contender status in the fifth of 22 races on the NHRA drag racing tour.
Third in the world rankings in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Stoffer picked up where she left off at the season-opening Gatornationals with a No. 2 qualifying effort. Her quickest run on the GEICO Suzuki put a 6.868 at 195.28 mph on the scoreboard. She’ll open elimination action against Angie Smith, who went 7.028 at 186.85 mph.
“We’re really pleased,” Stoffer said. “One of our primary goals is to be consistent, even when the weather changes. It was really good yesterday and then hot and humid today. We had issues in (today’s) first round and didn’t get down the track — never a good thing — but rebounded right away and made a great pass in Round 4, considering the conditions, so that was encouraging.
“I feel comfortable and relaxed on the bike. I told Gary (Stoffer, crew chief/husband) that this race has been the best one I’ve had in a long time. Just two really good days so far. Now we need to carry this into race day, keep having fun, and win some rounds.”
Lucas successfully guided his GEICO/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster down both lanes of the very tricky racetrack, considerably lifting the spirits of his team. His best pass was a 3.897-second jaunt at 315.34 mph, placing him ninth in the field. Lucas also earned a few bonus points for being one of the top three qualifiers in two different rounds.
“We’ve gone from three races in a row where we had trouble getting down the track with any consistency at all to making three good, solid qualifying runs here so we’re really happy,” Lucas said. “Dickie (Venables, crew chief) is learning a lot about these dragsters each race and we’re coming along really well. That’s exciting for the driver because you know you have a car under you.”
Elimination action begins at 11 a.m. CDT and Lucas and opponent Terry McMillen will likely be the first pair down the track. McMillen qualified slightly better with a run of 3.889 seconds at 314.02 mph.
“We’ll need to shift gears now and get ready for race day,” Lucas said. “I feel like we have a car that can win from anywhere. We’re mid-pack, and even though we don’t have lane choice I think we have a good chance. The weather is so unpredictable this time of year in Texas and you have to be prepared for anything. We will be.”
ESPN2 will carry Sunday’s elimination action in primetime.
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