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The Controversial Disqualification of Clay Millican: A Deeper Look into NHRA’s Ruling and its Implications

Clay Millican’s disqualification at the Texas NHRA FallNationals in October 2023 left many questions unanswered. The incident, marked by contradictions in the NHRA rule book and the delayed notification of the ruling, has raised critical questions about the rule itself and how the disqualification notice was handled.

Millican was unable to comment on the incident because he was appealing the ruling, but now the Top Fuel veteran opened up about the disqualification on his YouTube channel and has shared his side of the story. In his detailed account, Millican expressed his bewilderment and frustration, particularly with the rule book’s inconsistencies.

“As permitted in class requirements, any material used for the purpose of adding to the car’s total weight must be permanently attached to the car’s structure and must not extend in front of or behind the rear of the car’s body or above the rear tires,” Millican stated, reading directly from the letter sent by the NHRA. 

“Pay attention,” he paused to say, “no liquid or loose ballast permitted – i.e. water sandbags, shot bags, metal weights, etc. Discovery of loose or disguised ballast will result in disqualification from the event regardless of whether infraction occurs during qualifying or eliminations. Additional penalties may be imposed in the sole absolute discretion of NHRA.”

Millican continued to go on about how the rule started to contradict itself, explaining the rule says no shot bags, sandbags or waterbags. However, it goes on to explain if you choose to use shot bags, this is how to secure them.

The disqualification centered on an incident where a shot bag, used as ballast, became loose during a race. This was not a run-of-the-mill race; the dragster’s front tires were lifting off the ground due to the great track conditions. Millican described what happened in the semi-finals vividly, “The car shook violently, I pedaled it, and the car whipped the front end into the air.”

As a consequence, the shot bag fell out of the front part of the car before the car landed.

“Technically, yes, we broke the rule of loose ballast on the racetrack, but we did not have a normal run,” explained Millican. He considered the incident a “crash,” and so that was the grounds that he and his team used to appeal the ruling. However, his appeal “fell on deaf ears” even after explaining his run was not a normal run since it carried the front end in the air after the starting line. 

The ramifications of this ruling were significant. The disqualification led to a loss of 74 points and imposed a $5,000 fine to Millican. This was more than just a numeric setback; it impacted the team’s standing and financial health. “Those 74 points ended up knocking us out of the top 10 and cost the race team thousands and thousands of dollars,” Millican stated, underlining the real consequences of the incident.

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What adds to the complexity of this case is the delayed communication from NHRA. Millican pointed out, “This letter came October 21 at 7:19 a.m. through my email – six days later. Zero phone calls, no nothing.” The lack of immediate communication not only hindered the team’s ability to respond effectively but also raised questions about the procedural fairness of NHRA’s decision-making process.

Millican’s story brings to light the need for clarity and consistency in the rules governing drag racing. Furthermore, when the shot bag was returned to Millican’s pit, nothing was said by the tech officials. They did ask to look at the chassis since it had been bent from the incident.

“Zero indication that there was going to be a problem with the weight coming out of the car. They didn’t say a word,” he said. “Why weren’t we told the moment that it happened?”

Millican and the officials met in Pomona and talked about it, but nothing ever came from it. “It’s still a little frustrating,” stated Millican.

The contradictions in the NHRA rule book not only caused confusion but also led to a contentious disqualification that could have been avoided with clearer guidelines.

“We wish the outcome had been different, and we certainly wish it had been handled more professionally in a different way,” Millican said. “The procedure needs to be done differently.”

Moreover, the incident underscores the necessity for prompt and transparent communication from governing bodies like the NHRA. Delayed notifications and lack of direct engagement with the teams do not align with the principles of fairness and professionalism expected in any sport.

“The chances of me checking my email were extraordinary that it happened,” said Millican. “What if there had been back-to-back events, and we showed up, and they were like, you owe us $5,000, and you cannot participate? We did not get a courtesy phone call. We did not get the courtesy of the NHRA handing us the shot bag and saying you’re in trouble.”

In conclusion, while Millican acknowledges the breach of rules, his narrative was just the beginning of many disqualifications that cast a shadow on the final events of the 2023 season. 

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.