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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15) - Lucas Oil/GEICO Top Fuel dragster driver Morgan Lucas sees the positive in having to face the man who replaced him in the first round of the NHRA Gatornationals this weekend at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

Lucas is making his first start of the 2014 season after stepping out of the GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster at the end of last year. He was replaced by Richie Crampton as the Morgan Lucas Racing team fields one full-time dragster this season.

And who does Lucas have to line up against in his first round of eliminations? Crampton, of course.

"It's amazing we have to race each other tomorrow," Lucas said. "But the silver lining is we're going to have a car going to the second round."

After a trying weekend, Lucas broke through with a solid pass of 3.838 seconds at 322.34 mph in the final qualifying session to move up to the No. 14 spot. Unfortunately for MLR, Crampton slipped back to No. 3 in the same session, and the two will have to race each other.

"It's a different world, and we're racing for different reasons," Lucas said. "We both want to win, so the end game is still the same. We'll have to go up there and see what happens. But the good thing is both cars say GEICO and Lucas Oil, and promoting our sponsors is the most important thing for us."

Lucas has been part of a "tuning committee" with Jeff Edwards and Jack Wyatt for Gainesville, though Aaron Brooks, Crampton's crew chief, has helped with the tune-up.

"I think, just out of respect, we're going to have to make calls ourselves over here and let Aaron do his thing over there," Lucas said. "The GEICO team really stepped up to get us ready and to get us here to have a chance to run the car. It's been big helping us get this car down the track. It's like a momma bird: At some point, it's probably going to have to kick us out of the nest and make us fly."

Morgan has enjoyed racing again, though Friday's two qualifying sessions ended with engine problems.

"Pomona, every year, the first day is chaotic," Lucas said. "For whatever reason, you feel like you're forgetting something. I thought coming in here would be different because you're not worried about as many things and you're more focused on trying to make things as right as you can.

"It was just as stressful yesterday, I'm not going to lie. It was still fun but just as bad, if not worse, than any first day of the year because we didn't have testing to fall back on."

Final eliminations for the NHRA Gatornationals start at noon on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 1 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 7 p.m.