In the first round at Atlanta Dragway two weeks ago, Clay Millican made the second-quickest pass – but went home. Millican ran 3.779 seconds but fell to Antron Brown’s 3.771 in a close battle.
But Friday at Virginia Motorsports Park, Millican and his Straightline Strategy Group team got a second chance. With the identical setup, Millican made a pass of 3.749 seconds at 325.30 mph in the first qualifying session to secure the provisional No. 1 spot in Top Fuel for the Virginia NHRA Nationals.
“It was awesome,” Millican said. “I’m going to quote what (crew chief) Mike Kloeber said. He said that first qualifying run was like a buyback in bracket racing for first round from Atlanta. He knew there was more in the car, and he said, ‘Bolt for bolt, the car was identical to what it was set up in Atlanta when we raced Antron and went 3.77. Just a head gasket change for the weather, and it went .74. That run was a validation of where he had the car set up in Atlanta, and it didn’t do it.”
Millican said the car had a clutch disc wear more than it should have in Atlanta, or else he may have beaten Brown. But he knew the car still had plenty of speed, though he wasn’t sure it had 3.74 speed.
“When I went by the scoreboard, I looked up and thought, ‘Is that a .74?'” Millican said. “I’m like, ‘Nah, had to be a .79.’ That’s a pretty dang good run. I kept calling them on the radio, and this track is long enough that nobody really answered me, so I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if it was a .74 or a .79,’ and it turns out it was a .74. Didn’t surprise Mike, but it did me.”
Mike Salinas, return to Top Fuel after skipping Atlanta, made a run of 3.754 seconds at 323.04 mph to sit in the No. 2 spot. Brittany Force was third at 3.772 at 319.98 mph, with Atlanta winner Steve Torrence fourth at 3.773 at 321.81 mph and Doug Kalitta fifth at 3.783 at 323.81 mph.
Many of the top runs came in the second qualifying session, though Millican and his team decided to sit out Q2.
“Mike said, ‘I don’t know that we have a reason to run, other than I think we can go quicker,'” Millican said. “Economically, you’ve just got to kind of look at it. We got together as a group, and Mike said, ‘I don’t know if I have a real reason to run because the conditions we’re going to run in are not going to be what we’re going to race in.’ We’re a small team, and it was just one of those deals, ‘All right, how do we make that decision.'”
Millican said the entire team discussed it, and decided if Millican had fallen lower than fifth before his Q2 run was supposed to go, he’d make the run. He didn’t need to go, after all.
“I’m kind of pleasantly surprised that I’m standing up here,” Millican said. “Do I think it’ll stay there tomorrow? Probably not if it’s cool outside or if it’s close to what it was today. For one, I think we can go quicker because Mike said he thought we could. But if it’s hotter, it’ll probably stay.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019