Three aborted qualifying runs and a round one loss was not at all how Terry McMillen wanted to start the Western Swing but the Amalie Top Fuel driver knows a thing or two about battling adversity so he’s prepared to take his lumps and move on to the next one. After Denver, there are just four events left before the playoff field is set including the points-and-a-half Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. McMillen has bounced around the bump spot for most of the summer and he’s currently in tenth place, 20-points ahead of rookie Austin Prock, and 11-points behind ninth-ranked Scott Palmer.
“We’ve been here before and I’m not at all discouraged,” said McMillen. “We’ve got a good car. We know we can win races. We just need to get on the same page. We’ve struggled at the last few races, but it’s not one thing that’s been getting us. It’s a variety of things. One of those things we’ve been working on is the steering. We’ve put new bushings in the rack and pinion. I like a tight feel to the steering, but that’s not all. We’ve just had some other issues that we’re addressing.”
Top Fuel cars can be temperamental on their own, and when you take one to Denver, where the conditions differ vastly from any other track on the tour, it can make a difficult job seem impossible. Despite the best efforts of crew chief Rob Wendland to cure the team’s ailments, McMillen didn’t make a full run in qualifying and wound up No. 14. A 4.11 on race day was an improvement, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get past rookie Jordan Vandergriff’s competitive 3.830.
“We changed a lot last night, and got the same result,” said McMillen. “I’ve never had a good handle on Denver. It’s such a tough place to race. I wanted to have a better weekend, obviously, but sometimes I’m happy just to get out of here without hurting a bunch of parts and then get out to Sonoma and see what we can do once we get back to sea-level.”
A year ago, McMillen struggled through the Western Swing, but his fortunes changed dramatically when he won the U.S. Nationals to lock up a berth in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.