Tennessee native Millican earns emotional first career victory at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
Clay Millican raced to an emotional first career NHRA Top Fuel victory Sunday at the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at historic Bristol Dragway.
Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) were also winners in their respective categories at the 11th event of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Tennessee native Millican powered his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster to a final round winning performance of 3.825 seconds at 316.38 mph to defeat red-hot Leah Pritchett, who finished in 3.881 at 307.09 in her Papa John's dragster. Millican, a resident of Drummonds near Memphis, became the 103rd different driver to win in Top Fuel. It was his 254th NHRA Top Fuel start and the ninth final round of his career.
"I love what I do," said Millican, who won more than 50 races and six IHRA series crowns before making the move to NHRA full-time in 2007. Since then Millican has raced to multiple final rounds, his most recent in 2013, when he advanced to four finals but failed to win.
"There were times when I wondered if this was ever going to happen," said Millican, while Rocky Top played in the background during his victory celebration in front of an enthusiastic Thunder Valley crowd. "I don't deserve this credit. I'm really happy for [crew chief] David Grubnic and all of the boys who work on this car and I mean that one-hundred percent."
Millican, who battled battled past Kyle Wurtzel, Brittany Force and Steve Torrence en route to the finals, shed some tears during his interview in Winner's Circle when he dedicated his Father's Day victory to the memory of his late son, Dalton, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in August 2015 near his home of Drummonds.
"I believe everything happens for a reason and I know this is how it was supposed to be," said Millican who moved to seventh in points with the victory. "Father's Day is a tough day for anyone who lost a child. Dalton was riding with me. He got me four win lights. There is no such thing as a coincidence. When the time was right it was going to happen. Today the time was right."
Pritchett, who outran Troy Coughlin Jr., Scott Palmer and defending winner Shawn Langdon, moved from third to second with the runner-up finish. No. 1 qualifier Torrence now has possession of the Top Fuel points lead.
Defending Funny Car world champion Capps raced to his fifth victory this season in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T. Capps used a proven car from the past and a holeshot start to earn a victory against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who trailed in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T with a pass of 4.054 at 317.05.
"We've gotten a few lucky rounds, but it's been preparation in the off season," said Capps, who increased his series lead with the win. "We had runs on Sunday against four of the toughest cars, drivers and crew chiefs combined. You read down the list of people we had to beat in a new car that was prepared. There are not very many teams that are that prepared to pull a car out and have a quicker set-up than we were."
With the win, the 55th of his career, Capps tied John Force for the most Funny Car victories at Bristol Dragway, at four apiece.
Capps defeated Alexis DeJoria, Robert Hight and teammate Matt Hagan in earlier rounds before reversing the outcome of the final at Englishtown, N.J. with Beckman one week ago. Beckman reached his second consecutive final of the season by defeating Cruz Pedregon, Courtney Force and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
In Pro Stock, Laughlin clinched his first Wally of the season and second of his career with a perfect reaction time in the finals. He powered his Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.718 at 205.04 to defeat Bo Butner in his Jim Butner's Auto Chevy Camaro. Laughlin is the eighth different Pro Stock winner this season.
"We didn’t really have anything handed to us; we had some good matchups all day," said Laughlin, who beat local favorite Allen Johnson, No. 1 qualifier Jeg Coughlin and rookie sensation and rival Tanner Gray in early rounds. "I definitely feel like I had a point to prove. We have a competitive car on the starting line. I came into this weekend with the confidence to win."
Butner, who increased his series lead with the runner-up finish, lined up against Wally Stroupe and two-time world champion Erica Enders en route to his fourth final round appearance this season.
In other racing Sunday, two-time champ Troy Coughlin raced to the Pro Mod victory and Tii Tharpe earned his second Top Fuel Harley win of the season and first at Bristol. Coughlin drove his turbocharged JEGS.com Corvette past the hard-charging Pontiac Firebird of No. 1 qualifier Shane Molinari to take his 10th career victory and first at Bristol, while Tharpe beat defending world champ Jay Turner in the nitro Harley category.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues at the 11th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 22-25 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Final finish order (1-16) at the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
1. Clay Millican; 2. Leah Pritchett; 3. Shawn Langdon; 4. Steve Torrence; 5. Scott Palmer; 6.Brittany Force; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Mike Salinas; 9. Kebin Kinsley; 10. Tony Schumacher; 11.Terry McMillen; 12. Doug Kalitta; 13. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 14. Chris Karamesines; 15. Pat Dakin; 16. Kyle Wurtzel.
1. Ron Capps; 2. Jack Beckman; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 4. Matt Hagan; 5. Robert Hight; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Courtney Force; 8. John Force; 9. Del Worsham; 10. Alexis DeJoria; 11. Cruz Pedregon; 12. J.R. Todd; 13. Jonnie Lindberg; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Diehl; 16. Bob Bode.
1. Alex Laughlin; 2. Bo Butner; 3. Erica Enders; 4. Tanner Gray; 5. Shane Gray; 6. Jeg Coughlin; 7. Vincent Nobile; 8. Allen Johnson; 9. Jason Line; 10. Greg Anderson; 11. Drew Skillman; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. Wally Stroupe.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Sunday's final results from the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 11th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Clay Millican, 3.825 seconds, 316.38 mph def. Leah Pritchett, 3.881 seconds, 307.09 mph.
Funny Car -- Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.054, 317.05 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.040, 319.29.
Pro Stock -- Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.718, 205.04 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.729, 205.79.
Pro Modified -- Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.878, 253.09 def. Shane Molinari, Pontiac Firebird, 5.881, 254.76.
Super Stock -- Marty Rinehart Jr., Chevy Camaro, 9.980, 129.23 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 8.731, 158.17.
Stock Eliminator -- Jimmy Hidalgo Jr., Pontiac GTO, 10.990, 117.12 def. John Leach, Plymouth Roadrunner, Foul - Red Light.
Super Comp -- David Morris, Dragster, 8.902, 159.89 def. John Labbous Jr, Dragster, 8.891, 171.75.
Super Gas -- Steve Furr, Chevy Camaro, 9.914, 149.75 def. Jacob Elrod, Chevy Corvette, 9.896, 156.34.
Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com -- Clayton Roberts, Chevy Cavalier, 7.542, 180.31 def. Jeffrey Barker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.704, 197.28.
Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com -- Aaron Stanfield, Dragster, 6.370, 210.41 def. Angie Travis, Dragster, 6.288, 213.33.
Top Fuel Harley -- Tii Tharpe, Dixie, 6.549, 205.01 def. Jay Turner, Dixie, 7.603, 134.20.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Final round-by-round results from the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Antron Brown, 3.952, 286.62 def. Pat Dakin, 12.230, 56.62; Clay Millican, 5.313,139.40 def. Kyle Wurtzel, Broke; Shawn Langdon, 4.183, 255.53 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.414, 206.35; Steve Torrence, 4.280, 203.80 def. Chris Karamesines, 8.710, 63.35; Leah Pritchett, 4.378, 186.51 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.497, 189.26; Brittany Force, 3.897, 310.55 def. Terry McMillen, 4.283, 252.19; Scott Palmer, 3.969, 307.16 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.076, 275.96; Mike Salinas, 3.855,320.05 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.850, 317.87;
QUARTERFINALS -- Pritchett, 7.094, 84.32 def. Palmer, Foul - Red Light; Langdon, 4.251, 258.37 def.Brown, 4.310, 263.26; Torrence, 4.000, 309.56 def. Salinas, Broke; Millican, 4.011, 294.18 def. Force, 4.060, 267.85;
SEMIFINALS -- Pritchett, 3.798, 319.90 def. Langdon, 3.901, 308.00; Millican, 3.812, 319.90 def.Torrence, 3.949, 303.57;
FINAL -- Millican, 3.825, 316.38 def. Pritchett, 3.881, 307.09.
ROUND ONE -- Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.132, 255.43 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.305, 240.89; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.367, 233.12 def. Bob Bode, Dodge Charger, Broke; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.985, 322.58 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.461, 105.19; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.387, 233.48 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.307, 105.26; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.172, 303.43 def.Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.302, 275.28; John Force, Camaro, 4.136, 312.42 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.211, 303.43; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.104, 315.34 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.246, 278.75; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.105, 314.17 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 5.901, 122.44;
QUARTERFINALS -- Beckman, 4.321, 276.75 def. C. Force, 4.343, 221.42; Capps, 4.090, 314.31 def. Hight, 4.124, 310.55; Johnson Jr., 4.083, 314.53 def. Wilkerson, 4.220, 262.18; Hagan, 4.202,306.95 def. J. Force, Foul - Centerline;
SEMIFINALS -- Beckman, 4.009, 318.99 def. Johnson Jr., 4.043, 313.29; Capps, 4.045, 314.61 def.Hagan, 5.264, 168.43;
FINAL -- Capps, 4.054, 317.05 def. Beckman, 4.040, 319.29.
ROUND ONE -- Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.761, 204.88 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.735, 205.13; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.752, 205.57 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.765, 203.74; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.743, 204.54 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.748, 204.94; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.736,
204.82 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.758, 204.60; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.742, 205.38 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.807, 203.61; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.714, 205.79 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, Foul- Red Light; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.740, 205.26 was unopposed;
QUARTERFINALS -- Enders, 6.761, 204.88 def. Nobile, 16.442, 49.55; Laughlin, 6.769, 204.54 def. Coughlin, 10.491, 95.69; T. Gray, 6.748, 204.94 def. S. Gray, 6.783, 205.01; Butner, 6.763, 204.76 was unopposed;
SEMIFINALS -- Butner, 6.732, 205.44 def. Enders, 6.745, 205.01; Laughlin, 6.767, 204.48 def. T.Gray, Foul - Red Light;
FINAL -- Laughlin, 6.718, 205.04 def. Butner, 6.729, 205.79.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
1. Steve Torrence, 954; 2. Leah Pritchett, 943; 3. Antron Brown, 934; 4. Tony Schumacher, 801; 5. Doug Kalitta, 678; 6. Brittany Force, 649; 7. Clay Millican, 639; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 443; 9. Scott Palmer, 432; 10. Terry McMillen, 424.
1. Ron Capps, 1,044; 2. Matt Hagan, 881; 3. Jack Beckman, 748; 4. Robert Hight, 707; 5. Courtney Force, 704; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 663; 7. John Force, 641; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 490; 9. J.R. Todd, 476; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 397.
1. Bo Butner, 945; 2. Greg Anderson, 835; 3. Tanner Gray, 830; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 766; 5. Jason Line, 702; 6. Erica Enders, 657; 7. Vincent Nobile, 617; 8. Drew Skillman, 536; 9. Shane Gray, 434; 10. Chris McGaha, 421.