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.”