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Swinging Singles Torrence, Millican Duking It Out

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 13 2018

Top Fueler Clay Millican is a team of one in the NHRA but it sure has not slowed him down this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – NHRA Top Fuel drivers Steve Torrence and Clay Millican don’t have hundreds of employees, but Torrence hopes that the fact they’re the top two in the standings with their single-car operations will be inspirational to others.

“We’re saying, hey, you don’t have to be a multi-car team to be competitive or even be dominant,” Torrence said during preparations for Sunday’s Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. “Both of us have had some pretty dominant race cars over this last season and I take pride in seeing that. I take pride in knowing that we put this team together and we’re going out there and we’re going toe-to-toe with Schumacher, with Kalitta, with Force, with all of those power houses, and winning.”  

Torrence said the performance by his team and Millican’s was “big for the sport,” because it shows a person can do it on his or her own; that buying a ride isn’t the only option.

“I don’t mean that derogatory in any way,” Torrence said. “It takes a lot of time, effort, energy, just sacrifice to get there on your own, but when you do, the sense of accomplishment is much greater.”

Entering the Carolina Nationals, Torrence led Millican by 103 points. The Kilgore, Texas, resident possessed eight victories for the season. He also has swept the

Steve Torrence is doing well as a lone ranger in Top Fuel. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Countdown to the Championship, winning the first three events in the six-race playoffs. At zMAX Dragway, Torrence was low E.T. through the first three qualifying rounds. He was relegated to second Saturday afternoon by defending Top Fuel champion Brittany Force in the final round of qualifying. Force posted an E.T. of 3.700 seconds, while Torrence’s was 3.704. Torrence maintained the distinction of top speed at 331.53 mph.

Millican added two victories to his racing resume this year. The Drummonds, Tenn., resident was third fastest in qualifying.

When Force bumped Torrence from the No. 1 position, it put Torrence and Millican on the same side of Sunday’s elimination ladder. That means they could meet in the semifinal round. And that could be quite interesting since Torrence believes he and Millican have the same approach each week. Neither driver worries about the other, choosing instead to focus on their own team’s performance.

“It’s crunch time,” Torrence said. “We need to just be consistent, maintain and execute. The good Lord knows the plan. It’s just for me and Clay to fight it out. I want to win, but if he wins, I’ll be really happy for him.

“There’s some people out here I just point blank don’t like, but Clay Millican ain’t one of them. He’s a good buddy of mine. It’s pretty fun to be racing him. That sucker is like a little ol’ bitty raccoon. You can’t get him to go away.”

Millican noted his team purchased a “starter kit” from Torrence so he could begin competing in the NHRA Top Fuel class.

“We bought a complete car four years ago and when I say a small team, we are a very, very small team,” Millican said. “We don’t have what the other guys have. When we pack up at our shop and leave (for an event), the only thing left in the building is a drill press and a bandsaw. There are no CNC machines, no mill, no lathe. We do it with people and we’ve got really good people.”

Torrence said Millican had told him the battle between the two of them would be “a heavyweight battle to the end.”

“I said, ‘Clay, obviously, you haven’t looked at us,’” Torrence said. “I mean, I’m a little thick, but ain’t nothing on you is heavy.”

Millican is 5-foot-8 and weighs 145 pounds. Torrence weighs 150 pounds and is 5-foot-7.

“It’s a band of misfits over there (Millican’s team) and it’s a band of misfits over here where I’m at,” Torrence said. “They may not be the best, but they’ve got the biggest heart of the whole place. When you have a smaller, family-feel environment and people are willing to do what it takes to win because they’re appreciated and they’re a part of something bigger, it’s really pretty neat. It’s unbelievable to be in the middle of it and see it happen. It’s really special.”

In the other classes Saturday, Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. claimed the No. 1 position in the final qualifying round with low E.T. of 3.873 seconds. Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force posted the top speed at 330.72 mph. Drew Skillman followed the same pattern in Pro Stock, taking the No. 1 position in the last qualifying round with a low E.T. of 6.509 seconds. Standings leader Tanner Gray recorded top speed at 212.33 mph. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec moved into the No. 1 position in the second qualifying round and never relinquished it. His E.T. was 6.806 seconds. Hector Arana Jr. posted the top speed at 199.29 mph.  

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 13 2018
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