By Lee Elder
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 19, 2018) – Clay Millican stunned everyone, including his own team, when he blasted down the drag strip at Heartland Motorsports Park in just 3.739 seconds at 331.12 mph during the third round of qualifying for the NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties.
The warm, humid ambient conditions and the 105-degree track temperature were not expected to surrender quick and fast performances in Saturday’s third round of time trials. Most of the Top Fuel cars did not improve on the times posted during Friday’s sessions but a few did and Millican topped everybody. It was his fifth number one qualifier of the 2018 season.
“I did not know Grubby was going to do that,” Millican said of crew chief David Grubnic. “Holy moly.”
Even Grubnic didn’t expect the pass to be so quick. He said, “I’m stunned, it wasn’t supposed to run that quick. I’m going to find out why it went that quick.” If Grubnic figured it out, he probably didn’t tell anybody.
Courtney Force topped the Funny Car ladder and Deric Kramer led Pro Stock.
“I’m just giddy because our car is starting to run big miles per hour,” Millican said. “We went 331 in Atlanta and we did it again here. …I really like our chances (of winning Sunday).”
Courtney Force’s best pass from Friday stood up through Saturday’s sessions. Her 3.911-second, 321.73 mph run was not seriously challenged Saturday. It was Force’s third straight top qualifier and her fifth of the 2018 campaign.
“Everyone said it would be hotter today but we had cloud cover,” Force said. “We could hear all through Top Fuel and Funny Car that there were a lot of cars improving their runs from yesterday, so you never know.”
Everything was different in Pro Stock, where Kramer grabbed the top qualifying position in a dramatic way. Greg Anderson posted the quickest elapsed time of the weekend in the penultimate pair of Q4, leaving Kramer and Erica Enders to complete the session. Both cars beat Anderson’s time and Kramer, using an engine prepared by Anderson’s own KB Racing team, nabbed the leading position with a time of 6.613 seconds. Enders was close at 6.616 and Anderson was third at 6.620.
“We didn’t expect that at all,” Kramer said. “It was good to hear. Everyone on the radio was super excited.”
It was Kramer’s second trip to the top of the ladder this year.
Eliminations are scheduled to start Sunday at 11 a.m. Sunday’s first round pairings:
TOP FUEL: Millican vs. Totten, Kalitta vs. Palmer, Schumacher vs. Litton, Pritchett vs. Brown, S. Torrence vs. Haddock, B. Force vs. Crampton, B. Torrence vs. Kinsley, McMillen vs. Salinas.
FUNNY CAR: C. Force vs. Townsend, Hagan vs. Wilkerson, Todd vs. Creasy, Tasca vs. Beckman, Lindberg vs. Campbell, Capps vs. Langdon, Pedregon vs. Hight, Johnson vs. J. Force.
PRO STOCK: Kramer vs. Hatcher, Hartford vs. Coughlin, McGaha vs. Freeman, Line vs. Laughlin, Enders vs. Hagan, Gray vs. Butner, Anderson vs. Prusiensky, Nobile vs. Skillman.
NOTES: Organizers changed the schedule of events and the first professional category to get on track Saturday was Top Fuel. Typically Pro Stock goes first, but concerns over weather played a role in changing the order … Shane Westerfield updated his Funny Car license Friday by making a pass in Del Worsham’s car, did not make a pass Saturday and will not compete Sunday. Worsham is not racing at Topeka.