Terry McMillen may never have a bigger high than winning the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals last season, but a win this weekend at the Virginia NHRA Nationals would taste especially sweet after failing to qualify two weeks ago in Atlanta, his first DNQ in nearly 60 events.
“Not qualifying is certainly something we didn’t expect -- not that we should be immune to it -- but we know we’re better than that,” he said.
“We put a blower on the car for Q1 on Friday in Atlanta that was a couple of pounds down on boost, so we put another one on for Q2, and it was even further down on boost,” he said. “When the car is underpowered like it, it grabs the clutch and you go into shake or tire smoke.
“You can run blowers on the dyno and get a rough number, but you never really can know for sure until it’s running down the track under load. The problem with those blowers turned out to be bad bearings, which prevented the rotors from sealing with the case.
“We weren’t really all that concerned because we knew we had two more chances Saturday. We built a new blower overnight and that one had 52 pounds of boost; we had backed the clutch off to get it down the track in Q3, but the tires were still on fire the moment I stepped on the gas.
“The bump was only 4.31 so I pedaled it, but the tires wouldn’t settle down. The motor came down, but the blower said, ‘No way; I’ve got this’ and it was just too much power and it only ran 4.88. So, even then, we knew that we still could take all of the weight off the clutch for Q4 and that the car would still run a 3.90-something, so we felt good. Then the rain came and we lost Q4 and we were outside looking in. We can’t really blame anyone; we had three shots at it. Lesson learned.”
It was McMillen and Wendland’s first DNQ since the 2016 Reading race, a span of 57 events. McMillen had two DNQs in 2016 after six in 2015, and the team has improved year over year, but the specter of a DNQ looms for every team.
So it was with much relief -- and after rebuilding of their blowers -- that McMillen’s first pass down the Virginia Motorsports Park course was 3.81 that stood no chance of getting bumped out and ultimately put him eighth with first-round lane choice over Billy Torrence.
“It was a good feeling to get that first one down, and the blower has been steady this whole weekend,” he said. “To be honest, that DNQ may just be the reality check we needed. It may end up being a good thing for us, a reminder that we’re not immune to it and we need to make sure that we’re 100% on everything we’re doing.
“Nothing will beat winning Indy, but another win would be nice. The car has been running good and Atlanta was just a little setback. We’ll be fine.”