Clay Millican. (NHRA Photo)

Six Years After Breakthrough Bristol Win, Millican Wants Another

It took 254 starts and almost 20 years for Clay Millican to earn a Wally in NHRA Top Fuel competition.

But when the win finally came, it couldn’t have happened any more perfect than it did.

The date was June 26, 2017. The stage was Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, located just inside the border of Millican’s home state of Tennessee. His rivals included Kyle Wurtzel, Brittany Force, Steve Torrence and Leah Pruett as he successfully conquered each round on the elimination ladder.

And, it was Father’s Day weekend.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my drag racing career, and nothing will ever top that,” Millican said as he reflected on the life-changing moment six years later.

The one victory that might’ve come closest occurred just two weekends ago on May 21.

Millican was taking on the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., in his 373rd career start. Heading into the event, the Rick Ware Racing driver was carrying the weight of a five-year winless streak and was anxious to make it past the first round of eliminations for the first time this season.

But Millican did more than simply make the quarterfinals, as he blasted past Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta and Force to secure a spot in the finals.

He staged opposite Josh Hart in the last round, then made a 3.801-second pass to pick up the victory — marking the first triumph for the RWR team in NHRA and the first for Millican in half a decade.

While the breakthrough moments are akin to one another, it’s difficult for the 57-year-old six-time IHRA Top Fuel champion to imagine anything topping the feeling he had that June day at Bristol in 2017. However, that might change this weekend, as Millican stares down the opportunity to pick up three wins at Bristol Dragway this weekend.

With part of last weekend’s New England Nationals being rained out, the event’s elimination day will now take place during Saturday’s qualifying session for the upcoming Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol — creating a rare doubleheader for the Top Fuel and Funny Car fields.

The two classes will take part in eight total elimination rounds — four for each national event — over the weekend.

“You have to drive for the finish line,” Millican said. “Every single run is for a round win. There could be a lot of carnage coming out of that place, because its so many runs that are vitally important.”

Along with the two potential Wallys on the line, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge is also set for Saturday, which will present Millican with a third opportunity to flip a win light and collect a bonus check in the specialty event.

The Top Fuel veteran noted, “It will be so important for you to get the car figured out on that first run, because Friday night under the lights at Bristol, it’s game time.”

Despite the crammed schedule and added intensity, Millican is eager to make the drive to Thunder Valley and attempt to pull off three victories in two days.  

“We got home at 2 a.m. (from New England), now up at 8 a.m. and we’re getting the motorhome packed because it’s doubleheader weekend at Bristol, baby!” Millican said.