NORWALK, Ohio – No matter what happened on Sunday in his ninth career Top Fuel final round, Clay Millican would have gone to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, with a smile on his face.
But after grabbing his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series victory, fans can expect that grin to be a little bit wider this weekend.
Millican knocked off Leah Pritchett in the final round at Bristol in his 10,000-horsepower Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster, sewing up a win that had been a long time coming.
One of the most well-liked competitors in the sport, Millican received hearty congratulations after the victory and now hopes to build on that heading to Norwalk.
“I never questioned myself,” Millican said. “All I did was I just started working harder. I’ve been working harder right now than I’ve ever worked. Age doesn’t have a factor on driving a Top Fuel car, but these kids are awesome out here, and when it’s hot and sweaty I want to be able to sit in that car and it not bother me. Guess what, I sat in that car and it didn’t bother me.”
As the year hits the halfway mark, Millican couldn’t be more pleased of what his Stringer Performance team has accomplished. They sit seventh in points after the victory – but are just 39 points out of fifth – and Millican is thrilled with the atmosphere within a team that has shown significant improvement through the first 11 races of the season.
“I love what I do, whether I ever won one of these or not,” Millican said. “There’s no such thing as a coincidence. This was supposed to happen, and when the time was right this was going to happen. When it’s your day, it’s going to happen. It took a family and (team owner) Doug (Stringer) put together a heck of a group and a heck of a family.”
The victory and the emotional celebration that followed is something Millican will always remember, but he’ll also use it to for even more motivation heading to Norwalk, a facility and race that has long been near the top of the veteran’s favorites.
Getting a second straight victory against the Top Fuel elite won’t be easy, though, as Millican will duke it out with the likes of points leader Steve Torrence, back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta and Brittany Force.
But Millican saw something special from his team and crew chief David Grubnic in Bristol, and he knows that it wasn’t just a one-time thing, either.
“I saw a guy that was smiling some (Sunday) and I think a lot of that stems from when we swapped chassis,” Millican said. “He felt like he kind of got a handle on something that was giving him problems the last few races. We were going rounds, but the previous chassis would throw him a curveball.”
“He just had an easiness about him all weekend. When that dude’s smiling, the results show. The car was doing what he wanted it to do and that’s what a crew chief wants.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications