First and foremost, Clay Millican is feeling much better after an inner-ear infection forced him to withdraw from the recent Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk. For those who might not remember, Millican made a qualifying attempt on Friday in the Parts Plus dragster but aborted the run early because as he put it, “I just didn’t feel right”. Out of an abundance of caution, Millican withdrew from the event, while fill-in driver Austin Prock stepped up and delivered a very impressive semifinal performance.
Millican has had two weeks to recuperate and arrived in Denver for this week’s Dodge/SRT NHRA Mile-High Nationals feeling rested and ready to resume the battle in Top Fuel.
“I feel 100-percent better,” Millican said. “I definitely feel like I’m back to normal, or at least as normal as I can be. You can’t really replicate the feeling you get from driving one of these cars, so I might shut off early on the first run tonight [Friday] but I do feel like I’m good to go.”
Looking back, Millican says his decision to step out of the car in Norwalk was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever had to make. He’s also convinced that it was the right decision.
“What I did was for the betterment of the sport,” he said. “The last thing I’d ever want to do is go out there and have a problem and get hurt or hurt someone else. It’s funny because I’ve driven with broken bones. I’ve driven with stitches. I even drove once with an IV bag attached to me because I was dehydrated.”
Those who know Millican will have an easy time believing that there wasn’t a hint of jealousy watching someone else drive the car that he’s wheeled for more than a decade.
“When Austin got to the semifinals I thought it was awesome,” Millican said. “I was really excited for our team. I was excited for him to get the chance to drive. Of course, he’s a great driver and he deserves every opportunity he gets. It was also great to see my guys have a successful weekend after they’ve worked so hard.”
Beginning with this weekend’s Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals, Millican has his work cut out for him because following his absence in Denver, he’s fallen out of the top ten. Fortunately for Millican, the mountain he’s facing it’s quite as tall as the peaks that surround Bandimere Speedway. He is currently 40 points behind No. 10 ranked Josh Hart and Hart isn’t racing this week. There are also just 13 cars on the entry list in Denver so Millican is guaranteed to earn 32 points just by making a single qualifying attempt. Of course, he’s after more than that. Much more.
“We proved in Norwalk that this can be a really good car and we generally run well here in Denver so I’m really hopeful,” said Millican who has earned a pair of semifinal finishes of his own this season in Las Vegas and Houston. He’s also qualified as high as No. 4. “We got to the final here in 2019 and lost to Stevie [Torrence] by less than a hundredth. I love racing here. Yes, it’s a challenging place to race but the fans are awesome and so is the Bandimere family.