Parts Plus / Great Clips Top Fuel Team Storms Their Way to Semis

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.”

The Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster continued to roll in the second round, with Millican’s [email protected] topping Steve Torrence’s [email protected]

“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.”

Fast Facts O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, TX

Millican voted fan favorite Top Fuel driver…

In a recent fan driven poll held by National Dragster, Clay Millican captured the majority vote to earn the title of Fan Favorite Top Fuel Driver. Known as the southern gentleman to his fans, Millican makes it a priority to reach out to them not only on the track, but also on social media. He boasts the highest Twitter following of all Top Fuel drivers with 116,000 and climbing every day.

 

Millican storms to third straight rounds appearance in Vegas…

Millican, driver of the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster for Stringer Performance, has officially turned it on and keeps cranking it up for the 2015 racing season. After testing during the first two races of the season, Millican and his Stringer Performance team have been putting up solid numbers over the past few races and are quickly becoming a car to watch on the track.

 

Millican remains in championship contention…

 There’s still a lot of racing to be done this season, but Millican is not about to let go of his place in the championship points battle. After getting bumped out of semi-finals contention in Vegas, Millican’s next focus became where he sat in the overall point race. When the dust settled on track in Vegas he was sitting the in number ten spot in the standings.

 

Millican’s interesting weekend ride…

Travel is a big part of the racing world and Millican is no stranger to flying the skies. However, this weekend he got a little more than he bargained for on a flight into Atlanta. While enjoying a movie on his phone, Millican’s trip was interrupted by a very loud bang that shook his aircraft. When the pilot had safely landed at the ATL airport, Millican discovered that their plane had been struck by lightning from the heavy storms in the area. Needless to say this is one ride he doesn’t want to repeat.

 

Millican continues the hunt for his 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 52 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 racing at Houston…

 “I have always enjoyed racing at Houston because it can be a very fast track. We got a lot of valuable data at the last race in Vegas on what it’s like to run our car on a hot track. We actually stayed a day after the Vegas race to test and got three solid runs on a track that was 130 degrees. I know David Grubnic has been going over everything that we learned from that race and Monday testing. He’s always got a solid game plan and this entire team is ready to deliver. I have made it to the finals before in Houston a few years ago, and there is no reason why I cannot return to the finals this time. The only difference is I plan on walking away with a Wally at the end of this finals appearance!”

 

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.

Clay Millican Celebrates 200th National Career Start with First-Round Win in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Sunday, April 12, 2015: Clay Millican quit his job as a forklift driver on May 10, 1998, to take the wheel of a machine with a lot more power and speed. Two weeks later, Millican made his first NHRA Top Fuel run at the NHRA’s inaugural event at Route 66 Raceway behind the wheel of the Chicago White Sox dragster, a one-race deal arranged through Peter Lehman.

For Millican, it was a day to remember for several reasons. “I was the very first driver to pull out on the brand-new racetrack in Chicago, and I did the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in racing,” Millican says. “While backing up from the burnout, I actually did a reverse burnout. I was ready to run back home and just hide and never be seen from again at that moment. But I wanted to do this so badly that I swallowed my pride and went back out. I made my first four-second run that weekend. We didn’t qualify, but it was just awesome.”

Nearly seventeen years and 199 races later, Millican celebrated his 200th national career start in style this weekend at the Summit Nationals. After qualifying 10th in the field at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Parts Plus Great Clips dragster lined up against Brittany Force in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Millican’s superior reaction time enabled the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster to take the lead from the start and hang for an exciting win, with his [email protected] mph topping Force’s 3.846 323.66 by 0.0364 seconds or approximately 17 feet.

Clay Millican/First Round

Incremental margins: 60ft (0.016); 330 ft (0.048); and 660ft (0.050). Incremental times: 60ft-0.853 sec., 330ft-2.152, 660ft-3.054/280.84 mph. Incremental times: 0ft-0.853 sec., 330ft-2.152, 660ft-3.054/280.84 mph.

Not only did the win over Force help the Parts Plus/Great Clips team maintain the their momentum from the last few events but also provided crew chief David Grubnic with more invaluable data for the crew to work with.

“Momentum is big in this sport, but the most important thing is that we’re getting ol’ Grubby some track time, some data,” Millican says. “Truth is, we’ve calling Gainesville our first race. We won a round there. We go to Charlotte and won a few rounds there. Now, we come here and we’re worried about track conditions, but ol’ Grubby’s a smart dude and the team gave me a car with plenty of power to take on that Castrol EDGE car, and we got it done.”

With a special 200 decal commemorating Millican’s milestone placed on the car, the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster lined up against Larry Dixon for round 2 of the Summit Nationals. Millican shook the tires early but did a masterful job of pedaling it and maneuvering the Parts Plus/Great Clips car all the way down the racetrack. But Millican’s [email protected] mph fell short of Dixon’s [email protected] by 0.1124 seconds or 51 feet.

“Well, we didn’t take Dixon lightly, and I ended up having to pedal it, which is always gratifying for the driver—well, I should say it’s gratifying when it actually works and we get the win,” Millican says. “But I’m pleased with the effort from the entire crew.”

Clay Millican/Second Round

Incremental times: 60ft-0.865 sec.; 330ft-2.251; and 660ft-3.206/269.94 mph.

Millican is also thrilled that the Parts Plus/Great Clips team has managed to avoid much engine trouble so far in the season, thanks to Grubnic and team manager Lance Larsen.

“We’ve hurt one piston all season,” Millican says. “There have been times where they could oil up the rack and put it right back in. We had some issues with the clutch in Charlotte but figured out that it was beating up the pilot bearing because there wasn’t enough clearance with the input shaft.”

While Millican acknowledges the 200 milestone, he’s ready to move on to start the 201st national event of his career in Houston.

“Heck, I didn’t even find out it was my 199th start until we got to Charlotte,” says the popular Parts Plus driver. “I’m really bad at keeping stats on myself because right now my focus is always on the next race. I’ll look back one day when I’m done driving and Google myself to check out all these milestones. But right now my trophies are the mile markers I know, so I’m focused on adding to that collection.”

Not to mention that elusive Wally, which appears to be within Millican’s grasp if the Parts Plus/Great Clips team can maintain this kind of momentum in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Series.

NHRA Nationals Las Vegas Fast Facts

Millican storms to the Finals at Charlotte…

Clay Millican, driver of the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster for Stringer Performance, kept the momentum going after his first round win of the season at Gainesville. Millican and his Stringer Performance team successfully completed first and second round wins during the Four Wide Nationals at Charlotte. As Millican’s young team entered their first finals round ever, they were ready to leave it all on the track and bring home their first Wally. Unfortunately fate had a different planand Millican’s run was cut short when the tires went up in smoke and he rolled into the fourth place slot. With Gainesville and Charlotte in the rear view, Millican and team have their sights set on continuing their upward momentum all the way to the Winner’s Circle at Vegas.

 

Part malfunction halts Millican in finals at Charlotte…

Millican’s team faced its tightest turn around yet with only 52 minutes to make it back to the line for the finals. Millican’s 0.046 second reaction time set him on pace for a second-place finish but a $10 part malfunction sent the team’s run up in smoke. Sprits remained high for Millican and his Stringer Performance teammates after the run. In only four races, the brand new team is putting up big numbers and becoming a team to watch this season at the track.

 

Millican cracks top 10 in points for championship contention…

 After using the first two races of the season as test runs for their car, Clay Millican and his Stringer Performance team are ready to race. In their third and fourth showings of the season, Millican and team have rocketed from the back of the points pack into the number nine slot.

 

200th career start for Millican at Vegas…

Millican is ready to take home his first Wally at Vegas, but a win wouldn’t be the only milestone of the weekend for this Top Fuel veteran. Millican’s start at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals marks his 200th career start as a Top Fuel driver. The Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster will feature a commemorative decal celebrating the occasion.

 

Millican continues the hunt for his 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 52 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 first finals appearance and 200th start in Vegas…

 “Going to the final was just another step in our plan to put this team in contention for the championship at the end of the year. Internally we really look at Charlotte as our second race of the season because we spent the first two races testing. We’ve still got a few bugs that have bitten us to work out but overall this team is making big strides towards being the best out there. Right now we’re focusing on Vegas. I found out in Charlotte that it was my 199th start and Vegas will be my 200th. I’m really bad at keeping those stats on myself because right now my focus is on looking forward to the next race. One day I’ll look back when I’m done driving and Google myself to see all of these milestones. Right now my trophies are the mile markers I know and I’m focused on adding to that collection.”