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Millican Hopes Concord Is His Wally World

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 29 2017

Clay Millican will begin the quest for his first NHRA Top Fuel victory from the pole Sunday in North Carolina. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – At 51 years old, Top Fuel competitor Clay Millican is still searching for his first Wally, the trophy cherished by competitors that signify a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series victory.

Oh, he’s come close with eight runner-up finishes, but the Tennessean who still refers to his parents as Momma and Daddy knows that elusive win could come any weekend despite his team’s size.

“We are this little small team battling these giants,” Millican said Saturday after claiming the No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway. “It is a family team. We’re not part of the club. Brownsburg (Ind., where most of the teams are based) is like a little click. They are the biggest, badest group there is and it is a little club. (But) when Grubby (crew chief David Grubnic) finds something it’s not going to be given away at lunch time or dinner. When we get it, we’ve got it because the only people our boys hang out with is each other. They’re OK with that and so are we.”

Millican’s low e.t. of 3.716 seconds, 325.77 mph, gave him his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position and the seventh of his career. And despite not having a Wally, he is no stranger to drag racing success. In the IHRA, he possesses six Top Fuel championships and 51 victories.

“I know every time we show up at the race track we can win,” said Millican, who formerly drove a forklift. “You would think with eight runner-ups I might not feel this way, but with this car and this team I think every time we go we can win the race. I like my odds

Clay Millican knows he will get a Wally. Perhaps this weekend.

tomorrow (Sunday). It’s a three-round race (because it’s four-wide) and I’ve won a lot of three-round races. I just haven’t won a four. I’m very, very jacked up and ready for tomorrow.”

A win by Millican would be a huge triumph for the little guy in what has become a business of multi-car teams. The race team is housed in owner Doug Stringer’s backyard. It was created after Millican showed up for a charity event even though the two men had talked for years about forming a team. The charity event was in honor of Jason Leffler, who once drove for Stringer.  Once a year Stringer hosts a Midget race at a dirt track he owns near the race shop — Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. Proceeds from the Jason Leffler Memorial go to Leffler’s son, Charlie.

“Doug said they have a party the night before. Can you bring the dragster by there?” Millican said. “He said it was done and over with when he saw that tractor-trailer turn up the driveway. I didn’t know it, but I hit a home run as soon as that thing turned in the driveway.”  

Stringer has fielded teams in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series as well as ARCA. He’s also been associated with sponsor Great Clips and Kasey Kahne throughout his career.  

“It was under the Akins Motorsports banner with Brad Akins, so I bought Brad out or he helped me buy him out, whichever way you want to look at it,” Stringer said. “Both of us have mentors or we wouldn’t be sitting at this table without them.”

It’s family, however, that both men always put first; a bond that has cemented the relationship between Millican and his car owner.

“Our employees are our family. They’re not really our employees,” Stringer said. “Putting our family values first is what makes us successful. All egos are checked at the door.

“Everyone on our team feeds off Clay’s personality. He does smile all the team; his teeth are really bright. When I’m down and out and struggling, fighting a little depression or something, all I have to do is call Clay. He’ll dig me out of the ditch.”

Millican noted it goes both ways, because he can call Stringer and before long they’re laughing.

“I love controlled chaos,” Millican said with a smile.

Final eliminations for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin Sunday at noon. Other No. 1 qualifiers in their respective classes are: Courtney Force, Funny Car, low e.t. 3.851 seconds; Jeg Coughlin, Pro Stock, 6.578; and Jerry Savoie, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6.824.

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CONCORD, N.C. — First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Clay Millican, 3.716 seconds, 325.77 mph  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, 4.404, 230.21  vs.8. Shawn Langdon, 3.760, 318.84  vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.770, 322.73; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.718,322.73  vs. 15. Chris Karamesines, 4.059, 291.57  vs. 7. Brittany Force, 3.745, 324.75  vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.797, 323.81; 3. Antron Brown, 3.720, 328.06  vs. 14. Ike Maier, 3.959, 301.47 vs. 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.740, 324.51  vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.828, 317.12; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.723,329.10  vs. 13. Dom Lagana, 3.883, 311.63  vs. 5. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.729, 321.73  vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.841, 322.27.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Smax Smith, 4.420, 276.69; 18. Luigi Novelli, 6.039, 108.34.

Funny Car — 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.851, 323.27  vs. 16. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.078, 282.07  vs. 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.956, 321.19  vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 323.35; 2. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.873, 333.91  vs. 15. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.050, 309.20 vs. 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.922, 319.52  vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.970, 323.12; 3.John Force, Camaro, 3.889, 328.54  vs. 14. Chad Head, Camry, 4.030, 292.90  vs. 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.904, 324.12  vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.981, 320.51; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.898,331.28  vs. 13. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.027, 294.69  vs. 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.903, 319.07  vs Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.004, 286.62.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Dave Richards, 4.125, 303.16; 18. Jeff Diehl, 4.232, 277.09; 19. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.535, 251.34.

Pro Stock — 1. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.578, 210.24  vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.761, 204.51  vs. 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.612, 209.65  vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.617, 209.14; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.583, 210.37  vs. 15. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.758, 204.63 vs. 7. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 209.85  vs. 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.617, 208.68; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.587, 209.79  vs. 14. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, 6.666, 208.88  vs. 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.594, 210.05  vs. 11. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.631, 208.91; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.591,209.95  vs. 13. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.651, 208.59  vs. 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.593, 210.31  vs.12. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.644, 209.14.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Wally Stroupe, 7.185, 192.85.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.824, 196.30  vs. 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.972, 193.79  vs. 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.880, 194.83  vs. 9. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.881, 194.24; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.835, 196.93  vs. 15. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.952, 192.58 vs. 7. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.879, 194.52  vs. 10. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.882, 194.97; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.845, 195.65  vs. 14. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.948, 192.88  vs. 6.Hector Arana, Buell, 6.873, 195.45  vs. 11. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.895, 192.14; 4. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.852, 194.69  vs. 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.917, 192.80  vs. 5. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.869, 194.69  vs. 12. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.916, 193.60.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Melissa Surber, 6.982, 191.62; 18. Joe DeSantis, 7.018, 188.83; 19. Gunner Courtney, 7.071, 187.63; 20. John Hall, 7.233, 187.68; 21. James Surber, 7.334, 181.52; 22. Andy Simon, 7.441, 179.49.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 29 2017
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