By Lee Elder
MADISON, Ill. (September 21, 2018) – Clay Millican has a point to make this weekend.
After collecting nearly point available in the four qualifying sessions for the Top Fuel Category at the Dodge Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania, Millican lost to Steve Torrence in the final round of eliminations. Millican blamed himself for the loss.
“It was definitely an incredible race car,” Millican said. “Holy moly. For me to be the one that caused us the loss really sucks.”
Torrence had a quicker reaction time and that was the difference in the race and in the race for the championship. When the teams arrived here for the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals, Torrence led the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship standings with 2,219 points. Tony Schumacher and Millican were tied for second at 2,169.
“Purely based on last week, I would say we’re peeking,” said Millican. “To make all those bonus points was huge, because instead of being three rounds behind, we’re only two. That’s a huge difference.”
Millican led Top Fuel after Friday’s two rounds of qualifying with a run at 3.692 seconds and 329.83 mph. Millican was the only Top Fueler to complete a pass under 6.7 seconds. Courtney Force led in Funny Car with a 3.881-second, 331.04 mph pass. Jeg Coughlin led Pro Stock and Eddie Krawiec led Pro Stock Motorcycle with a pass at 6.820 seconds and 195.56 mph.
In qualifying, the top three cars in each category earn bonus points for being among the top three drivers in each session. Every Countdown category except one had at least one position change during the first qualifying session. Millican posted the best elapsed time in Top Fuel and broke a second-place tie with Tony Schumacher in the standings. Schumacher was second after the first round.
Troy Coughlin Jr. moved from sixth in points to fifth in Pro Stock after he had the second-best time. Coughlin edged by Drew Skillman.
Angie Smith broke a tie for eighth place when she scored two points for posting the second-best tie. Smith dropped Scott Pollacheck back to ninth place.
There were no position changes in Funny Car due to the first round but there was more scrambling in all four categories in the second round.
When Millican turned in the best Top Fuel pass in the night session, he eased slightly away from Schumacher. Steve Torrence scored a total of three bonus points Friday and has an unofficial total of 2,222 points. Millican is second with 2,175 and Schumacher is next at 2,171.
Things tightened up at the top of Funny Car. J.R. Todd, the Countdown leader, scored a point to move to 2,167. Robert Hight picked up three to go to 2,146, while Courtney Force also scored three to improve to 2,144. Ron Capps scored four bonus points Friday to stay in fourth place, climbing to 2,141.
In Pro Stock, leader Tanner Gray did not score a bonus point while second-place Vincent Nobile scored five. Gray now leads Nobile 2,183-2,170. Erica Enders scored two points and stayed in fourth with 2,133. Coughlin finished the night with five bonus points and solidified his standing kin fifth place.
Eddie Krawiec extended his narrow lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle by scoring three bonus points and moving his total to 2,187. Fifth-place rider Andrew Hines scored five precious points to move within two points of fourth-place LE Tonglet.
NOTES: The 2017 Mello Yello winners at Gateway were Steve Torrence (in Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and L.E. Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle). … Every Mello Yello professional category will bump entrants out of the field this weekend. Each will start 16 in Sunday’s eliminations but Top Fuel had 20 entrants, Funny Car had 18, Pro Stock had 17 and there were 19 PSB entries. … The race at Gateway will mark the 500th event for eight-time world Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, who has two wins at the track. … Pro Stock ace Greg Anderson has two wins at Gateway and holds the Pro Stock record at the track but his teammate, Jason Line has not won at the facility. Line lost the final to Anderson last year. … Doug Kalitta, a three-time winner at Gateway, is working with a new crew chief this weekend, Troy Fasching. Fasching replaced Jim Oberhofer earlier this week. … Q1 was interrupted by a timing issue as Pro Stock Motorcycle began its first session.