JOLIET, Ill. – After winning on the 20th anniversary of his first Top Fuel start a year ago, things continue to come full circle for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series star Clay Millican at Route 66 Raceway, the site of this weekend’s 22nd annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Millican will pilot an 11,000-horsepower Chicago White Sox/Parts Plus dragster for this weekend’s race, 21 years after he sported a White Sox logo on the side of his dragster for his NHRA Top Fuel debut.
It’s an exciting time for the fan-favorite driver to reminisce, but also an opportunity for Millican to continue his impressive performances at Route 66 Raceway.
With three final round appearances to his credit this year, Millican hopes he can crack through this weekend in Chicago.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Millican said. “I started my Top Fuel career there and going to Chicago always makes me smile. We’re doing a lot of cool stuff for the race and I’m really looking forward to it. The entry list is at 21 Top Fuel cars, we’ll be making runs at night, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. Having the White Sox back with us on the Parts Plus dragster, it’s going to be a special weekend.”
Millican (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event at Route 66 Raceway. It is the ninth of 24 events during the 2019 NHRA season, and the action includes Friday Night On Fire, with the second nitro qualifying session slated to being at 9 p.m. in Top Fuel and Funny Car.
That will give Millican a chance to perform under the lights in the Chicago White Sox/Parts Plus Dragster, an opportunity he is relishing with the way his team, led by crew chief Mike Kloeber, has performed this season. It was a complete overhaul of team members in the off-season as Millican also reunited with Kloeber, but things have worked incredibly well, especially considering the short timeline. Millican advanced to final rounds in Charlotte, Las Vegas and Gainesville, also picking up a No. 1 qualifier at the most recent race in Richmond.
“For the most part, it’s been a total team effort by a group of people who were thrown together very quickly,” Millican said. “Essentially, we were starting from scratch. But these guys have been so dedicated and they’ve shown they want to do this. I’m having a blast and once we got over the first couple races, it’s been so much fun. It’s been a total blast working with Mike again. One thing we’ve not done is win a NHRA race together, so getting a win is taking top priority at the moment.”
It’s a major reason why Millican, who has three career NHRA Top Fuel wins, termed the 2019 season the “Unfinished Business” tour. He hopes to grab his first NHRA Top Fuel win with Kloeber this weekend, while also making a run for his first NHRA world championship after finishing third a year ago. To have success in Chicago, Millican will have to get past the likes of defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence, who has three straight wins, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and veteran Doug Kalitta. But Millican likes what his team has shown this year and believes it will translate well to this upcoming stretch of four straight races.
“This car has been a home run hitter the last few years but we’ve been working on consistency,” Millican said. “What we’re trying to do is make the car go down the track as much as possible. The biggest thing for a small team with four races in a row is making sure we’re careful how we do things. We’re looking out for each other and we race smart because that’s what we have to do, but come race day all bets are off.”