HOUSTON, April 27, 2015: For a moment during Saturday’s qualifying efforts at the Spring Nationals in Houston, Parts Plus/Great Clips driver Clay Millican had a flashback to last season, when freak occurrences seemed to plague the team.
Millican and the Parts Plus/Great Clips team were having lunch while waiting for the rain to pass, so qualifying could resume on what had been a wet, gloomy Saturday morning. Suddenly, Millican received a text from the NHRA that they had to be ready for Q3 in 45 minutes.
“We were kinda ready to go, but we didn’t have the cylinder heads on the car,” he said. “We always wait to figure out what the weather is going to do, so we can figure out the compression ratio and determine how thick the head gasket is going to be according to the weather. Normally, you have a couple of hours to get ready. But we got the text, tossed our sandwiches, warmed the car up, and scrambled to get to the staging area on time but just didn’t make it.”
After missing Q3, Millican had one more chance to punch his ticket to the dance on Sunday.
“That put us in a pressure-packed situation since we didn’t run that well on Friday. The real downside was that it had been raining all morning on Saturday and then it warmed up, so it was really humid out there. We knew we couldn’t run a 70 on those track conditions, so we went out there and conservatively qualified in the 14th spot.”
With qualifying secured, Millican was matched up with Richie Crampton in a first-round elimination showdown on Sunday. In what might have been the most exciting race of the weekend, Millican had the starting line advantage and never trailed—but it was close. The Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster’s [email protected] mph topped Crampton’s [email protected] mph for a margin of victory of 0.0282 seconds (approximately 13 feet).
“Once we were qualified, we knew we weren’t going to have a problem getting the numbers we wanted,” Millican said. “But the 75 in the first round kind of surprised me. I knew Grubby had the thing tuned up, and I knew what he was shooting for—between a 74 and 77—but man, our car was fast.
“We flew a bit under the radar during qualifying, but after first round, everyone knew we were ready to play.”
Millican’s first-round 3.751 was his fastest pass of the year, and it would have been even better had the car’s chutes not opened early.
“I think it was driver-induced,” Millican said with a laugh. “I didn’t open the parachute, but I’m the guy responsible for it. I’m not sure what happened, but we were fortunate it didn’t fall out any sooner or we would have made the highlight reel on ESPN for all the wrong reasons.”
“This Parts Plus/Great Clips car we have came from the Torrence family, so it was pretty special to get the win. We really like those guys, and they’ve been really good to our team, but we’re not going to lie down for anybody. After all, we bought that car—they didn’t give it to us [laughs]. But seriously, that was a good win for us.”
Unfortunately, Millican’s hot streak ended in the semis after the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster shook the tires in a loss to Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army car.
“Grubby set the car up to run about a 3.81,” Millican said. “We decided to leave the tune-up alone and leave the clutch alone, but we just didn’t make it. Schumacher ran a 3.85, so they did a good job on what was a pretty hot racetrack. I’m proud of this team, though. We win together and we lose together. And most important, we’re getting better and better every week.”