HOUSTON, April 23, 2018: Clay Millican arrived in the Lone Star State feeling confident that he would top last year’s memorable performance in Houston, which saw the popular Plus driver break the track record en route to a No. 1 qualifying start and a semi-final appearance at Royal Purple Raceway. However, despite the Stringer Performance team’s hard work over the race weekend, luck was not on their side this go-around.
The Parts Plus/ Great Clips team got off to slow start in Friday’s home-run session for the second straight week, striking out on both attempts. Millican got back on track Saturday in more ways than one with an impressive [email protected] mph in Q3 to secure a qualifying spot in the half of the field on Sunday, thanks in part to crew chief David Grubnic’s well-oiled mind, which always seems to be working with full efficiency, especially when it comes to overnight adjustments.
After barely missing on the team’s goal of earning a top-five spot, eventual No. 6 qualifier Millican dismissed concerns over the team’s uncharacteristic Friday night woes, blaming it in part on a problem a lot of teams would love to have: Doug Stringer’s Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster is just too dang fast at times and as hard to control as a wild horse.
“Some folks may think I’m kidding, but I tell ya this Parts Plus/ Great Clips car has two speeds—fast and crazy fast,” says Millican, who broke his own national E.T. record at Pomona’s season opener with a [email protected] mph. “Honestly, I just couldn’t control it Friday night, and we didn’t have much look slowing it down. But when that Parts Plus is running just right, it’s like riding a rocket, but I’m in control of that ship, and we fly straight down that groove quicker than anybody.” In Sunday’s first round, Millican was a little quicker than No. 11 qualifier Mike Salinas, who shook the tires right at the hit. The Parts Plus driver also had problems early but pedaled and kept it hooked up for the win, with a [email protected] mph.
Millican’s first-round win set up a Royal joust—a rematch with Tony Schumacher, who lost to Millican in the second round in 2017. Not this time. The Army car appeared to be on a mission, shooting straight down the track and leaving the Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster behind with a [email protected] mph. Millican was up in smoke early, and the decision was made to click the car off early.
“With the speed we’ve been showing when this car is running the way it should, it’s safe to say the other teams are gunning for us—we’re not going to surprise folks like we did last year,” Millican says. “We won over the Army car here last time, but the Sarge has pretty much had our number in the past. We didn’t really dial anything back because we knew we’d have to run a quick, perfect race to win it. We came out with everything we had, but we didn’t get it done.”
Millican says that once Stringer Performance crew chief David Grubnic gets a better handle on the car, the team will be off and running toward another spot in the NHRA Countdown for the Championship.
“Like I said, when it goes, it’s a rocket, but right now, it’s just out of control,” says Millican, who remains in the top five in Top Fuel points in the Mello Yello Series. “But ol’ Grubby is still trying to figure out how to calm the car down without hurting itself. A couple of times where he’s backed it off, it puts out holes [cylinders]. The engine doesn’t like it, and we don’t have the [parts] inventory to do that. We pride ourselves on not hurting any parts supplied by our great Parts Plus vendor partners. Grubby and this team won’t stop until we figure out how to run a 3.62, but in the meantime, we just have to find that same consistency we had in 2017 and then improve upon that.”
Top Fuel Point Standings (following Houston’s SpringNationals)
|POSITION||DRIVER||POINTS||POINTS BEHIND LEADER||VEHICLE|
|01||Tony Schumacher||385||0||U.S. Army Dragster|
|02||Steve Torrence||385||0||Capco Racing/Torrence Motorsports|
|03||Antron Brown||324||-61||Matco Tools Dragster|
|04||Clay Millican||309||-76||Parts Plus/ Great Clips/ UNOH dragster|
|05||Doug Kalitta||304||-81||Mac Tools Dragster|
|06||Leah Pritchett||284||-101||Papa John’s Dragster|
|07||Brittany Force||270||-115||Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster|
|08||Richie Crampton||247||-138||SealMaster dragster|
|09||Terry McMillen||240||-145||Amalie Motor Oil Dragster|
|10||Scott Palmer||214||-171||CatSpot/Tommy Thompson Motorsports|
April 27–29: NHRA Four-Wide Nationals – zMax Dragway