Clay Millican is known as one of the most excitable drivers in Top Fuel, and as such, his enthusiasm level for the upcoming SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage is pegged to the max. He’s set to arrive at Bradenton Motorsports Park a full week before competition will begin Feb. 8-10. His Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing team will start testing early in the week before joining the 11 other elite Top Fuel teams that will attempt to qualify for the eight-car, $250,000-to-win Top Fuel show.
“Going there knowing that there’s $250,000 on the line, knowing the best cars in the world are going to be there, and having an opportunity to race at Victor’s house is going to be cool,” said Millican, referring to track owner Victor Alvarez. “That is one place that is constantly doing some amazing races. What PRO, Drag Illustrated, and FloRacing have put together is going to be I think the biggest show that we will have seen in who knows how many years. It’s just such a different venue and such a different format. I’m truly pumped about the opportunity to go down there.”
The Top Fuel winner’s share of the $1.3 million in total prize money for the PRO Superstar Shootout is without a doubt on Millican’s mind, but it doesn’t add an intimidation factor. In 2005, Millican won the Rocket City Nationals at Huntsville Dragway, collecting a then-record $101,000 payday and a $5,000 low qualifier bonus. The $250,000 winners’ shares in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the PRO Superstar Shootout are now the largest single-event paydays in professional drag racing history.
“Between the Huntsville deal and my early life as a bracket racer, the dollar figure doesn’t typically bother me when we roll up there and stage for that kind of money,” Millican said. “It’s awesome. We don’t get to race for this kind of money. I’ve done it once at Huntsville and was fortunate enough to win that. I’d be setting here not telling you the truth if I didn’t tell you I’m going to be excited and nervous if we get to that final round. At the same time, I have done it before. I don’t know that that gives me an advantage. That was so long ago. But I’m certainly ready to find out.”
After two and a half solid days of testing, Millican and the rest of the PRO Superstar Shootout drivers will hit the track Thursday evening for the first of four qualifying sessions. The other three sessions will take place on Friday, including a final session in the evening. The idea of two night sessions, plus Saturday’s final round of eliminations under the lights, appeals to Millican.
“That’s one of the things that makes nitro cars so different – the header flames,” Millican said. “Everybody loves header flames. Man, there’s just nothing like these things at night. They’re so awesome at night. I just love that. It’s going to be like a throwback for me to some of our late-night runs in the IHRA days.”
Millican is one of the most experienced drivers in the class as a 26-year Top Fuel veteran. But that doesn’t mean he’s set in his ways. He’s all about trying new things, such as the random chip draws that will be used to determine matchups in eliminations.
“That’s what this whole event is about – let’s do things different than what we’re used to doing,” Millican said. “I love that challenge. It’s a little bit like when the four-wides were brand-new and everyone was having trouble. I love mixing things up.”
While the PRO Superstar Shootout is the first time that modern-day nitro cars have competed at Bradenton, Millican has been down the Florida Gulf Coast track numerous times. He won an IHRA national event in Modified Eliminator there in 1998. A few years later, he returned in his Top Fuel dragster for an MSD ignition test session. Around 20 years later, he’ll return once again with a Top Fuel entry capable of 330-plus MPH passes.
“I’ve never made full rips at Bradenton in a Top Fuel car, but I have staged up and launched a Top Fuel car at Bradenton,” Millican said.
As a special one-off event to start the season, the PRO Superstar Shootout will allow teams the opportunity to step outside the box when it comes to paint schemes, content creation, and other areas. Millican teased that his Rick Ware Racing team will take full advantage of that opportunity.
“We’ve got something cooking that the majority of car people are not going to believe it and they’re gonna want to come and see it,” Millican said. “You won’t want to miss it.”
Along with Top Fuel, the inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by JHG will feature $250,000-to-win Funny Car and $125,000-to-win Pro Stock, FTI Top Sportsman, Stock, and Super Stock. Off-track entertainment will include live music, a vendor village, autograph and Q&A sessions, and more.