DALLAS, Oct. 17, 2016: Call it the big fish that got away. Clay Millican was on his way to a monumental run Friday night in Q2 during the 31st annual NHRA Texas Fall Nationals before the car stopped pulling, and he stepped off the throttle before half-track. Still, the Parts Parts/Great Clips dragster went 3.77@261 mph, making it the quickest run to the 330-ft mark Friday and Millican’s career-best to half-track.

“We were on our way for sure to our career-best run and possibly even a national record run,” Millican says. “We got that fish hooked, but we didn’t get it aboard the boat. It was very strange: after I stepped off the throttle, I was coasting the rest of the way down the racetrack and somehow it hurt the motor when it was not even under power.”

Fortunately, Millican had already clinched qualifying with a solid 3.746@321.04 mph in Q1. Millican’s Q1 incremental times: 60ft—0.822 sec.; 330ft—2.112; and 660ft—2.999@285.65 mph.

The motor setback caused the Stringer Performance team to take it easy in Q3, making only minor changes to the car, which in the end didn’t please crew chief David Grubnic. “Grubby” then made more adjustments for Q4, and the car really responded, as if Friday night’s problem had been solved.

Friday’s Q1 run qualified the Parts Plus/Great Clips driver 10th in the field, setting up a first-round elimination showdown with Steve Torrence, against whom Millican held a 7-3 record heading into Sunday.

“We didn’t qualify as good as we wanted to, but we were very happy with how the car was performing early in the run,” Millican says. “We felt really confident about everything on Sunday. We felt like we were gonna outrun ‘em.”

The last pair of cars to go first round, Torrence’s Capco Contractors car took a slight starting-line advantage and never looked back, as the Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster was up in smoke at 330, so Millican clicked it off.

“Today, we just missed it a little bit—we probably moved the clutch a little faster than we should have,” Millican explains. “That’s disappointing because the car was giving us all these incredible numbers in qualifying, and then when we really needed it, we didn’t get it.

“It was an odd weekend. Despite the loss, I still feel like we’re close to reaching numbers that a lot of other teams out there aren’t going to be happy about. We’re too far behind to catch Antron for the championship; he’s just on fire right now. Our goal now is to get a win before the season ends, and we’ve got two shots at it.”

Toyota Nationals
Oct. 27–30
Las Vegas