BRAINERD, Minn.: August 20, 2018: Determined to gain further momentum heading into “The Big Go” at Indy in two weeks, the Parts Plus Top Fuel team came out with plenty of get-up-and-go to kick things off Friday at Brainerd International Speedway. Driver Clay Millican ran a great-looking email@example.com mph in Q1 to temporarily shoot to No. 1 in an exciting side-by-side race with rival Leah Pritchett, who ran a firstname.lastname@example.org mph. Millican’s Q1 incremental times: 60ft-0.852 sec., 330ft-2.159, 660ft-3.049/287.78 mph.
Millican kept things cooking in Friday’s Q2, running a fantastic 3.743-second time that was .011 second quicker than Steve Torrence and nearly two hundredths quicker than Antron Brown to pick up bonus points, barely missing taking command of the top spot by one second. For Millican, it was the first near-miss that wouldn’t go his way over the weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Millican’s Q2 incremental times: 60ft-0.865 sec.; 330ft-2.189; and email@example.com mph.
With a spot in the top five virtually assured, the Parts Plus tested a couple of things in preparation for the weeks ahead, dropping cylinders in Q3 and Q4 but still managing to hang onto the No. 4 qualifier spot heading into Sunday’s opening round, where Millican would meet Chris Karamesines.
Millican maintained the hot hand Sunday morning, running a smoking firstname.lastname@example.org mph in E1 to advance to the quarterfinals, where he’d line up against Mike Salinas, who eliminated Doug Kalitta in first round.
In a thrilling race, Salinas seized the starting-line advantage and managed to hold on for the hole-shot win, with a margin of victory of 0.0067 seconds (approximately 3 feet) over the Parts Plus car. Officially, Millican’s email@example.com mph came up short to Salinas’s firstname.lastname@example.org mph.
“You hate to lose that way, and I always take a hole-shot loss personally because I feel like my great Parts Plus team did everything right,” Millican says. “I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true: it’s just part of what we do—sometimes you win like that and sometimes you lose. That’s racing. Our goal was to be number two in the standings heading into Indy but we came up just a bit short there too—by one point…as close as you can get.
“But we’ve got nothing to hang our heads about. If you look at where we were four years ago when I started this thing with Doug Stringer with a young team, we were No. 11. This year, may have fallen short of our goal by six points—that’s all that separates us from number two—but I like our chances heading into ‘The Big Go.’”
And with good reason. Millican has qualified No. 1 the past two years at Indy, shattering the track record in the process in 2016 and 2017. Millican set the Lucas Oil Raceway elapsed time track record in 2016 with a 3.692 at 316.82 mph. Last year, Millican drove the Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster to an elapsed time of 3.663 at 329.10 mph to reset his own Top Fuel E.T. record at Indy. The only problem: the team was unable to capitalize on the No. 1 spot with round wins.
If the team can put together another dominating qualifying effort along with some win lights, they could be in great shape for a shot at the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Series championship since the points count for 1.5x value before the rankings are reset to kick off the Countdown.
Millican points to fall’s cooler temps as another reason for optimism. “We’re still in the heat of summertime right now,” he says. “Now certainly, we’ve shown we can run in warm or cool weather, but we do think things will swing back in our favor when the temps start dropping every week. It’s weird—while we expect the ETs will pick up for sure, our mph average has remained steady. We ran 332 mph in Sonoma, and our best ever is 335 mph.”
The team will have the Parts Plus car front-halved before conducting one test run on Wednesday followed by four test runs on Thursday. The team will then head home for the weekend and then return rested and ready to go for what Millican calls NHRA’s “World Series, Super Bowl and Daytona 500” all rolled into one—“The Big Go.”
Certainly, for Clay Millican and the Parts Plus Top Fuel team, it’s go time.
NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings (following Brainerd) 1. Steve Torrence, 1,332*; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,145*; 3. Clay Millican, 1,144*; 4. Leah Pritchett, 1,118*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 1,027*; 6. Antron Brown, 1,026*; 7. Terry McMillen, 791; 8. Brittany Force, 787; 9. Scott Palmer, 701; 10. Mike Salinas, 694; (*clinched Countdown spot)
Next Race: Indianapolis, Ind.
Aug. 29–Sept. 3