BRAINERD, MINN., August 23, 2016: All year long, Parts Plus/Great Clips/UNOH driver Clay Millican has been pointing to the Stringer Performance team’s first goal of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Series: maintain a top-10 spot in the point standings to secure a spot in the Countdown to Championship.
Millican has held tight to the No. 9 Top Fuel point spot for weeks, holding off No. 10 Leah Pritchett. On Sunday, the two faced off in an important first-round elimination race with far-reaching ramifications.
Declaring the track conditions as “Seattle-type weather with Sonoma-type grip,” Parts Plus/Great Clips/UNOH crew chief David Grubnic left nothing to chance, choosing to open it up and pour the power through the middle of the racetrack.
“Our car has run really well early in the run this year,” Millican explains. “We’ve been easing up on it a little bit in the middle part of the track because you always risk pulling the tires loose. However, we knew that all the other Schumacher cars had run 3.60s already that weekend so Grubby [Grubnic] cut it loose. I saw Grubby making last-minutes adjustments before I got into the car and after I got in the car. Then off we went, and when we went right through the middle of the racetrack I thought, ‘Man, this thing is booking.’ I often glance up at the finish line so I could tell if it was a win light, but when I crossed I was thinking, ‘Did that say 3.8 or 3.6?’”
Specifically, it was a 3.696 at 326.32 mph, a career-quickest time for Millican. Meanwhile, Pritchett was up in smoke as soon as she hit the throttle and pedaled it at least three times but couldn’t get it to hook up.
“My mate Grubby sure cut it loose, all right. He really poured the power to it through the middle of the racetrack and it paid off. Prior to that, our best run was a 3.72 and making a 300ths jump is a big jump without a doubt.
Ultimately, the Parts Plus/Great Clips/UNOH dragster put out a cylinder in the next round as soon as Millican stepped on the throttle, running against the always thought Antron Brown.
As it turns out, the shutoff may have been a blessing in disguise. When the team began tearing things down afterward, the Parts Plus/Great Clips/UNOH crew found that one of the rear wing mounts on the car was broken.
“If we had made another 326-mph hour run, the rear wing maybe would have been broken off. If that had happened, it can’t be run again until it’s sent back to the manufacturer because without that wing the car acts like an arrow without feathers—you have no control. We have a safety system in place where the crew chief can shut the throttle off. Grubby saw the cylinder out early in the run and he’s the one who shut me off. We weren’t going to win that race with seven cylinders anyway,” Millican said.
Still, Millican put enough distance between he and Pritchett to assure a playoff berth.
“That’s huge for this team to be qualified before we hit Indy,” he said. “If you make that Countdown, you’re in position to win it all.”
Top 10 Top Fuel Points
Aug. 30–Sept. 4
Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals (PSM)