Millican Hanging On For Dear Life
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
In a conversation which lasted almost 20 minutes, NHRA driver Clay Millican waved off at least four questions concerning the pressure of his current situation.
He said he doesn’t feel any pressure these days, never has felt pressure in drag racing and that any pressure that may be seeping into his thought processes right now is good pressure.
So, he politely said earlier this week, please don’t even ask about it.
“I just don’t believe in pressure,” Millican said.
That’s probably a very healthy attitude because beginning Friday at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, things like Millican’s season and, perhaps, career, will be on the line every time the tree lights up for one of his Top Fuel runs.
Millican will fire up his LifeLockracing.com dragster at Brainerd sitting in the 10th-place slot in the Top Fuel standings – that is, the 10th and final place in the standings when it comes to making this year’s Countdown to the Championship playoff.
He is just 44 points in front of Joe Hartley and with just three races left until the start of the six-race Countdown, one smoked tire could mean one smoked season for Millican.
Were this football or basketball or even NASCAR, Millican might be pondering the question of whether to play offense or defense for the next three weekends.
But this is drag racing and for Millican, at least, there are no options when it comes to game plans.
“Can’t think about it that way,” Millican said of formulating a master plan for the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd and then the Toyo Tires Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania and then the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
“Unlike NASCAR, I can’t slide over into the other lane and bump somebody out of the way to gain position. So what we got to do is just maintain our focus on our car. We can’t affect what they do, we can’t affect who we race. The whole truth of the matter is we just got to simply got to go down the race track just as quick and fast as we can.
“Offense or defense? I can just say we are going to be aggressive. To win these races you’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to be the quickest car on every run.”
But there is the fact that in drag racing, being overly aggressive can turn into big trouble. Especially for a team in the situation which Millican and his find themselves.
And especially when it comes to setting the cars up, as crew chief Lance Larsen will be doing this week.
“Absolutely,” Millican said when asked if Larsen and his guys can take a more or less aggressive approach to tuning. “You can back the car down a little bit and make sure that you are going to go down the race track.”
“The problem with that is, most likely you’re not going to turn on many win lights if you’re playing conservative. There are times on hot race tracks where you conserve a little bit and just try to make sure you get down the track. The name of this game is to make sure you make fewer mistakes than the other guy when it comes to race day. If you do it right, the win light will come on. If you don’t, you’re going to have the tires loose and smoking and when that happens, pretty much all you can do is hope the other guy is smoking the tires too and you hope he did it sooner than you did.”
The weather forecast for Brainerd is hot on Friday (90s) and cooler on Saturday (80s) and Sunday (70s). Cool is good at this time of the year. It makes attaining uniform traction easier.
“Pedal fests are fun to watch and to be honest with you, they are fun to be in,” Millican said, “but only when your win light comes on. So much of our tire-smoking battle is usually who smokes the tires last, wins.”
But again, no pressure when it comes to any of that for Millican.
“Obviously Joe Hartley and his family are hanging in there and we’re doing the same and that’s all we can do,” Millican said.
But a good weekend at Brainerd sure would make hanging in there a lot easier.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment