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Millican looking to add more Bristol memories

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 14, 2019 at 5:17 PM

BRISTOL — Clay Millican is looking to score his second NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals victory this weekend, although he knows nothing will come close to that first win.

Capturing his first NHRA Top Fuel victory after nearly two decades of trying and coming less than two years after the death of his son Dalton in a motorcycle accident, Millican let the tears flow after the most emotional victory imaginable. As a bonus, it came at Bristol Dragway, his favorite track.

“It took me 19 years, 250-some starts and all the runner-ups before everything worked out,” Millican said. “There will never be in my lifetime a bigger win that what I had here in 2017. It’s by far my favorite place to go drag racing. I love this place. I’ve told the story thousands of times now about that Sunday here with a little delay and getting my first win on Father’s Day after the loss of a child.”

Millican lives in the opposite corner of the state, in the Memphis suburb of Drummonds. Still, he considers Bristol his home track as Millican is proud to be a lifelong Volunteer. He followed up the 2017 victory by being the No. 1 qualifier for last year’s event.

“It’s the most picturesque place we go to. I’m a homer, a Tennessee boy, who has never lived anywhere else or intend to live anywhere else,” Millican said. “I love coming here because there’s not a more beautiful drive than coming across the state.”

Since that inaugural win, Millican has added two more victories. He reached the final round at Gainesville for the 50th anniversary of the Gatornationals earlier this year. Currently sixth in the Top Fuel division, he’s like everyone else, chasing Steve Torrence, who comes to Bristol with a five-race winning streak.

He doesn’t believe he needs to run quicker times to win, but be better getting down the track.

“What we’re looking for is the consistency,” Millican said. “Our goal is to make the car go down the track consistently. It’s hard to run those crazy low et’s, but what turns on the win lights are the consistent runs down the track. We’re seeing that with Steve Torrence now. Yes, he’s had a couple of No. 1 qualifiers, but he’s kicking everyone’s tail by going down the race track.”

Millican is no stranger to that kind of success. While he has a trio of NHRA wins, he ranks as the winningest Top Fuel driver in IHRA history. During a streak from 2001-06, he won 52 races and six world championships. He was recently reunited with that era’s crew chief, Mike Kloeber, in trying to duplicate that success.

“You get to a point where you think you can do no wrong,” Millican said. “Eventually, you get to a spot where you don’t want to do anything wrong and be the one on the team responsible for breaking that incredible streak. I appreciate what Steve is doing.

“Here he is five races in a row. It’s hard to get that momentum going. What they’re doing is unreal. They have an amazing team to race his daddy last week in Topeka. But anyone can be beat and their streak will come to an end, but it sure is fun when you’re doing it.”

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