Despite a recent frustrating stretch, Terry McMillen still has the same goals he did at the start of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. A span of five straight first-round losses has slowed that early-season momentum, but McMillen, who got back into the win column with a round-win in Norwalk, is steadfast in what he wants to accomplish in 2017 in his 10,000-horsepower Amalie Motor Oil Xtermigator dragster.
“Our goal is to finish in the top 10 and get our first Wally, and we want to do it sooner rather than later,” McMillen said. “Our motivation is no more first-round losses.”
McMillen gets that chance for his first winner’s circle celebration at his home track, Route 66 Raceway, at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by K&N Filters, July 6-9. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 3 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 9.
It is the 13th of 24 events in 2017, marking the start of the second half of the season and what McMillen hopes will be a productive run to his first Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship berth. McMillen currently sits in eighth in the loaded Top Fuel class, his highest points position this season. Sitting 121 points ahead of former world champion Shawn Langdon, McMillen will look to give himself some cushion with a strong performance in Chicago.
“We’re really motivated and the guys have been putting in a lot of hours making sure everything is in check,” said McMillen. “We’re making strides with the new tune-up. The mishap in Epping was a setback, and you have to find the sweet spot for these parts. We just have to get back in the swing of things. We’ve had a successful season and come a long way, but we have to do whatever it takes to get those points coming in. Our work is cut out for us, but I’m confident.”
McMillen has seen massive improvements with a team that was relatively inexperienced a season ago. But they have grown immensely under the tutelage of crew chief Rob Wendland, and McMillen is now consistently running in the 3.7s, a huge step from a season ago.
McMillen, though, knows progress can’t stop in a Top Fuel class featuring standouts like points leader Steve Torrence, back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, three-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, and Bristol winner Clay Millican. He believes the team is on the verge of something special if they keep at their current pace, and having success not far from where the Chicago-area native grew up would be an added bonus.
“Chicago is rich in the racing business, and it’s just a really special place,” McMillen said. “The fans are the best, and it’s definitely one of those showcase tracks. It’s a palace and awesome-looking, and I always look forward to going back and seeing friends and family. But we want to compete. The entire team has a desire to be successful, and they understand we’re contenders. They’ve elevated their game, and I’m confident we’re going to pick it up and get back to being a contender.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. on Friday, July 7, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 8, at 3:15 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, July 9.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 888-629-RACE (7223) or 815-722-5500. Tickets also are available online at www.route66raceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.