By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
For the first time in five years, Clay Millican is a winner once again in the Top Fuel class in Chicago, the site of his last career win.
It had been quite the experience for Millican in recent years who had been so close but so far in terms of trying to secure a victory, especially for as competitive of a class as Top Fuel has been in 2023.
However, Millican’s luck finally turned around this past weekend by going back to victory lane in a final-round win over a tough competitor of Josh Hart.
Entering race day as the No. 11 qualifier with a 3.769 earned him a match with Team Kalitta’s Shawn Langdon. Before the first round of this match began, Millican entered Chicago having lost five first-round races in a row. Things looked tricky early with Langdon cutting a quicker light of 0.029 compared to Millican’s 0.066. Fortunately for Millican, Langdon was up in smoke as soon as he left the start line.
In E2, Millican faced another Team Kalitta member with it being Top Fuel veteran Doug Kalitta. Millican was able to leave off the Christmas tree first ahead of Kalitta and never trailed for the victory. For the quarterfinals, Millican won with a pass of 3.797 at 328.22 mph over Kalitta’s 5.383 at 135.04 mph. The round victory propelled Millican to the semis.
Like the Top Fuel competition this year, the round races didn’t get any easier for Millican as he faced off against last year’s champion Brittany Force in the semi-finals. Force won over Spencer Massey and teammate Austin Prock. During the semis, Millican again was off the line first and claimed the victory over Force which then saw Millican go to the finals for the first time in quite a while.
It was in the finals where race fans would see Millican square up against Josh Hart. Hart had wins over Antron Brown, Jacob Mcneal, and Tony Zizzo that helped him get to the final round.
As one would expect, the two cut almost similar lights as Millican turned a 0.049 to Hart’s 0.052. The race remained close as it could be down the track with the two dragsters staying side-by-side all the way to the finish line. As the dragsters crossed the finish line, the victory went to Millican by five feet with a pass of 3.891 at 328.94 mph.
“I still love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’m not done yet,” said Millican, who was 12th in points entering the weekend. “This is huge for this team. We’ve been struggling and it’s been tough. We got all new parts and pieces from Rick Ware, and they believed in us. For a little while, it looked like we were better with the old stuff, but I think we’ve got it figured it out and hopefully we can go out and get some more of these this year.
“My very first (NHRA Top Fuel) race was at this racetrack and 20 years later I won this race. Now 25 years later, we did it again. This group of people never quit and never stop, and they turned this car around flawlessly today.”
With Millican achieving the victory, it was the first time ever Rick Ware Racing went to victory lane in the NHRA competition.
Official NHRA Camping World Top Fuel Results
- Clay Millican
- Josh Hart
- Brittany Force
- T.J. Zizzo
- Jacob McNeal
- Leah Pruett
- Doug Kalitta
- Austin Prock
- Kyle Wurtzel
- Tony Schumacher
- Justin Ashley
- Shawn Langdon
- Antron Brown
- Steve Torrence
- Spencer Massey
- Mike Salinas
Official NHRA Camping World Series Top Fuel Point Standings
- Steve Torrence, 437 points
- Brittany Force, -17
- Austin Prock, -27
- Justin Ashley, -31
- Leah Pruett, -34
- Antron Brown, -92
- Josh Hart, -95
- Mike Salinas, -97
- Shawn Langdon, -141
- Doug Kalitta, -144
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will head next to the New England Nationals, scheduled for June 2-4 with Fox Sports 1 broadcasting the eliminations at Noon eastern.