LAS VEGAS – Clay Millican’s favorite thing about racing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the overhead rumble from B-52 Bombers, F-16 and F-22 fighter jets, and a variety of other approaching and departing military aircraft from the nearby Nellis Air Force base.
The constant flow of air traffic provides a nice brief diversion from time to time for the popular Tennessee driver as he is intently focused on powering his 8,000-horsepower Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 qualifying position and ultimately a race victory at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Bruton Smith’s state-of-the-art multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just north of the bright lights of Sin City’s main drag.
Millican, who is off to a great start this season, hopes to keep the momentum going at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, April 5-7 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners at the fourth of 24 events that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
While Millican craves the sensory rush he gets from handling the controls of his 320 mph dragster, he says he often daydreams about sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet, flying solo.
“I love the free air show we get when we are there,” Millican said. “I love airplanes and I had a chance to ride with the (U.S. Air Force) Thunderbirds a few years ago and man, it’s just a ton of fun to see all the different types of planes that are going in and out of Nellis (Air Force base) all weekend long. But, Bruton Smith has a great race track over there in Vegas, and that certainly helps you like going out there to race a whole lot, too.”
And lately Millican has been doing a lot of great racing as the driver of a second team car for Bob Vandergriff Motorsports. His team, which is led by crew chief Kurt Elliott, has emerged this season as a top challenger right out of the gate. After losing two very close first round races at Pomona and Phoenix, Millican qualified fourth and advanced to the final round in Gainesville, Fla., ultimately losing a close side-by-side final round to race winner Antron Brown.
“After what we’ve done the first three races, I feel like that first win is so close,” said Millican, who posted his career-best time and speed on his first qualifying attempt of the season at the Winternationals. “My confidence as a driver is way up there because I have a great team behind me and I am enjoying this opportunity.”
With five runner-up finishes on his NHRA resume, Millican is anxious to get that first victory. He’s been a regular on the circuit since 2003 and competed in 150 events.
“I really don’t let the fact that we haven’t won an NHRA race yet eat me up,” Millican said. “That’s not my style. It is the one question that I get all the time, so I hope we can win pretty soon so that question will finally go away.”
Despite the questions, he says he doesn’t feel any added pressure to win.