Clay Millican, Parts Plus/Great Clips team storm to Four-Wide finals at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C., Sunday, March 29, 2015: In a performance befitting the “Bellagio of Dragstrips,” Clay Millican and the Parts Plus/Great Clips Top Fuel team played their cards right at Sunday’s Four-Wide Nationals and nearly cashed in to take home the Tennessee native’s first Wally. Ironically enough with the stakes so high, however, a $10 part failure ultimately caused Millican to fold on a day when he appeared to be holding the winning hand.

zMAX Dragway is definitely one of the grandest dragstrips in all of racing, with Sunday’s 16-car elimination bracket featuring heats of four drivers in two pairs of lanes separated by a dividing wall, with the first two crossing the finish line advancing to the next round. Because it’s difficult for a driver to see across all lanes, especially for those in the outer lanes, they often have no idea how their other opponents are faring.

In Sunday’s first round of eliminations, No. 6 qualifier Millican lined up with Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon and Leah Pritchett. The Parts Plus/Great Clips car stormed out of the gate first before Tony Schumacher came on strong to take the lead. Although Millican’s [email protected] mph was second to the Army car’s [email protected] mph, the Parts Plus/Great Clips team topped the other two drivers in the four-car quad to advance.

Given the cool temps on this sunny spring day, the 3.7 range was exactly what Millican and crew chief David Grubnic had in mind.

“When Grubby saw the track conditions here, he said we were going to skip right over the low 3.8s and move into the 3.7s,” Millican said. “And I’m happy to say that’s exactly what we did.”

Millican got the better of Schumacher in round two, with the Parts Plus driver’s [email protected] good enough to advance to the finals behind Richie Crampton’s  [email protected] Schumacher’s day was ended when the Army car smoked the tires at the half-track mark, while Brittany Force’s Castrol Edge car was second off the line before going up in smoke early.

That left Crampton and Millican to compete with Steve Torrence and last year’s event winner Antron Brown in the Final Four.

“I said before the race that with all the craziness at the Four-Wide Nationals, there’s no reason we can’t end up in the final round,” Millican said. “Now we gotta get this car ready for the finals!”

After the Parts Plus/Great Clips crew once again expertly turned the car around in time, Millican lined up in the finals with a chance at that elusive Wally.

Millican was second off the line before a part failure on the Parts Plus/Great Clip dragster caused the car to smoke the tires. Brown went on to repeat as champ, finishing 0.1502 seconds (70 feet) ahead of runner-up Torrence. Crampton ([email protected]) and Millican ([email protected]) rounded out the final quad.

Still, the Parts Plus/Great Clips driver couldn’t be any prouder of his new team owned by Stringer Performance, which appears to gelling as fast as the car is flying down the track.

“I’m going to quote Grubby here and say this is really just our second race together,” said Millican. “We look at Pomona and Phoenix as just extended test sessions. For us to come in Q1 on Saturday with a 3.768 was awesome. You could see right there we’re making progress. And then to make it to the finals…man, even though we didn’t win, this team is a bunch of winners. My guys are awesome.”

NHRA Four Wide Nationals Fast Facts

Millican brings home first round win ever for new team at Gainesville…Clay Millican, driver of the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster for Stringer Performance, brought home his first round win of the season, and the the first ever NHRA Top Fuel win for new team owner, Doug Stringer, at Gainesville.

 

Part malfunction halts Millican in round two at Gatornationals…

Millican and the entire Stringer Performance team were ready for action going into rounds at Gatornationals. After successfully defeating Leah Pritchett in round one, the team readied the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster to take on Tony Schumacher in round two.  Millican’s lightning-quick reaction time (0.071), put the Parts Plus/Great Clips car just ahead of Schumacher before a clutch malfunction ended the team’s day.

 

Homecoming of sorts for Doug Stringer…

 It’s a homecoming of sorts for Stringer who lived in the Charlotte area for many years and was a fixture in the NASCAR world. In 1998, Akins Motorsports recruited Stringer to take on the role of General Manager for its NASCAR Xfinity Series program.  In addition to managing the competition side of the team, Stringer also proved to be an ace at securing sponsorship. In 2000, Stringer landed Minneapolis-based Great Clips Inc. as primary sponsor for the team.  He took over primary ownership of Akins Motorsports in 2001 and his first move was to hire up-and-coming talent Kasey Kahne to drive the No. 38 Great Clips entry. Kahne scored his first career win that year at Homestead-Miami Speedway and as he quickly skyrocketed to stardom he became the face of the Great Clips brand, which he remains to this day.

 

In the shop

Millican took part of the week off to spend some time at the team’s shop in McLeansboro, Illinois. In addition to building some brackets for the Parts Plus/ Great Clips trailers, Millican had to get his hands back on the dragster after bringing in his first season win.

 

Play something Country

CMA recording artist Ryan Daniel stopped by the Stringer Performance garage to hang out with Millican and team owner Doug Stringer. Daniel previewed his newest single “Lies and Bruises” for the Stringer Performance team, then took some photos with Millican and the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster. Millican will be making a special appearance and signing autographs at Daniel’s May 1st concert in Millington, TN.

 

Millican hunting for first Wally

Millican has some impressive performance stats.  He has six consecutive World Championships and is noted as the winningest driver in IHRA history with 51 national event wins. He has more trophies and awards than he can count except for one – a famed Wally.  Millican and his team have set high goals for themselves including a NHRA championship but it all starts with one thing – a Wally.

 

Clay Millican on the team’s first round win and Charlotte expectations

 “Gainesville was very close to the game plan that was set out at the beginning of the weekend by our Crew Chief, David Grubnic. He was looking for consistency in the car and we really found that in our early numbers. If it wasn’t for a simple part breaking, we would have went a couple rounds. However, getting that first round win for this team was a huge stepping stone and there’s no reason with the craziness that is the Four-Wide Nationals that we cannot end up in the final round. It’s a race unlike anything we do all year. While it can be a little crazy for the crew chiefs trying to stage so many cars at one time, I really enjoy the challenge it presents with all of the extra bulbs on the Christmas tree.”

 

About Doug Stringer and Stringer Performance

Stringer Motorsports owner Doug Stringer has a lengthy resume in the racing industry. His career essentially began in drag racing having served as general manager for Jim Epler’s Rug Doctor Funny Car in 1996. Eventually he made a business decision to move in to the rapidly growing world of NASCAR racing where a role as general manger turned into an ownership role of a highly successful NASCAR Xfinity Series team. After selling his team in 2006, he formed Stringer Holdings, a sports marketing agency that manages sponsorship and related marketing platforms for various companies in both NASCAR and NHRA.

 

Longtime friends, Stringer and Millican have always talked about racing together and last fall the stars suddenly aligned.  Millican was looking for a team to call home in 2015 and Stringer had always desired to return to his roots in drag racing.  Having sponsor Parts Plus already in place with Millican made it a quick and easy decision and Stringer Performance was born. Stringer’s first order of business was the hiring of two essential people – David Grubnic as crew chief and Lance Larsen as general manager.

CMA Recording Artist Ryan Daniel Partners With Stringer Performance

CMA Recording Artist and Stringer Performance Marketing Partner Ryan Daniel has just released his newest single “Lies & Bruises,” which touches on the pain of domestic violence.  The powerful ballad is Daniel’s follow-up to his award winning debut album Love, Life and Memories, and will be available for digital download on iTunes starting March 27, 2015.unnamed

The message of the song touches close to home for Daniel.

“When I was a kid my step-dad used to abuse my mom really bad, and that gave me an immediate connection.  Then meeting with the song writers that connection continued to grow. I had the chance to meet a woman named Emily Joy whose daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. After meeting her and other battered women, it became the story that I needed to tell. I’ve never been that battered woman, but I am the kid that lived through watching his mother be that woman. I remember wondering at twelve-years-old why she stayed every time, and I wanted to use this song to tell women there are people who will help you. It took my mom a long time to get out, but in the end it was the best decision for her and her children.”

A racing fan for years, Daniel first collaborated with Stringer Performance at the Jason Leffler Memorial Race, held annually at the Wayne County Speedway in Wayne County, Illinois.  His enthusiastic live shows, rich tenor voice, and mix of modern-traditional country have led to many comparisons with Daniel and country great, Garth Brooks.

Check out www.ryandaniel.org  for more music and tour dates.

Preview “Lies & Bruises”

Clay Millican, Parts Plus/Great Clips Top Fuel team win their first round of the season in Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, FLA., March 15, 2015: Clay Millican and the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster outran Leah Pritchett in round 1 Sunday at the Gatornationals, giving team owner Doug Stringer his first win as a Top Fuel team owner.

Entering the 16-car field in the 12th position, Millican launched hard in E1 and held on straight down the track for his fastest run of the weekend by one sec to take the win light with a [email protected] mph. Meanwhile, Pritchett’s bright-red Gumout dragster smoked the tires as soon as she hit the throttle, ensuring the Parts Plus/Great Clips car wouldn’t be challenged at the rest of the way.

“Y’know, I’ve won a lot of races in the past, but this was Doug’s first in Top Fuel, so I was especially happy for him and this new team, who’ve worked so hard this season,” Millican said. “It was very cool to get that done. I also pleased to see the team get the car serviced and ready to go in time for second round—it’s good to get that hurdle out of the way early in the season.”

With an enthusiastic crowd from Jacksonville-based Parts Plus member The Parts House cheering on their driver, Millican lined up against Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army dragster. With an assist from Millican’s lightning-quick reaction time (0.071), the Parts Plus/Great Clips car stormed to take the starting-line advantage before a clutch malfunction ended the team’s day. The Army car went straight down the groove to take the win.

“We broke the palette bearing in the flywheel, so essentially the clutch quit doing what it was told to do,” Millican said. “It just one of those things that very rarely breaks, but it did today.”

The Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster continues to show consistency in the early part of its runs, despite not yet putting up big numbers, Millican said.

“That’s so very vital to how these cars run. The car responds to what you’re doing early. I’m told by the really smart people who make this Parts Plus/Great Clips car go down the track that the latter part of the run is a little easier to figure out. So I feel really good with how the car’s going to the 330-foot mark. It’s really coming around for us.”

Millican was also happy for crew chief David Grubnic, who continues to enter each race weekend with a plan and the determination to see it through. After struggling in qualifying on Friday, the Parts Plus/Great Clips team went straight down the groove in Saturday’s Q3 (3.965) and Q4 (3.867) to get into the field.

“Grubby is a very detail-oriented guy who doesn’t let the moment get the better of him. Our plan was to get the car down the racetrack in each qualifying round, which didn’t happen the first day, but we stuck with what we were doing. In Q4, we were looking to go 3.85, and it went a 3.86.

“The car is starting to do what Grubby wants it to do, and we’ve got the confidence that’s going to pay off for us in the end. Overall, it was a great weekend for us, with an overflow crowd from The Parts House in the hospitality area on Saturday and Sunday—they were amazing.”

Clay Millican / Stringer Performance Fast Facts For NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville

Millican has previous success at Gainesville…

Clay Millican, driver of the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster for Stringer Performance, has proven successful at the Gainesville-based track in the past.  In 2013, he finished as the runner-up to Antron Brown in the Gatornationals, giving him an extra boost of confidence heading into this weekend’s event.

 

Millican trading in snowmen for sunshine…

With Millican’s hometown of Drummonds, Tenn. digging out of the snow that has blasted the area for the last couple of weeks, Millican and his wife, Donna opted to head to the Sunshine State a little bit early in search of warmer weather. On Monday and Tuesday, the pair stopped in Daytona and were witness to the thousands of bikers from around the country that flock there every year for Bike Week. The two joined the crowd and took a spin around town on their son’s Harley.  While there, they also got their racing fix at the ATV Supercoss event at the famed Daytona International Raceway.

 

Golf anyone?

On Wednesday, Millican will have the opportunity to play in the Drag Racing Association of Women’s (DRAW) charity golf tournament in Gainesville before preparing to hit the track for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

 

Millican hunting for first Wally

Millican has some impressive performance stats.  He has six consecutive World Championships and is noted as the winningest driver in IHRA history with 51 national event wins. He has more trophies and awards than he can count except for one – a famed Wally.  Millican and his team have set high goals for themselves including a NHRA championship but it all starts with one thing – a Wally.

 

Clay Millican talks shop going into Gainesville

“With the crazy weather of late, Donna and I were ready to get to Florida and enjoy some sunshine! It’s been a great week so far but I really just can’t wait to get out on the race track. David (Grubnic) and I have spent a lot of time talking since we left Phoenix and we feel good going into the Gatornationals. We’ve spent these first two events building data and learning the limits of our race car but I think this is the weekend we are ready to let her loose.  We both feel that we are very close to where we need to be to put down the big numbers we strive for. Having finished runner-up here two years ago doesn’t necessarily serve as any kind of advantage, but it definitely gives me an extra boost of confidence heading into this event.”

 

David Grubnic (crew chief) on expectations heading into the weekend

“Without question we look forward to every event we attend, as this brings us closer to our ultimate goal of being a championship-caliber team. Our performance to date is not representative of the potential this team has to offer. The first two races of the season were used as test platforms to better understand the capabilities and personality of our racecar and at the same time develop our team. We are now ready to build our base and work towards a consistent performance level that will propel the Parts Plus / Great Clips team into the winners circle.”