Clay Millican. (NHRA Photo)

A ‘New Ballgame’ For Millican, RWR Heading To Gainesville

When it comes to involvement in motorsports, it’s difficult to find a team name more spread across the racing world than Rick Ware Racing.

Already established in the NASCAR Cup Series, RWR has expanded to the NTT IndyCar Series, IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, World Supercross, American Flat Track and NHRA.

While their NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series team didn’t hit the dragstrip until last August at the historic U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, it’s not slowing their process to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Top Fuel category. 

Longtime Top Fuel driver Clay Millican was tapped to pilot the No. 51 dragster, bringing a veteran presence to the newly established team. 

With seven events last year and a full offseason together to compile parts and prepare, the pairing has Millican exuberant over the possibilities of a new season. 

“Well, I can tell you this: It’s been many, many years since I have seen so many brand new parts,” Millican said. “Just the expanse of the whole Rick Ware Racing is just unbelievable.”

Based out of Mooresville, N.C., the RWR team is seeing everything filter through the facility at a rate Millican feels he hasn’t experienced since he was lighting up the IHRA scene, where he scored six Top Fuel championships. 

“All the parts and pieces that we have lined up, I feel like we can really go out there and challenge this year and not have to worry about, ‘Do we have an engine to make the next run or not?’ So this is kind of a new ballgame for me,” Millican said. 

“It reminds me back of when we were able to do that back in my IHRA heyday. So I’m excited and pumped and ready to go. What Rick’s doing is pretty dang awesome.”

Millican will get his first crack at a Wally this weekend at the Gatornationals. (NHRA Photo)

A sense of relief for Millican heading into the season is the stability of the RWR organization, after the team locked him into a contract that carries through the 2025 season.

With a promising second-half of last season that saw the Tennessee native clinch a berth in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship and finish eighth, the air around the RWR facility only builds. 

“Well, I don’t know if that makes my job easier or harder. The expectations are probably pretty dang high,” Millican admitted. “We finished in the top 10 and we certainly intend on finishing higher than we did.

“I have got to say, Rick is one of the most enthusiastic guys, and then you would think with all the other things he’s got going on, that it would be easy to not put too much attention on the drag race team. But his focus has been unbelievably high on that dragster, and I think he will just continue to do so.

“Our move to the Charlotte area, I think is a big one,” Millican continued. “Brownsburg (Ind.) obviously is kind of the center of everything nitro but the resources in that area, I think will eventually put us ahead of the game,” Millican continued.

“A little part here and there will become better for us, and I think what Rick’s doing is pretty dang crazy. I don’t know how he keeps up with what he does, but I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

A perk of having an owner in virtually every form of motorsports, is the opportunity to experience new events. 

For 57-year-old Millican, an invite to the 24 At Daytona by his owner, Ware, brought an unexpected conversation for the RWR driver. 

“I’m walking through toward the starting grid area for the 24 Hours of Daytona, and this guy walked up and introduced himself. He’s like, ‘Hey, my name’s Jimmie Johnson, I just want to let you know that I love watching you guys.’

“I’m thinking to myself, first of all, it’s Jimmie Johnson, seven time NASCAR champion, he really doesn’t need to introduce himself,” Millican recalled. “And two, he actually knew who I was, which just blew me away.” 

As Millican looks to make noise during this weekend’s season-opening Gatornationals at Florida’s Gainesville Raceway, maybe some of Johnson’s “seven-time” magic will rub off on the drag racing veteran.