Clay Millican and his crew didn’t finish first in Gainesville on Sunday, March 17th. Despite reaching a higher top speed and leading for the first half of the race, Richie Crampton managed to pull out a victory.
But don’t expect the Drummonds, Tennessee native to dwell on the near miss. For Millican and Co., the second-place finish at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals was a good indicator of progress.
When Millican parted ways with crew chief David Grubnic and reunited with Mike Kloeber last November, it was reasonable to expect a learning curve.
After finishing 10th at the Lucas Oil Winternationals and 11th at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals, finishing near the top at the Gatornationals was a much-needed confidence booster going into the meat of the season.
New Crew, Big Shoes to Fill
No matter how many wins one has, and Mike Kloeber has quite a few under his belt, David “Grubby” Grubnic left some big shoes to fill.
Under his wrench, Millican became one of the most exciting racers in the Top Fuel series. Millican and Grubnic picked up their first win in 2017. The pair picked up two more in 2018 and finished third overall for the season.
That success and the historic success of Kloeber and Millican together meant that expectations were sky high coming into the season.
But even the eternally-glass-half-full Millican gave measured expectations.
“Change is a scary word as fear of the unknown can keep people from moving forward,” said Millican in an interview with Speed Sport. “But I’ve fully embraced this change even with the valleys and hills that are expected in the process.”
Putting it Together
If the Gatornationals were any indication, however, Millican and his new crew are moving forward pretty quickly.
Though 18 inches stood between the PartsPlus/Strutmasters.com driver and his first win, he looked like vintage Clay in Gainesville. Millican displayed the fearlessness and uncanny timing that has made him a star in two leagues.
Even casual observers of the sport know that there is only one goal for Millican and Kloeber this season. An NHRA championship.
In an interview late last year, Kloeber put it about as plainly as it could be put:
“Getting a call from Doug Stringer with the opportunity to race with this team provides a path to conclude some unfinished business for us all," said Kloeber. Winning a NHRA Mello Yello Championship.”
Millican himself has outright stated that goal that he and his crew all share.
In a recent interview with dragracingonline.com, Clay said, “Mike and I have done and accomplished most everything you can think of in drag racing. We won six straight world championships, we have elapsed time and mile-per-hour records, you name it we have done it. But the only thing we haven’t done is, win an NHRA National event championship in Top Fuel. That’s our unfinished business.”
Clay and Co. came one step closer to finishing that business in Gainesville. The racing world is on the edge of its seat waiting to see the next one.