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Top Fuel’s Clay Millican After More Chicago Magic at Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals

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Route 66 Raceway has always been a special venue for Top Fuel fan-favorite Clay Millican. It was the site of his first-ever NHRA Top Fuel event and also an event he won in 2018.

Then came last year for the veteran, who broke a winless streak of nearly five years when he won in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series’ return to the massive Chicago facility. Last season’s victory at the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance propelled another successful season, and Millican would love to replicate that at this weekend’s event at Route 66 Raceway.

He enters this race with significantly more momentum than he did last year, coming off a final-round appearance in Charlotte in his 11,000-horsepower Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster two weeks ago. A season ago, Millican had not yet won a round when Chicago arrived. He turned that around quickly with a memorable performance in NHRA’s Chicago return, yet another instance of Millican magic at Route 66 Raceway.

“That racetrack and I have had a special bond over the years,” Millican said. “Going into that race last year, we were obviously struggling. Something happened between Saturday and Sunday, and it was the beginning of our good run. That Sunday was pretty dang epic for everyone on our team.

“Having been gone from Chicago for a few years, for the people in that area, it was like an old friend showing up. It was a great crowd and hopefully we just continue that trend. Last year came out great and it was a heck of a return to a beautiful facility.”

Millican (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won in Chicago last year, while Justin Ashley, Ron Capps and Gaige Herrera secured Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge titles. Camrie Caruso won the first-ever Callout in Pro Stock a season ago. It is the sixth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA season and this weekend’s race will again be broadcast on FS1, showcasing a jam-packed weekend that includes four qualifying sessions, the GETTRX Pro Stock All-Star Callout and the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday.

Millican will have a chance to double-up with the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday and then defend his Top Fuel win from a year ago. It was one of three victories Millican picked up last year as his team made significant steps. That bodes well for this season in an absolutely loaded Top Fuel field that will feature 22 cars in Chicago.

Among the contenders are points leader Justin Ashley, defending world champion Doug Kalitta, Steve Torrence, Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher and Top Fuel newcomer Tony Stewart. Millican, though, believes his team is among the elite teams and this weekend is another chance to prove that.

“It’s always a thing of thinking you can win versus you actually doing it,” Millican said. “What winning does is just a confidence thing. This team, they’ve got the confidence and there’s no doubt in their mind anymore. I am way more excited about where we are this year (going to Chicago) than where we were last year when we had not won a single round.

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“(This year), the car started coming around in Vegas and in Charlotte, we made two personal-best speed runs for everyone on this team (337.66 mph and 337.92 mph), which tells you the engine is good. I’m pretty confident with how we’re going to do the rest of the year. It’s just come together quicker than it did last year.”

In Funny Car, Austin Prock’s debut season in the category has been a success and the points leader will aim for his first Chicago victory against the likes of J.R. Todd, Las Vegas winner Bob Tasca III, Funny Car legend John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria and reigning world champ Matt Hagan.

Pro Stock legend Greg Anderson has already won twice in 2024, taking the points lead into Chicago. He’s also participating in the Callout as he attempts for a double-up weekend taking on stars like defending world champ Erica Enders, who is the top seed in the GETTRX Pro Stock All-Star Callout, defending event winner Dallas Glenn and Jeg Coughlin Jr. The full Callout fields features Enders, Anderson, Glenn, Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, Matt Hartford, Cristian Cuadra and Deric Kramer.

Herrera dominated Chicago a year ago in Pro Stock Motorcycle, setting a host of track records. He’s won twice in 2024 and has seven straight wins dating back to last season. To continue that historic streak, he’ll have to topple six-time champion Matt Smith, former champ LE Tonglet, Angie Smith, Hector Arana Jr. and Steve Johnson.

Also slated in Chicago is the special Drag and Drive exhibition event. With star drivers like Alex Taylor and Tom Bailey, the standout street cars run in the 6-second range and quicker at speeds of more than 200 mph. The weekend also includes competition in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+, Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown division, the new Holley EFI Factory X category and the season debut of the Pingel Top Fuel Motorcycle class.

Fans will also be invited all weekend long to the Nitro Alley Stage, which is the main entertainment hub in the pits, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more. Race fans at Route 66 Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners.

As always, fans get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Chicago. Fans get a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Qualifying sessions take place at 2:30 and 5 p.m. CT on Friday, and 11:40 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday

The first round of the GETTRX Pro Stock All-Star Callout starts at 11:30 a.m. CT on Saturday, with the semifinals to follow at 1:45 p.m. and the finals at 2:55 p.m. Television coverage includes qualifying action at 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday and 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into eliminations coverage at 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET on Sunday on FS1. A special Callout broadcast airs at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday on FS1.

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To purchase tickets to the Gerber Collision & Glass NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance on May 17-19 at Route 66 Raceway, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general admission area with a paid adult.

This story was originally published on May 14, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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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.