The 1 That Got Away: No. 1 Qualifier Clay Millican Dominates Qualifying

The latest NHRA news on Clay Millican and the Parts Plus Top Fuel Dragster in Atlanta

ATLANTA, May 7, 2018: It was almost like Babe Ruth calling his shot when the legendary Yankee knocked the ball out of the park at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. Last week, Parts Plus/Great Clips driver Clay Millican confidently pointed to Atlanta as a turning point for the team’s ongoing success in the 2018 campaign.

 

Specifically, Millican said he felt Stringer Performance crew chief David Grubnic and his team were closer to achieving more consistency to ensure the Parts Plus/Great Clips rocket flies straight down the track and turns on win lights. And that’s no small feat when you’re attempting to harness the power of the quickest dragster in the universe.

 

“I love this time of year when we start racing week to week. This gives the Parts Plus team an opportunity to get into a rhythm that will keep us on pace to continue this fantastic season. It all starts Friday in qualifying—we’ve got to come out strong, get the Parts Plus/Great Clips car straight down the track like we did all last season, and put ourselves into the top five of the field on Sunday. I fully expect us to knock it out the park Friday.”

 

Indeed, after an aggressive swing and a miss in Q1, Millican suddenly regained his all-star slugger form on Friday. Taking advantage of the cooling temps under the stars at Atlanta Dragway to close out that evening’s qualifying session, the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster launched hard off the line and clocked a 3.758 at 331.12 mph, with Millican piloting his rocket ship all the way to the No. 1 spot.

 

That makes three No. 1 qualifiers for the popular Parts Plus driver in seven races thus far in the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Series and the 13th of his Top Fuel career.

 

“We held in there and got the green hat,” Millican told reporters after securing the No. 1 spot Saturday afternoon. “We are now definitely looking for the yellow hat. We went out and made a nice solid run and Brittany [Force] was knocking on the door of taking the No. 1 spot away.”

 

Force knocked hard on Saturday, but the door didn’t open. Nonetheless, the Monster Energy dragster’s 3.760@324.28 mph managed to secure the No. 2 spot for Force. Points leader Steve Torrence closed out Saturday’s qualifying session as the No 3 qualifier

 

Millican’s Q3 run was merely the icing on the cake. While the Parts Plus car didn’t match Friday’s home-run shot, Grubby and the team put their driver in position to do just that. This time, Millican guided the powerful Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster straight down the groove en route to a 3.780@315.19 mph—the second best pass of the session.

Most important that made it two successful strong runs back to back for the team—consistency achieved heading into Sunday’s eliminations. Even more promising: No. 1 qualifier Millican would be lining up the next morning against No. 16 Audrey Worm, who couldn’t even run on Saturday after hurting crucial parts on her car while qualifying Friday. History indicated an easy win for Millican, as the No. 16 qualifier had not won an opening round on Sunday since the turn of the century.

 

Millican improved upon his team’s recent history, as he made it three successful passes in a row, with the Parts Plus car again riding that groove all the way to the finish line—and a win light—with a relatively tame 3.832@323.43 mph. Obviously, we felt like we were in great shape to win this one as long as we got the Parts Plus car down the track, which we did, so Im happy.  Worm’s woes continued, with her car dropping cylinders almost immediately after the start, effectively ending only her fifth start.

 

If the team was dealt the equivalent of a home-run pitch Friday night, then Sunday’s second round was a curveball—or maybe a screwball—for the Parts Plus crew. Millican appeared to catch a break lining up against Mike Salinas, who owns a scrap-metal and garbage-hauling company in San Jose, and is racing his first full-time season in the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Series.

The Parts Plus/Great Clip dragster trailed momentarily off the line before seizing the lead, seemingly en route to another win light—then Grubby’s rocket lost traction, and Millican figuratively appeared headed back down to Earth. But then the Scrappers dragster started to mix up cylinders on the top end, enabling Millican to regain the lead before Salinas and his car lived up to their scrappy reputation and chased down the Parts Plus dragster for the junky-looking upset with a 4.128 pass—the first semifinal appearance of his career.

 

“Well, that was about as ugly as it gets, but it sure would have looked a heck of a lot prettier had we stolen that one,” says Millican, who collected enough bonus points to remain in the 4th spot in the point standings. “I’d say it was overall a positive weekend—not only because we were the No. 1 qualifier for the third time in seven races but also those three consecutive runs straight down the track in which we pretty much did what we were aiming to do. We’ve still got some things to figure out, but having the quickest car and the best crew chief and team behind gives me heck of a lot of confidence moving forward.”

 

 2018 Mello Yello Series Top Fuel Point Standings (Through 6 of 24 Events)

1. Steve Torrence, 581

2. Tony Schumacher, 461

3. Doug Kalitta, 458

4. Clay Millican, 448

5. Leah Pritchett 435

5. Antron Brown, 390

7. Brittany Force, 375

8. Terry McMillen, 336

9. Richie Crampton, 280

10. Mike Salinas, 275

 

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NHRA Heartland Nationals

May 18—20

Topeka, Kan.