Clay Millican was beaming from ear to ear. His smile was nearly as big as his 5-foot-8, 145-pound frame.
The 47-year-old was the No. 1 qualifier in the Top Fuel division after the first two qualifying rounds Friday in the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. He was ecstatic after tying the track record with a 3.773-second pass and traveling at 326.63 mph.
“That was incredible,” Millican said. “I knew the car probably was going to run pretty good. (Crew chief) Kurt (Elliott) and the whole Parts Plus team surprised me on the first run, going (3.835) because by the time we ran not a lot of cars had gone down the race track. Then with (Shawn) Langdon going out there on the first lap and going ((3.797) I saw Kurt start turning some knobs, and I knew it was going to be a good one.
“It always becomes a question of whether or not you hold it or not, but man when that thing locked the clutch up it got up on the rear tires and started dancing around. I kind of looked like I did out there on the dirt track race today, sliding all over the place, but it held on.
“What a lap! The thing went 286 mph at half-track. That’s a pretty stout run. I was very pleased with that.”
Tying the track record meant the world to Millican’s team.
“It really means more to me for the guys that work on this car because in qualifying the driver just has to do his job,” he said. “You’re doing everything you can not to make a mistake. I feel like I left a little bit on the table from driving the car around a little bit, going around the racetrack.
“It’s so fun to have a lap like that. To know you’re the best car in the world tonight that feels pretty good. Whether that stays (Saturday) we’ll have to wait and see. To know you’ve got the best car in the world tonight certainly feels good.”
Spencer Massey was the No. 2 qualifier at 3.792 and 324.05 followed by Langdon at 3.797 and 311.99.
Millican came to BIR in eighth place in the season points chase, which was led by Langdon. He’s confident Friday’s showing gives him a shot to stay in the hunt through the weekend.
“I certainly think it will keep us qualified, whether it stays No. 1 or not,” Millican said. “If it’s cloudy and cool outside, some cars could go quicker than (3.77 Saturday) but I’m not going to be mad if it’s 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity. I would love to keep this No. 1 spot, that’s for sure.”
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.