Clay Millican Chicago Race Recap
CLAY MILLICAN WINS AGAIN!
Road Runner: Parts Plus Driver Clay Millican Runs Quick, Gets His Kicks at Route 66 Nationals to Earn Second Straight Wally Win
CHICAGO, June 4, 2018: Like the Beatles sang on their hit single in 1970, it’s been a long and winding road for Parts Plus driver Clay Millican to get to this point in his Top Fuel career.
While that was the last No. 1 single for the Fab Four, who broke up a month after the song’s debut on the charts, Millican and his traveling band are just now getting warmed up. And the Parts Plus team is shooting toward the top of the charts like a bullet after back-to-back national event title wins at Topeka and now Chicago.
Millican reflected on his “overnight” success shortly after winning Sunday’s Route 66 Nationals, capping off a weird, wild, wonderful day of racing.
Millican’s road to racing began in Drummonds, Tenn., when he was only 16. He raced as a hobby for years in the Sportsman ranks before earning the attention of Peter Lehman. Millican was working as a forklift driver for Kroger Supermarkets while campaigning simultaneously as an IHRA Modified eliminator entry, including several events at Memphis Motorsports Park, when Lehman approached Millican about driving his Chicago White Sox-sponsored Top Fuel dragster.
“Peter Lehman was here this weekend to see this,” Millican says. “I’m so proud because he’s the one who took me from forklift driver to Top Fuel driver. It was pretty cool to have him here and watch me win.
“When I first got into this whole deal, my goal was just to drive one of these things. I never thought about winning. I just wanted to see what it was like to drive one. It’s crazy to come here and win 20 years later. But I’ve got to give 100% of the credit to the Parts Plus team. I was horrible on the Christmas Tree all weekend. But it didn’t matter how bad I was on the starting line—we had the team pull together and keep turning those win lights on.”
Millican turned more than a few heads on Friday when the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster stormed out of the gates in Q1, running a firstname.lastname@example.org mph to temporarily rocket all the way to the No. 1 qualifier spot, a position Clay has been quite comfortable in of late. Millican’s Q1 incremental times: 60ft-0.834 sec.; 330ft-2.124; and 660ft-3.015/286.56 mph.
Millican finished in the No. 4 spot when qualifying concluded on Saturday, and the Parts Plus driver felt great about his chances, especially after eliminations got underway Sunday morning.
Plenty of traditional NHRA heavy hitters struck out early, putting Millican and his Parts Plus rocket on the fast track to the finals. Ironically enough, Millican would face off against Leah Pritchett, who the Parts Plus driver outran in the finals of the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol last year on Father’s Day to earn his first national event title.
The crowd was buzzing over the matchup as Millican and Pritchett likely have the two best cars going at the moment, running with the kind of consistency that separates the winners from the pretenders. In fact, Pritchett won at Atlanta the week before Millican was reunited with Wally for the second time in the next title event two weeks later at Topeka.
With weather conditions at 79 degrees and relative humidity 41 percent, Millican lined up against Pritchett fully expecting to win, he revealed afterward. Powered by crew chief David Grubnic’s ingenious setup and perhaps Millican’s growing confidence, the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster launched out of the gate first and never trailed for the win, earning the Tennessean his third Top Fuel Wally and his second golden trophy of the 2018 season—back to back, no less.
Millican’s proverbial long road sure has carried him far since his Top Fuel debut on the very same Chicago track in 1998. “This place is really special,” he says, “I got my first Top Fuel experience in competition on this race track in 1998. I was the very first car to pull out on this facility. Shortly after that, I did a reverse burnout and got to meet [late NHRA Chief Starter] Buster Couch live in person. That was not my most favorite conversation. He said. ‘I don’t know what you did before you got your Top Fuel license, but you might think about going back to it.’ He did not like me doing a reverse burnout.”
For Millican nowadays, it’s all about moving forward, as the Parts Plus driver jumped to the No. 2 spot after this weekend’s impressive performance, only 25 points behind the king of the hill, Steve Torrence.
“I think some folks may have doubted us a few years ago when we held a press conference announcing our new young team with Stringer Performance, along with Parts Plus and their vendor partners coming onboard once again. From day one, we’ve talked about winning a championship. I think now all those folks just might believe us.
Hey, Clay, we’re sold, buddy.