Terry McMillen is like the late Gilda Radner’s “Saturday Night Live” character Rosannadanna: If it isn’t one thing it’s another for the Amalie Oil Dragster owner-driver.
At St. Louis, two events ago, he picked up his first round-win since the early-July race at Epping, N.H. However, offsetting that was trouble in the pits. The team’s generator went kaput, which not only interrupted power but also damaged the air compressor. The crew scrambled to get him back to the starting line for the fourth and final qualifying session. He was rewarded with an outstanding 3.727-second elapsed time – but it left him in the bottom half of the ladder, at No. 9.
“It’s hard to believe that Top Fuel has come to this,” McMillen said. “You go out and run a 3.72 in qualifying and don’t have lane choice.” Happy news this week came from McMillen’s camp: “I have not one complaint about the Charlotte event,” he said. “[Crew chief] Rob Wendland and the AMALIE Motor Oil Xtermigator team gave me a great car. We’ve been in test mode, since we aren’t running for the Countdown, and I think it is exactly what the team needed. We lost first round to Clay Millican. He ran a 3.75 to our 3.76 [at Charlotte]. Can’t be upset about that.”
Wendland said, “The whole year it was like, if I was there, Terry wasn’t. If Terry was there, I wasn’t. It was like .009, .004 [margins of loss], all this crap. But you know what it really comes down to? It comes down to your qualifying spot, and that all comes back on me. I’m not that aggressive of a tuner, because when you are, it usually costs you money to do that. I want to be here for a long time, and so does Terry. And so we look at the overall picture.
“Not getting in the Countdown, No. 1, was very hurtful. But it was exactly how we ran. So it’s on me. It’s not Terry, it’s me. I need to do a better job of what I’m doing to make sure that doesn’t happen, and like I said, we had a lot of first-round losses. Last year was a totally different year, and the car ran good, though,” the crew chief said.
With no Countdown implications to complicate the strategy, Wendland said, “So maybe the pressure is off a little bit, but the pressure is on, though, because I need to get this thing consistent and fast. So I think we found some things, and I think it’s really helping.”
It looked like it was. McMillen was No. 1 in the first session Friday in Dallas, but slid down to 12th overnight.