JOLIET, Ill. — Top Fuel veteran Clay Millican powered to his first win in five years, claiming the victory over Josh Hart on Sunday in the final round of the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway.
Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the sixth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. It was also NHRA’s first race at Chicago’s Route 66 Raceway since 2019.
Millican delivered a run of 3.801-seconds at 328.94 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster to slip past Hart’s 3.808 at 324.28, handing the driver his first victory since 2018, which also took place in Chicago, and Rick Ware Racing its first NHRA win. It’s the fourth career win for Millican, who entered the weekend without a round win in 2023 but knocked off Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta and defending world champ Brittany Force to reach the final round.
Chicago and Route 66 Raceway continued to be a special place for Millican as he enjoyed every moment of his memorable victory on Sunday.
“I still love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’m not done yet,” said Millican, who was 12th in points entering the weekend. “This is huge for this team. We’ve been struggling and it’s been tough. We got all new parts and pieces from Rick Ware, and they believed in us. For a little while, it looked like we were better with the old stuff, but I think we’ve got it figured it out and hopefully we can go out and get some more of these this year.
“My very first (NHRA Top Fuel) race was at this racetrack and 20 years later I won this race. Now 25 years later, we did it again. This group of people never quit and never stop, and they turned this car around flawlessly today.”
Hart reached the final round for the first time this season and fifth time overall with wins against Antron Brown, Jacob McNeal and T.J. Zizzo. Steve Torrence stayed in the points lead in the class.
In Funny Car, Wilkerson picked up his first victory in 33 races, with his run of 3.966 at 325.14 in his 11,000-horsepower SCAG Power Equipment/ Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang enough to get past defending world champion Ron Capps in the final round. It’s the 23rd career win for the fan-favorite veteran and first since the fall Charlotte race in 2021. The thrilling win also gave JCM Racing its first Funny Car win after Wilkerson joined the organization in the off-season.
He reached the final round by racing past Blake Alexander, Alex Laughlin and John Force, making his best run of eliminations in the final round against Capps. The victory also bumped him to fifth in points, with Matt Hagan maintaining the points lead despite a first-round loss.
“I was just thinking I didn’t need to screw this up again,” Wilkerson said. “We made some nice runs all weekend long and my team did a great job, so I can’t really complain about a thing. We’re very excited about this team.
“To be this close to home; I have so many people out there, so this is very exciting. I didn’t have the best car – Capps had a better car than I did all day long – but it worked out better for us in the finals. I did a lot better job tuning than I did driving, but I was consistent, and that’s what we needed to be able to win this race because the track was tricky.”
Capps, who won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, defeated Terry Haddock, Bob Tasca III and Chad Green to reach the final round before his chutes deployed at about half-track against Wilkerson. It’s the third final round appearance for Capps in 2023 and the 143rd in his career. He also moved to second in points.
With his car continuing to perform at a high level, Glenn again made the most of it during Pro Stock eliminations, as the points leader got past Deric Kramer in the final round with a pass of 6.562 at 209.95 in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro. That gives Glenn three wins this season for his KB Titan Racing team and the seventh in his career. After setting a track record to qualify No. 1, Glenn got past Chris McGaha, teammate Greg Anderson and Jerry Tucker on Sunday to reach the final round.
He put together another consistent performance in the final round against Kramer, cruising to another victory and strengthening an already commanding points lead in the loaded Pro Stock category.
“You get a car this good, you just want to capitalize on it,” Glenn said. “I definitely feel like I’ve got a really good car. I didn’t feel like I drove my best today, but luckily it was good enough. It feels good now, but it can change in a heartbeat in this class. We’re just going to try to keep improving because I know all these other teams are trying really hard. We definitely need to step up and keep the hammer down, but I’m definitely enjoying this moment.”
Kramer advanced to his second straight final round this year on the strength of round wins against Mason McGaha, Cristian Cuadra and Aaron Stanfield.
Herrera stayed perfect on the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle, going 6.717 at 201.25 in the final round on his Vance & Hines / Mission Foods Suzuki to beat Chip Ellis and claim his third straight win. As impressive as his first two winning weekends have been, Herrera was on another level in Chicago, putting together a dominant weekend that included shattering the track record by a huge margin with a run of 6.672, qualifying No. 1 and winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.
On Sunday, he finished things off with four strong performances, riding past Ron Tornow, Marc Ingwersen and teammate Eddie Krawiec to reach the final round. He raced past Ellis in the finals, building on his points lead and claiming the victory at his home track, where Herrera was making his first career appearance.
“It gives me a whole lot of confidence having a bike like this,” said Herrera, who made the second, third and fourth-quickest runs in class history this weekend. “This whole Vance & Hines team has this bike on rails and it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. To get a third straight win and do it in front of these friends, it means a lot. I’m so excited about this.
“You couldn’t draw it up any better than this. We’ve got a lot of friends and family here, and it’s a special one. It’s just a dream right now for us.”
Ellis advanced to his 15th career final round thanks to wins against Chris Bostick, rookie Chase Van Sant and Hector Arana Jr.