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For Morgan and Charlotte Lucas, Like Son, Like Mother
Every time 26-year-old Morgan Lucas climbs into his 8,000-horsepower, nitro-fueled, super-charged Geico/Toyota Top Fuel dragster to ready himself for a 325-mph run down the narrow 1,000-foot drag strip, his nerves are on end, his adrenaline is flowing and his heart is pounding.
But it's nothing compared to what the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) youngest Top Fuel driver experiences standing at the start line watching his nearly 60-year-old mother, Charlotte Lucas, race down the same track at 170 mph in the Super Comp class, driving a miniature version of Lucas' dragster.
"She always gets so nervous watching me, and now I know how she feels,'' Morgan Lucas said. "I get that same nervousness watching her race.
"She wanted to see the passion and learn why I was always so excited to get in the car. And now she gets it.''
Boy, does she.
In a rare case of reverse racing pedigree, the one-time Little League team mom so beloved for her dugout supply of Zingers and SunKist soda, has taken support of her son one 100-mph step farther. She's actually joined him in the thrilling and dangerous world of drag racing.
"I wanted to experience what Morgan had fallen so flat in love with,'' said Lucas, who competes in the amateur Sportsman category.
"Everyone calls me a second-generation racer, we're just a little backwards with it,'' she added with a hearty laugh that punctuates so much of her conversation. "That may be indicative of our whole family.''
Family is the resounding and recurring theme in the life of Lucas.
Charlotte was working as a beautician when she met her husband, fellow Indiana-native Forrest, then a long-haul truck driver. They married in 1979 combining his five children from a previous marriage and her son from a earlier marriage, eventually rounding out the family with their child together, Morgan.
Charlotte and Forrest founded Lucas Oil in 1989, steadily grew it into a multi-million dollar corporation and recently purchased the naming rights to their beloved Indianapolis Colts' new NFL digs, Lucas Oil Stadium.
Aside from that, their real extravagance comes in spending time with family.
It's a classic rags-to-riches story. Their solid Midwestern values of hard work and community have always prevailed over flash and indulgence. Despite the mega-successful business and large fortune, the Lucas' still rented a house until the late-1990s and didn't buy a new car until 1996.
They could be retired and living the easy life of world travel and country clubs. Instead Forrest still works most every day at the company and Charlotte spends time between their home in California and traveling the NHRA circuit around the country.
"My husband isn't a recreator,'' Lucas said. "He's not one to go to some island in the Bahamas or anywhere else for that matter.''
But, she concedes that even he was a little surprised when she -- a grandmother and great-grandmother by marriage -- casually informed the family during the summer of 2004, at age 54, that she was going to drag racing school with every intention of competing.
"It was 104 degrees both days I went, and after the first day, my husband said, 'I didn't think you'd go back.' ''
Morgan Lucas knew differently and that there would be no convincing his mother otherwise.
"I did, at least, talk her out of the faster cars,'' Morgan Lucas said.
"I have to say it's so cool to see that competitive nature because I've never noticed that coming out in anything else in her life. I would best describe my mom as a patient, generous and a just a nice person. ... very innocent, very old-school.''
Speaking with Lucas about her new hobby it's very evident that the competition is secondary to the camaraderie. The racing takes a back seat to the bonus time with her youngest son.
She doesn't even know how to change the oil in her personal car and says her technical expertise stops at honing in the satellite dish for the television at home.
"I'm not real good, I can't always keep up with those kids that came up racing junior dragsters,'' Lucas said.
"But I get lucky once in a while and win a few rounds and that makes it that much more fun.''
"I don't have a clue how many rounds I've won, maybe 15 or so, I don't pay attention,'' Lucas said. "And I don't want to accidentally beat some guy and that round [would] have kept them from a championship. I just want to go out and have fun.''
Lucas doesn't compete in every race on the schedule, mostly choosing ones that coincide with Morgan's national events. When she's not racing, you're likely to find her sitting in a lawn chair by the race team embroidering or "blinging up a hat" with crystals to give to a friend.
"It's funny how many people call me 'Mom' at the racetrack, people older than me and people that are younger than me,'' Lucas said with a chuckle. "I think it first started because Morgan would always introduce me just as 'Mom' and forget to say what my name is.''
Now the moniker is purely a sense of endearment. This whole experience may have started out as a proud mom finding a way to spend time with her son. But the result is a son equally as proud.
"She's so into it and I think it's awesome,'' Morgan Lucas said. "I'm very fortunate and very blessed to have the parents I've got. They are great role models in my life.''
And when it comes to racing, the family is more than content to have Morgan lead the way. He won three races last year and is currently ranked eighth in the Top Fuel standings.
"I wish I could do better, but I really do have a great time and I really just enjoy being at the race track with Morgan,'' Lucas said.