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Clay Millican knocks out Steve Torrence in thrilling first round

There is a new leader in Top Fuel for the first time since April after Clay Millican scored an upset victory in the first round.
15 Sep 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Race coverage
Clay Millican

Clay Millican delivered a holeshot victory to the Parts Plus Top Fuel team in the first round at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. That means there is a new leader in the Top Fuel clubhouse for the first time since the 2019 NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

Doug Kalitta, who entered the NHRA Countdown to the Championship as the No. 2 seed, earned a first-round victory and now sits atop the standings. He was also the last leader not named Steve Torrence after winning the 2019 Winternationals and reaching the final in Las Vegas. Torrence took over the lead in Charlotte in 2019 and only grew it on the way to claiming the No. 1 seed in the Countdown. 

That top spot on the standings disappeared when Millican moved first on the starting line and earned a victory by a .007-second margin. He is still looking for his first victory of the season and, perhaps more importantly, as many points as he can get his hands on after entering race day seventh in points. 

"I'm just so happy for this entire Parts Plus team," said Millican "This track is so historic. I can't believe we just won that. Forget the holeshot thing, this is a team thing and I've won and lost on holeshots so that doesn't matter. I'm just so happy for everybody on this team."

Kloeber, who made major clutch disc changes after a first-round loss at the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals, did not mince words after the victory. 

READ MORE: Kloeber prepared to race with his car, not his mouth in the Countdown

"Clay works out so hard at home with his physical and mental preparation," said Kloeber. "That is a huge holeshot win and I couldn't be happier for the entire team. We sucked all through qualifying and that is a huge win in the Countdown. Money is on the line right now and it matters."

Sucks may be an exaggeration, but after qualifying in the No. 9 spot and drawing the defending world champion, Kloeber knew he had his work cut out for him. The team prevailed and will face the 2017 world champion in the second round: Brittany Force. The road to the first win, and climbing up the standings, is difficult.