LAS VEGAS: As strong desert winds up to 60 mph whipped through Las Vegas Sunday morning, Clay Millican and the Parts Plus team were struggling to get a handle on their Top Fuel dragster.

Starting in the 13th position following two challenging days of qualifying, Millican couldn’t run down Spencer Massey after the Parts Plus car once again dropped cylinders, resulting in a disappointing round-one elimination.

“We just didn’t find our stride this weekend,” Millican said. “We were trying to push the motor a little harder, but every time we’d step on the motor a bit, it would drop cylinders. So the thing just did not want to run on 8 cylinders, and that was really our biggest problem all weekend.”

The wind—which was so unrelenting that the first round of Pro Stock eliminations was delayed until later in the afternoon—combined with the change in altitude (Vegas is about 2200 above sea level), only complicated efforts for the Parts Plus team.

Hours after the E1 loss, team owner Dexter Tuttle and crew chief Jimmy Walsh were still working to pinpoint the problem, Millican said.

“If we could run it again, maybe we’d change the fuel flow a little here and move the clutch a little here—again those two things have to go hand in hand. If you have too much fuel and not enough clutch, it’ll drop cylinders. And if the motor doesn’t have enough load from the clutch, it’ll drop cylinders. If it’s got too much fuel and the clutch is right, it’ll drop cylinders. There are so many different ways that things could go. It certainly is a magic combination when it all comes together.

“Being here in Vegas, I compare it to sort of like pulling a slot machine handle at the right time to hit the jackpot.”

On Monday, the team will return to Texas and service all the parts and pieces they ran. They’re also sending the clutches and flywheels back to the manufacturer to have some adjustments made.

“There’s a lit bit of deflecting going on, which changes how the clutch acts,” Millican explained. “So they’re sending those back to strengthen up the clutch.”

The Parts Plus team has two weeks to prepare for Top Fuel action when the 2014 Mello Yello Series resumes in Charlotte on April 11–14. Although he’s appreciative of two-week breaks early in the season, especially for such a new team, Millican says the guys are prepared to pick up the pace for the upcoming series of three consecutive races.

“That grueling stretch of three races in a row is coming really soon. The breaks have been good for the guys as far as getting more familiar with all the parts and pieces, and it increases the amount of time they have to get things done.

“They’re really starting to come together as a team; the service of the car is getting better and better. This was one of those weekends where the car just didn’t do what we wanted it to do. But we’ll be ready to go for Charlotte.”