Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Indianapolis, Ind.
(August 27-September 1)

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Clay Millican
Parts Plus dragster

Confidence level up as Millican prepares for U.S. Nationals

Indianapolis, pre-race: It was supposed to be a low-key, get-back-in-the-groove kind of race weekend for Clay Millican, team owner Mark Pickens and the Hope4Sudan/Lend American/Nitro Fish Top Fuel team at Reading, Pa.

It became, instead, quite an inaugural event for this invigorated team from the Memphis, Tenn. area when Millican advanced to the semifinals before losing a very close race to reigning series champion Tony Schumacher.

So much for sneaking up on the competitors at the U.S. Nationals, August 29-September 1, at O’Reilly Motorsports Park in Indianapolis.

“We went to Reading thinking if we qualified we would’ve had a successful weekend,” said Millican, of Drummonds, Tenn.  That race provided four qualifying runs and three more in eliminations in national event conditions and became much better than a test session.

Millican acknowledged the team’s performance was more successful than they expected. Crew chief Lance Larsen’s diagnosis of track conditions was spot-on.  Millican’s worst run of the weekend came, appropriately enough, in his opening qualifying lap.

His reaction times didn’t suffer, either. He won the quarterfinal match against J.R. Todd on a holeshot, a .039-second reaction to a .077 in 3.994 seconds to 3.963.  Millican left first in the semifinals against Schumacher and came up short by nine-thousandths of a second.

The U.S. Nationals is acknowledged as NHRA’s premier event and the team wants to continue its impressive outings at Indianapolis. 

“We know we have to go really quick there just to qualify,” said Millican.  “This race will give Lance a great opportunity to make the car go quicker in many different track conditions and temperatures.  We had a new car going into Reading; it was the first time we’ve run it.  And it was the first time we’ve used the new (2008) tire.

“On the flip side of that though, now we go to Indy looking to do well.  And we want to do well for Lend America, our new associate sponsor for this race.  We aren’t in test mode anymore ... we’ll just go there and race.’

Idled in March by a sponsor situation, Millican wasn’t certain he’d be back driving the dragster this season, or any more seasons.  He occasionally mentioned he could return to his former job of driving a fork lift for a large super market chain if he was sidelined.  But Pickens and his family stepped in and bought the race team. 

Now Millican hopes to repay them with round wins and, ultimately, a national event victory. The U.S. Nationals Top Fuel championship trophy would be great for starters.

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