NHRA: Top Fuel driver Clay Millican hopes Chicago is his kinda town again


JOLIET, Illinois – Clay Millican not only holds the elapsed time record for a Top Fuel dragster in NHRA competition – 3.62 seconds down a 1,000-foot drag strip – he also holds the unique distinction of being the quickest and fastest forklift driver ever in the sport.

Okay, a bit of clarification about that.

It was back in 1998 and Millican was working as a forklift driver at a Kroger Foods warehouse near his Drummonds, Tennessee home. He had long sought to make his passion of drag racing his full-time job. Within one week’s time, he saw that dream become a reality. He earned his Top Fuel competitors license, quit his job at Kroger and competed in his first-ever NHRA race at what was then the brand new Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.

And he’s never looked back – or had to worry about going back to driving a forklift – again.

Over the next 21 seasons, Millican earned six Top Fuel championships and 50 national event victories in the rival International Hot Rod Association. Now, the 53-year-old Millican is going for his first NHRA championship, and enters this weekend’s Route 66 Nationals fourth in the Top Fuel points, having reached the final round in three of the season’s first eight races.

Oh yes, and he’s also defending winner of this race, having captured his second career NHRA national event win at Route 66 last year.

This place is so special for me, I love this place,” Millican said of Route 66, which when he and the track both debuted 21 years ago, it was called the “first stadium of drag racing.”

This weekend, it’ll be kind of deja vu for Millican, as his dragster will carry the same sponsor it had when he made his debut 21 years ago: backing from Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox.


Millican threw out the first pitch Thursday night at the White Sox game at their Guaranteed Rate Field home.

I’m more nervous doing that than going 330 mph,” Millican told NBC Sports a few hours before the game.

But as it turns out, he didn’t have to worry. He tossed a perfect strike.


Now, starting with the first two rounds of qualifying today and going through the weekend, Millican is looking to hit drag racing’s version of a home run with his second consecutive win at Route 66.

We’re calling this the unfinished business tour,” Millican said. “(Crew chief Mike Kloeber) and I never won an NHRA event together, although we won 50 IHRA events and six championships together.

We just never had the opportunity to chase NHRA full-time. Now, I feel we’re in a great position, I’m having fun and it’s great to have early success actually quicker than I thought I would.”

In addition to Kloeber, Millican also has former Kalitta Racing vice president Jim Oberhofer working with his team as a consultant.

Millican finished third last season in the NHRA standings. Ironically, he did so well that legendary Funny Car driver John Force hired away Millican’s entire team during the off-season to come to work for John Force Racing.

That shows the people we had were awesome,” Millican said.

Millican had to rebuild his team from the ground up, and the first guy he called was Kloeber, who had been out of drag racing for seven seasons. Together, they formed a new team and the results so far have not only been encouraging, Millican feels he can reach the winner’s circle come the conclusion of this weekend’s race on Sunday afternoon.

It’s all about the right time and the right people,” Millican said. “People are everything. A driver is a small part of how these cars operate. So it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people.”

But he knows it won’t be an easy thing to do.

The competition in Top Fuel the last two or three years has probably been the most competitive in history,” Millican said. “As far as where we fit in, we’re certainly more towards the underdog side of things, in that we’re a single-car team, we have no way of gathering extra data the other big teams do.

We’re the White Sox vs. the Yankees out there. We’re out there kind of by ourselves and don’t have the unlimited parts and pieces that those big teams do, but we do it with ‘want-to.’ That’s a line my momma has always said about me, that if I wanted to do this so badly, I’d figure out a way to make this happen – and we want to. We want to win and do well and that’s just digging deep and doing it with the parts and pieces you have.”

Millican hopes to relive some of his past success with Kloeber from their IHRA days this Sunday. The pair literally picked up where they left off, even though they had been apart for the better part of a decade until Millican called his old buddy and asked him to help him out.

Or, as Millican put it so astutely:

This year is kind of a refresher for me,” he said. “When you run off into the ditch, you call your friend. That’s what he did, I called Mike Kloeber. I was in a ditch and he pulled me out. When you’re in trouble, you call your buddies.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

FLAVOR FLAV POWERS UP: Iconic rapper hangs out with Team Penske

Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.