Clay Millican has been dancing the numbers rhumba.
The NHRA Top Fuel standout wasn’t concerned particularly with elapsed times during last weekend’s PRO pre-season testing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We didn’t come out here to put any hero runs down. We didn’t have any intentions to making full pulls,” Millican said, despite clocking a 3.780-second elapsed time Friday in his overhauled Parts Plus Dragster.
He had his mind on other numbers.
“I’m horrible with math,” he said, “but I think this is Year 22 for me in Top Fuel. I quit my job in ’98. So however long that’s been.”
He was pleased with his longevity: “It’s a hard game, staying out here. I’m proud.”
Millican said he wasn’t big on birthday celebrations for himself, but he said he’ll turn 54 years old during this weekend’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season-opener, the Lucas Oil Winternationals.
His birthday will be Sunday, race day. But he said, “I’ll be 54 years old in Pomona at some point while we’re at Pomona or maybe Monday – I don’t even know.
“Aquarius,” he volunteered, citing his sign in the zodiac calendar. “Not that anybody seems to keep up with that anymore.”
His plan is to shrug it off, like he has done since he was a teenager. He said his plan is to do “nothing.”
Millican said, “Birthdays mean nothing to me. This is the honest truth. Birthdays have never been a big deal to me after I turned 16. I don’t drink. I’m not a drinker, haven’t been ever. So turning 21 didn’t mean anything. But turning 16 was huge. Driver’s license. I had a hardship license. I think I got that when I was 13 or 14, because of where I lived it was no big deal to get a hardship license.”
The Drummonds, Tenn., racer said he received the hardship license “simply so I could drive my grandmother around, is what we told them. But turning 16 was a big deal. After that birthdays are nothing.”
Nevertheless, a really nice birthday gift for Millican would be a first victory at the Lucas Oil Winternationals, which would be his fourth overall in NHRA action. He won at Bristol, Tenn., in 2017, then in back-to-back races at Topeka and Chicago, in 2018. Since then, Millican has reached the final round four times (at the Gatornatonals, the Charlotte Four-Wides; Denver; and Sonoma) and was in the final quad at the Las Vegas Four-Wides.
It was a great start during his reunion season with crew chief Mike Kloeber. Together they dominated in the IHRA Top Fuel class, earning a record six consecutive championships and 52 race victories and running quicker and faster than anyone else in the sanctioning body’s history. (In his Werner Enterprises Dragster, Millican set the elapsed-time record at 4.484 seconds at Rockingham, N.C., in 2005, and the speed record at 328.14 mph at Budds Creek, Md., in 2007.)
This season they hope to close the deals on any final-round appearances for Stringer Motorsports.
Millican said he thinks all the hoopla about their pairing again has died down somewhat, but he said he understands it was the talk of 2019 for his team “because it was a big deal. He and I have done so much together.”
But he anticipated a future tense to that.
“And we’re not done doing things together,” Millican said. “It’s fun for me and it’s fun just because he understands anything that I’m trying to relay that I felt and he’s the one that essentially taught me. So I have a blast working with him. I think things are just going to continue to get better. It’s awesome, because it’s how I started was with him and so it’s fun being with him again.”
He said their Las Vegas testing was “wonderful.”
“The very first run was a hundred-footer. I’ve been saying it was a system test, essentially. We stripped this car down to nothing and put it all back together and so we just wanted to make sure that we put everything back together correctly,” Millican said. “The second run, we ran some parts that we had been wanting to try and we were planning on going to the 330[-foot mark on the 1,000-foot course]. It didn’t like them. So the pan pressure switch shut it off. Didn’t hurt anything. It was just some stuff that Mike wanted to try. So those will continue to be tested at a later date.”
For his third run, which came Friday morning, he said, “We put in clutch discs that we’re planning on running all year this year. The plan was to go to the 330, and it was beautiful. Absolutely perfect.
“So at the moment, the attitude around here is pretty good, because it did exactly what we wanted to do. We always want more, but I would say we’re right on track for everything we wanted to do and it’s all good,” Millican said.
Later Friday, the team tested tires for Goodyear, mostly with half-track passes. “That’s kind of typical when we test tires. We’ve tested tires for Goodyear for many, many years. Love working with those guys,” he said.
The relatively pleasant weather Thursday through Saturday was a contrast to the blustery day that greeted racers while they sat up their operations at the venue north of Las Vegas. Wednesday’s winds swept in with “20-30-mile-an-hour gusts,” Millican said. :I mean we didn’t run on Wednesday, anyway, so it’s been great. The track here is always awesome. It just is. But overall, everything is really, really good. All-in-all we’re happy. It’s going as planned, which is kind of unusual.”
Maybe it’s the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.