This time Top Fuel driver Clay Millican and his crew chief, Mike Kloeber, weren’t going to let that No. 1 qualifying position get away from them Saturday.
And they didn’t, using a 3.829-second pass at 317.34 mph on the 1,000-foot course at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Millican and the Parts Plus Dragster will lead the field in eliminations of the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals.
Last weekend, when the NHRA resumed racing at this same venue in front of spectators following a four-month shutdown because of coronavirus, Millican looked like he would take the No. 1 spot. He owned it after the first of two qualifying attempts. By the time Millican arrived at the starting line, Steve Torrence and others had pushed him down to sixth place. He was set to challenge to regain his top position, as he and Tony Schumacher pulled up in the class’ final pairing. But as they backed up from their burnouts, a rainstorm hit. That canceled their run and all activity for qualifying day.
Millican got past his longtime IHRA pal and nemesis Doug Foley in the first round of elimination for the E3Spark Plugs Nationals, but he lost to Antron Brown in the quarterfinals.
And after a few days to think about that, Millican and Kloeber resolved not to leave anything to chance.
Tire smoke ruined Millican’s bid for a second strong blast, leaving him a with a 7.483-second elapsed time. But no one came close to threatening his 3.829. Leah Pruett was second in the order at 3.850 in her Mopar Dodge Dragster out of the Don Schumacher Racing organization.
This marked Millican’s first No. 1 qualifying performance of the year and 24th of his NHRA career.
Todd Paton, who maintained the bump spot in Terry Haddock’s dragster, qualified 16th with a 4.718 and will meet Millican in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations.
Class newcomer Joe Morrison, a seasoned sportsman racer, missed qualifying in his pro debut by three-thousandths of a second. Joining Morrison were Cory McClenathan and Luigi Novelli.
Last-weekend winner Billy Torrence, who qualified No. 10 with a 3.954-second E.T. at a class-fastest 319.22 mph in the Capco Contractors Dragster, will meet son Steve Torrence in the first round Sunday. That’s a definite disappointment for both. Steve Torrence won the pre-hiatus race at Phoenix, and Billy Torrence captured the Wally trophy a week ago to earn them the Nos. 2 and 3 rankings in the standings behind leader Doug Kalitta. The Torrences met in the semifinal last week, but that awarded more points than they’ll get collectively Sunday.
Neither father nor son will give in to the other, so that should be the key match-up in the opening pairings Sunday.
The top half of the lineup, behind Millican and Pruett, consist of (in order) Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, Steve Torrence, and T.J. Zizzo.
Leader Kalitta will face another Doug – Foley – in the first round.