Elijah Morton - Bye-Bye Watersports
By Jim Luikens
|By his own admission, 46-year old Elijah Morton never had a lot of interest in racing until recently. Sure, his brother Glen had been a S/S racer as far back as the 70s but Elijah was happy to spend his pleasure time on jet skis and fishing. This is the story of Elijah Morton and how he went from spending his leisure time on the Inter-coastal Waterways of North Carolina to the asphalt quarter-mile.
Elijah is the type of man that likes to be outside. As the owner of several outdoor-related businesses he has plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fresh air while working in road building, sand mining and land development among other fields of endeavor. Several years ago he became hooked on drag racing through Glen, his brother. Today he and Glen are the co-owners of Morton Motorsports as well as one of the quickest cars on the IHRA Pro Stock circuit in early 2004.
Elijah began his racing career just a few years ago by racing a 1972 Chevrolet Vega in local ET bracket competition. From that he moved up to 1963 Corvette Top Sportsman car. With his brother Glen serving as his crew chief, he won the T/S title at Bradenton, Florida in his first-ever national event outing. After that initial taste of success he was hooked on drag racing and he and Glen ran the Corvette for two more years.
Desiring to move up he purchased the World Championship Ford Probe of Bob Yoak. He made his professional driving debut at Rockingham in late 2001 with Jeff Dobbins, an old friend from his Top Sportsman days, serving as his crew chief. With Glen doing the motor work and him driving he recorded a fine 8th place finish in 2002 during his first full season of professional racing.
For 2003 Elijah upped the ante again with a Jerry Haas Mustang that used Jon Kaase power. Former crew chief Jeff Dobbins took over behind the steering wheel of the Ford Probe and Gary Henry joined the team as crew chief. Both team drivers found success as Elijah went to the final round at Virginia Motorsports Park while Jeff appeared in two 2003 finals, winning at Toronto Motorsports Park and runner-upping at Budds Creek, Maryland. Elijah is quick to credit the contribution of Dale Cubic from CFM Carbs. Ever since Dale worked-over the Morton carburetors the team has been fast in any weather.
The start of 2004 found yet another new race car in the Morton stable with the receipt of a Jerry Haas New Generation 2004 Mustang. While the 2004 production Mustang is the same size as other recent production Mustang models, the new generation Haas race car is visibly smaller, especially when lined up beside a traditional size Ford Mustang Pro Stocker on the starting line.
Elijah debuted his new Mustang at the Darlington Winternationals in Darlington, South Carolina. This event basically consists of open format testing on Thursday and Friday before three qualifying sessions on Saturday. Eliminations are on Sunday and the final results of the Saturday qualifying sessions are used to determine the first round pairings.
No Pro Stock racer had a better weekend at Darlington than Elijah. Gary Henry had the new car running at peak performance and Elijah, who had never gone quicker than 6.513 in his previous Mustang, ran a 6.491 at 212.51 miles-per-hour during Saturdays first qualifying session to break into the 6.40 range for the first time. Despite the impressive result, that run was affected slightly by the bump that is near the 600-foot mark in the left lane.
Before the weekend was over Elijah had ripped off four more runs in the 6.40 range including a best of 6.470 at 213.77, the third best Pro Stock run in history at that time. His fifth 6.40-second run of the weekend, a 6.498 at 213.12 was good enough to win the event and defeat Robert Patricks runner-up time of 6.580 at 212.36 mph. Elijahs five 6.4-second runs become even more impressive when you realize that no other Pro Stock competitor there ran in the 6.40 range even once over the entire weekend.
Based on their Darlington results the teams spirits were sky high as they rolled into San Antonio for the first IHRA race of the 2004 season. Elijah wasted no time in going right to the head of the chart. At the end of day one he was tied for quickest P/S elapsed time with a 6.553-second run. Because his speed was the slower of the two cars that recorded the identical 6.553 times, he was relegated to second place on Fridays final qualifying sheet.
Despite improving to a 6.544 on Saturday he remained number two when eventual race winner John Montecalvo stepped up with an even quicker 6.533, relegating Elijah to number two in the final qualifying order. After winning his first two rounds on Sunday Elijah was eliminated during the third round in a very close race with John Nobile. The margin of victory was 0.0111 of a second, which equates to roughly 3-feet.
Buoyed another strong showing the team returned home to North Carolina third in the points championship. The next race on the tour is literally a home race for them. It is the first of the two stops that the IHRA racers make each year at Rockingham, North Carolina and the Morton team can always count on a big contingent of their friends and fans at this event.
Longer term, the entire team is extremely positive about their chances for this season. They feel they have established a rhythm with their car and that anything is possible. Everybody on the team serves to motivate everybody else with none of the petty bickering that can be the undoing of even the best of teams.
In addition to Elijah, Glen and Gary the team gets help from Elijahs wife (and high school sweetheart) Violet who packs his parachutes and makes sure that the team is well fed. Garys fiancée, Kim, is the cheerleader of the team and her antics on the starting line after a good run or victory have already earned her some recognition. Dexter Johnson is the teams truck driver and it is his responsibility to get the teams transporter to the track safely and on-time.
As we leave the starting gate on the 2004 season it is obvious that this team is one that is really beginning to hit its stride. Elijah has earned a prestigious top ten points position in each of his first two years as a pro driver. How high he can climb in 2004 no one really knows. However, a lot of North Carolina fish are pulling for him to have a really great year.