Wild, Wild West: Clay Millican’s Season Ends with Crazy Finish at Pomona

POMONA, Calif., Nov. 14, 2016: The long and winding road for the Parts Plus/Great Clips/ UNOH Top Fuel team in the 2016 Mello Yello Series took a twisting turn in Southern California over the weekend.

After swinging and missing on Friday’s homerun sessions, crew chief David Grubnic dialed things back a bit to get a number on the board in Saturday’s Q3. The Parts Plus/Great Clips/ UNOH dragster responded, running a solid [email protected] mph to put Millican into the top half of the field. Millican’s Q3 incremental times: 60ft-0.838 sec.; 330ft-2.128; and 660ft-3.013/284.93 mph.

Prior to the final qualifying run of the year, the team was honored with the Best Appearing Crew Award, presented to the group that performs in the most professional manner.

“That was a sign that we might have a great weekend ‘cause that meant even if we weren’t the fastest, then at least we’d be recognized as the best-looking,” Millican quips. “But seriously, this was a nice honor—this young team has been really sharp all season long.”

Millican certainly looked good in Q4, running a [email protected] on a solid pass down the middle of the groove. The Parts Plus/Great Clips/ UNOH dragster’s Q4 incremental times: 60ft-0.841 sec.; 330ft-2.128; and 660ft-3.024/281.54 mph.

Qualified 10th, Millican would duel with Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army car in the first round of Sunday eliminations.

“Obviously, racing the Army car is always big,” he says. “They may not be the champions this year, but they’ve won enough of ‘em that you’ve always got to be on your game.”

Millican caught a break when Schumacher smoked the tires early. Meanwhile, the Parts Plus/Great Clips/ UNOH dragster booked it down the track en route to an apparent victory. But then the spring clip that holds the throttle cable broke on the Tennessee native’s car, preventing Millican from getting back on the throttle. In a wild ending, Schumacher hit the gas and edged Millican at the finish line.

“It was very disappointing,” said Millican. “To call it a 50-cent piece is probably overstating it. It’s probably a 30-cent piece. I was like, ‘All right, step off of it, step back on’—nothing. So now I’m coasting, and, like, trying to shake myself in the car to make the thing roll faster, trying to put my feet through the floorboards to try and ‘Flintstone’ the thing. I could hear Tony, and I could hear that he was way back. I’m getting closer and closer to the finish line, and Tony’s getting louder and louder and louder, and then, of course, vroom, he goes by. I look at the scoreboard, and I’m like, ‘We didn’t get there.’”

Afterward, Schumacher admitted to Millican that the Parts Plus/Great Clips/ UNOH dragster was so far out in front that he had practically given up. Then the Sarge noticed Millican was having problems, so he got back after it, chased him down, and beat him to the stripe by 0.0947 seconds (approximately 19 feet).

“I told Tony, ‘Well, Merry Christmas.’ I don’t want to say you get used to the way you typically lose these things—smoking the tires, whatever—but to have something as simple as a spring clip break that holds the throttle in place is very disappointing.”

The season as a whole was another step in the right direction for the Stringer Performance single-car team founded by Doug Stringer, CEO and President of Stringer Holdings. The team peaked late in the season with superior consistency and record-breaking numbers along the way, finishing in the top 10 in points.

“What this team has been able to do this year is really remarkable,” Millican says. “I wish we could just keep on racing, because we’ve just scratched the surface on what we’re capable of. But that just gives us a lot to look forward to next year. Thank you to all of our partners and all our manufacturer sponsors for a fantastic year.”