By Lee Elder
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 5, 2018) – Clay Millican has a hat problem that no haberdashery consultant can fix. He has a hat he likes but wants different one, too.
Millican qualified first in the Top Fuel category for the NHRA’s Southern Nationals powered by Mello Yello at Atlanta Dragway and that’s where the sartorial issue originated. Top qualifiers in the NHRA’s professional categories are awarded green hats at all Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events. But he wants more yellow hats.
Courtney Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the other professional leaders at the end of Saturday’s final time trial session. Each received a green, ballcap-style chapeau, which is emblematic of qualifying best. What Millican wants is another yellow cap to go with the one he won at Bristol, Tennessee in 2017.
“I think I would like a yellow one better,” Millican said. “We were pushing right there. Grubby (crew chief David Grubnic) was defending,” the top spot on the ladder for the team’s final qualifying pass. Millican led the category going into Saturday’s final qualifying run.
Millican’s pole-winning pass was a 3.758-second, 331-mph blast down the Atlanta Dragway strip. Brittany Force was second and Steve Torrence was third. It was Millican’s third green cap this season and the 13th of his career.
“Our car has become very tunable and controllable,” Millican said. “It wants to go fast all the time and we have to figure out how to slow it down.”
Courtney Force yanked away Robert Height’s chance to grab a top-qualifier hat when she posted a 3.932-second run in Funny Car’s final session Saturday. Hight had the best run before Force went quicker. Tommy Johnson Jr. was third.
Force admitted, “It’s pretty exciting for us.” She added, “To be honest, I didn’t think we could improve after yesterday. Then it cooled off and the track had a cloud cover and we laid down some big numbers.”
Greg Anderson led Pro Stock qualifying with a pass of 6.586 seconds and 209.69 mph. Drew Skillman was second and Tanner Gray was third. Anderson, the fourth-time Pro Stock champ, did not mention a hat preference but he did say he though his car was good enough to win on Sunday.
“Yeah, I think we do,” Anderson said. “I’ve been a bit off on race day but I think I know what I’ve been doing wrong. You’ve got to go out there and be aggressive.”
Hector Arana Jr. qualified first in Pro Stock Motorcycle, followed by his father, Hector senior. Andrew Hines was third.
Hector Jr., said, “Couldn’t ask for anything better, one and two. We did a little bit of experimenting in (qualifying rounds) three and four.”
The first-round matchups:
Top Fuel: Millican-Worm, Salinas-Palmer, Pritchett-Dakin, Schumacher-Litton, B. Force-McMillen, Brown-Alexander, Torrence-Haddock, Kalitta-Crampton.
Funny Car: C. Force-Diehl, Wilkerson-Langdon, Pedregon-Smith, J. Force-Capps, Hight-Tasca, Todd-Beckman, Johnson Jr.-Campbell, Lindberg-Hagan.
Pro Stock: Anderson-Smeland, Line-Kramer, McGaha-Gaydosh, Nobile-Prusiensky, Skillman-Stroupe, Laughlin-Butner, Gray-Delco, Coughlin-Enders.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: Arana Jr.-Oehler, Savoie-Johnson, Tonglet-A. Smith, Krawiec-Surber, Arana-Stoffer, Reed-Pollacheck, Hines-Gladstone, M. Smith-Sampey.
NOTES: Audrey Worm’s team did not run the car in either of Sunday’s qualifying sessions for financial reasons. The team’s trailer was burglarized at a truck stop during the week and other Top Fuel teams loaned engine parts so Worm’s team could complete the weekend.