Parts Plus/Great Clips Top Fuel driver Clay Millican made the quickest run of his career over the weekend at the NHRA finals in Pomona, running a 3.729 at 319 mph in Saturday’s fourth round of qualifying.
“That run was incredible,” Millican says. “That was a career-best for everybody on the team, except Grubby [crew chief David Grubnic], who was a tad quicker [3.728] as a driver. This Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster is showing us early numbers that are quicker than any car in the field to the 330-foot mark.”
The Parts Plus team’s weekend started out exactly as planned with a near-perfect run of 3.775 in Friday’s Q1. With a qualifying spot in the top half of the field assured, Grubnic tried a couple of new ideas during to figure out how to finish those quick runs past the 330-ft mark. The team swung and missed in Q2 and Q3 before knocking it out of the park in Q4.
Millican says the Parts Plus/Great Clips hurt a piston on that career-best run, making it all the more impressive. Millican’s Q4 incremental times: times: 60ft-0.825 sec.; 330ft-2.097; and 660ft-2.981/286.56 mph.
Qualified third, Millican would be matched up with Morgan Lucas in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. With the Southern California sun fading in and out Sunday morning, Millican started the day with lane choice and prepared for a slugfest with Lucas, who last year won his 10th career race despite running a limited schedule.
“Lucas may not run that often, but he obviously has one of the best teams out here because he has a team car that’s running all the time,” Millican says. “They’re certainly not lacking any information, so you know that car could go really quick. So Grubby tuned it to run another .72 or maybe even a little quicker.”
The Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster launched hard but then started to lose traction around the 330-ft mark. Millican, however, pedaled it and managed to get it hooked back up to earn the win light with a 3.871 over Lucas, whose car was up in smoke early.
“We got away with a 3.87 on that one,” Millican says. “But of course, on race day, it doesn’t matter as long as that win light comes on.”
The day took a strange turn when cloudy skies gave way to rain just after the Parts Plus car performed its burnout prior to a round 2 matchup with Shawn Langdon. Knowing showers were headed their way, NHRA had pushed teams to perform shorter turnarounds after first round.
With steady rain dancing with a sudden wind, the team took the car back to the trailer, where they changed the oil to keep the engine cool. After the rain quickly passed, the Parts Plus/Great Clips team returned to the staging area.
“It’s hard to say if altering our normal procedure affected the car or not. So now we’ve done two burnouts on the same clutch pack. The tree lights up and the car starts shaking pretty much from the moment I stepped on it.”
Meanwhile, Langdon managed to go straight down the track with a 3.749 at 325.85 mph to turn on the win light.
“Langdon and those guys were a little late getting up there, and it’s possible they changed the clutch. In hindsight, maybe we should have, too, but we weren’t sure if we had time to get it done.”
As always, Millican managed to find the silver lining on this cloudy SoCal season finale.
“Without a doubt, to come out here and run our career-best and then get a round win gives everybody the confidence that we can run with these guys and be successful. We’ve got some work to do on this chassis. The car’s got a lot of runs on it now. All cars get to the point where they’ll just spin the tires no matter how you run ‘em—we’re pretty sure we’re at that point with this chassis. So Brad Hadman, our chassis builder, will come to the shop and he’ll front-half this car. And we have another car on the way. So we’re already preparing for next season and really we have been for the last two races. The performance is there, for sure. It’s going to be a great year for Parts Plus and all our other great sponsors in 2016.”