The Pro Stock national title will likely not be settled until November but for Lucas Oil/MAVTV driver Larry Morgan, Saturday's racing at Firebird International Raceway felt like a championship battle.
Morgan was No. 18 and out of Sunday's eliminations field after three rounds of qualifying for the NHRA Arizona Nationals before recording a solid pass in the final session to qualify for his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the season.
"It was like we won the championship," Morgan said. "That's how important that run was to all of us."
Morgan's Q4 pass, a 6.633 at 209.10 mph, placed his Ford Mustang No. 15 in the field.
"We've had so many problems with ignition boxes and a little bit of everything," Morgan said. "We couldn't figure out where we were at and the clutch and the track went away. We really had a tough time but we got lucky and hit everything right in the last session."
In Sunday's first round of eliminations, Morgan will face good friend Vieri Gaines, who qualified No. 2 with a 6.529 at 212.63 mph.
"I'm just real pleased for everybody who worked their butts off here," Morgan said. "Everybody stuck with it and we put our heads together and made it happen."
Morgan's struggles date back to the first race of the season last weekend in Pomona, Calif. After testing well in Florida, his car began developing mysterious engine issues and he failed to qualify for the season-opening race.
"We went testing and went extremely fast," Morgan said. "We knew we were OK. Then we started tearing up engines and we thought, 'What in the world is going on here?' We found out the ignition box was adding two degrees (of timing) instead of taking it out and we were just burning them up. That's all it was.
"We ended up chasing stuff we didn't have any business chasing and it got us behind. We at least have a direction to go now."
Morgan has enjoyed recent success racing higher-qualified drivers. Of his 11 round victories a year ago, five were on holeshots over favored opponents.
"I look forward to tomorrow," Morgan said.