SEEING RED

Parts Plus Top Fuel Driver Clay Millican Leaves Early at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va., June 10, 2018: Clay Millican’s red-hot run of eight-straight round wins and two consecutive Wally trophies cooled significantly at Virginia Motorsports Park despite stifling heat that made the NHRA’s return to Richmond after a nine-gear absence a sticky, tricky stop in the 2018 Mello Yello Series.

 

The Parts Plus/Great Clips Top Fuel dragster struggled early in qualifying on Friday and then took a step back from 10th to 12th after Saturday’s Q3 when the car continued to drop cylinders, much to the frustration of crew chief David Grubnic (Grubby).

 

“We had some crazy ignition stuff making the Parts Plus car drop cylinders,” Millican says. “By Q4, Grubby had the ignition problem figured out, but he had already made some changes to make up for the dropped cylinders, so we didn’t get what we wanted in Q4 either.”

 

Officially, Millican’s solid Q2 run of 3.907@306.05 mph qualified Millican 12th, his worst starting position of the season. The Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster’s Q2 incremental times: 60ft-0.836 sec.; 330ft-2.192; and 660ft-3.132@272.78 mph.

 

In a rematch of sorts from last week’s Wally win in Chicago, Millican lined up against Leah Pritchett, who the Parts Plus driver also outran nearly a year ago to the day in the finals at Bristol to earn his first Top Fuel national event title. Despite Millican’s struggles in qualifying, this was yet another anticipated matchup between the two hottest cars in Top Fuel at the moment.

 

For only the second time in 279 Top Fuel races, Millican went red; i.e., the Parts Plus driver left the starting line before the green light illuminated on the Christmas tree, drawing a red light and an automatic disqualification. Pritchett’s car began dropping cylinders early, and with the win assured, she clicked it off early.

 

“Initially, I was really frustrated with myself because I threw away any shot we had of winning when I redlighted—I have’t done that since 2012,” Millican says. “But these things happen in racing, and you gotta move on. I couldn’t be any happier about returning to Bristol later this week as a defending champion, which is a first for me in Top Fuel, but obviously after the success we’ve had so far this season, it won’t be my last. We still have the best team, the best owner, and the best sponsors, so we’re all good.”

 

Unfortunately for the Parts Plus team, Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence managed to widen the gap between he and Millican, winning his fourth Wally of the season Sunday and the 20th of his Top Fuel career. Nonetheless, Torrence is keeping a close eye on Millican and the Parts Plus team.

 

“You need somebody pushing you, and Clay’s definitely giving us a shove,” Torrence told the media in a prerace interview. “Those guys are definitely contenders, and it’s pretty awesome that ours are the two teams that are leading the points right here, halfway to the Countdown.”