Even Elvis Presley asked in one of his most famous songs, “Who do you thank when you have such luck?”
Well, thanks to Larry Morgan’s crazy leap into the NHRA’s Pro Stock top 10 Sunday at the Brainerd, Minn., Lucas Oil Nationals, the class standings are “All Shook Up.” And the veteran racer is in position to make the Countdown to the Championship field.
His friends won’t say he’s “acting wild as a bug.” Morgan simply is thrilled that it looks like he’ll be in the mix for the six-race playoffs that will start in September at Charlotte’s zMAX Dragway.
I want to get into that Countdown so bad for Forrest and Charlotte Lucas. Where we are now lets us control our own destiny in Indy.
Morgan got the break he was hoping for at Brainerd, but it came in the most unlikely way. Mark Martino beat Morgan in the second round this past Sunday, but tech officials disqualified Martino because the car failed to meet minimum weight during post-race inspection. So the NHRA reinstated Morgan — who was back in street clothes and preparing to leave for the airport to head home to Newark, Ohio.
“We were in put-it-all-away mode,” he said. “Then an NHRA official comes up and tells us we’ve got to get ready for another round. I was shocked but the happiest guy on the property.”
He didn’t stop Erica Enders in his reprieve round. No one could Sunday. But his semifinal appearance against her gave him enough points to head to Indianapolis with a 16-point advantage over No. 10 V Gaines. Only 37 points separate Morgan, Gaines, 11th-place Jeg Coughlin, and 12th -place Ronnie Humphrey.
Not that it matters now, but was Morgan’s progress at Brainerd divine providence or dumb luck? Maybe the catalyst was Lucas Oil hospitality chef Matt Krebs’ cheese-laced hash browns. Morgan said he wasn’t planning to have any Sunday morning but changed his mind, telling him that “when Melanie Troxel ate them, she always won rounds.”
Morgan said, “So I grab the spoon and scoop out . . . One round, two rounds.” He said Sunday evening he wished he had been a little more piggish and helped himself to a couple more spoonfuls.
“That was a huge break for us,” Morgan said of the second chance at Brainerd. “I want to get into that Countdown so bad for Forrest and Charlotte Lucas. Where we are now lets us control our own destiny in Indy.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Morgan has stunned the favorites on the NHRA’s most celebrated stage.
I know I can drive. I’m not the worst driver and by far not the best. I can tell you one thing: none of them scares me, so I guess that’s a good thing.
Five years before that, Morgan had reached the sportsman-level Super Stock final round there at Indianapolis, against a fellow named Ron Terrell. As they were about to slide into their cars, Morgan said, Terrell looked at him and said, “I’ve never been in this position.”
Terrell red-lighted. Morgan won. “I ended up winning, and I felt bad. You take things for granted,” the 10-time Pro Stock winner said. “We were lucky to even be there in the finals. Some guys in their whole lives never won a race.”
If he wins the U.S. Nationals Sept. 3 and blasts his way into the Countdown this year, Larry Morgan won’t feel bad. It will be a fitting tribute to the Lucases at the facility that has been renamed Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
And he could win. He has been sharp on the starting line this year, recording four first-round holeshot wins against higher-qualified cars.
“I can only do the best I can do,” Morgan has said. “I know I can drive. I’m not the worst driver and by far not the best. I can tell you one thing: none of them scares me, so I guess that’s a good thing.”
He just needs to keep those rivals away from his cheesy hash browns.