MILLICAN MAKES IT NINE IN A ROW!
By Chris Martin
Photos by Steve Embling
Pulp fiction writer Steve Fisher wrote a great 1940s paperback
thriller called "I Wake Up Screaming," and one would be hard-pressed
to find a more apt title to describe any other IHRA Top Fuel racer outside
of Clay Millican. The Drummonds, Tenn., driver won his ninth consecutive
Top Fuel title of the season at the IHRA Sunoco World Nationals to tie
drag racing's all-time pro record.
Former Pro Stock great Bob Glidden is the co-holder with
Millican, having run off nine straight national event titles stretching
from the 1978 NHRA Summernationals up to the 1979 NHRA Mile-High Nationals.
The loudest screamer among Millican's 2002 victims would
have to be Clermont, Indiana trailer builder Bruce Litton. The driver
of the Lucas Oil dragster took runner-up to Millican for the sixth time,
and he and crew chief Nick Boninfante Jr., have to be considering murder
as a way to stop Millican.
Doubly frustrating was the fact that Litton was running
right with Millican in the Peter Lehman-owned, Mike Kloeber-tuned Werner
Enterprises machine. Millican qualified No. 1 with a 4.766 and set top
speed with a 316.52-mph charge. Litton certainly wasn't in a manic-depressive
state as he finished qualifying in the third spot with a 4.835/300.06
from the stout Norwalk Raceway Park surface.
The first two rounds of eliminations did nothing to dispell
the notion that Litton could win the Norwalk title. He ran a 4.860 in
round one to bop Jack Ostrander and followed with a better 4.834 to
erase Paul Romine's CARQUEST entry. Millican was a tick slower in a
first-round 4.871 win over a red-lighting Roger Dean and only a hair
quicker with a 4.832 drubbing of Josh Starcher.
But then there was the final. Millican took a .460 to
.503 lead at the start and used a low e.t. of the meet 4.758/309.34
to dust off Litton's 4.825/302.35.