Recent first-time NHRA Top Fuel winner Clay Millican in the media center.
Posted by Drag Illustrated on Friday, June 23, 2017
NHRA Driver Clay Millican Talks Emotional Win Bristol
We had the amazing opportunity to be on hand last weekend to witness one of the most amazing moments in recent drag racing history. Drummonds, TN native and Team Speed Society driver Clay Millican had spent nearly two decades chasing his first NHRA event victory. Millican, who wears a genuine, contagious smile on his face at all times, had competed in well over two hundred events without a win coming into the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals as the historic Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee, where he and his crew faced sweltering heat, intermittent rain delays, and the staunchest of competition in the lush northeastern Tennessee hills. Nine times before Clay had raced his way into the finals, and nine times he’d been denied.
This time, things just felt… different. One key event that took place during eliminations, which took place on Father’s Day, was a fan coming out of nowhere to hand Clay a small motocross chest protector. Scribbled on that chest protector was the autograph of Dalton Millican, the son Clay and his wife Donna lost in a motorcycle accident in August of 2015. Fighting a lump in the throat, Clay listened as the fan explained further. “Your son signed this for my son, and he told my son this was the first autograph he’d ever signed.” While such an emotional exchange might have broken the concentration of other drivers, Millican said the opposite was true in his case. “From then on, it was just easy.” Millican said of the last two rounds of eliminations.
However, watching from the outside of the Great Clips/Parts Plus/UNOH-sponsored machine, it looked much less easy. Steve Torrence, racing from the #1 spot on the qualifying ladder, is never an easy opponent and his solid 3.94 would have been more than enough to win had Clay slipped at any point. However, Aussie tuner David Grubnic had the tuneup locked down and Clay guided the earth-bound rocket ship to a 3.81 elapsed time, a stellar run for the thick, humid conditions. Awaiting Clay in the finals, the gold Papa Johns machine driven by fellow Team Speed Society driver Leah Pritchett, who had led the points chase most of the season thanks to having won three races already this season. Knowing they were facing stiff competition, Grubnic again formulated a perfect tuneup and the final was a stellar race, with Clay taking the win by a nose, 3.82 to Pritchett’s 3.88.
When Millican and Co. rolled into Summit Motorsports Park for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the press was eager to pepper him with questions. Our partners at Drag Illustrated were on hand to record the awesome interview, which we have shared below. All of us here at Speed Society wish Clay, David, car owner Doug Stringer and the whole team the best of luck as they look to keep their momentum this weekend in Norwalk. Y’all Stomp On That Loud Pedal!!! #POWPOW