Capturing his first NHRA Top Fuel victory after nearly two decades of trying — and coming less than two years after the death of his son Dalton in a motorcycle accident — Millican let the tears flow after the most emotional victory imaginable. As a bonus, it came at Bristol Dragway, his favorite track.
“It took me 19 years, 250-some starts and all the runner-ups before everything worked out,” Millican said. “There will never be in my lifetime a bigger win than what I had here in 2017. It’s by far my favorite place to go drag racing. I love this place. I’ve told the story thousands of times now about that Sunday here with a little delay and getting my first win on Father’s Day after the loss of a child.”
Millican lives in the opposite corner of the state, in the Memphis suburb of Drummonds. Still, as a lifelong Volunteer, he considers Bristol his home track.
“It’s the most picturesque place we go to. I’m a homer, a Tennessee boy, who has never lived anywhere else or intend to live anywhere else,” Millican said. “I love coming here because there’s not a more beautiful drive than coming across the state.”
He followed up that inaugural win at Bristol by being the No. 1 qualifier for last year’s event. He’s since added two more NHRA victories and he reached the final round at Gainesville for the 50th anniversary of the Gatornationals earlier this year. Currently sixth in the Top Fuel division, he — like everyone else — is chasing Steve Torrence, who arrived at Bristol on a five-race winning streak.
Millican doesn’t believe he needs to run quicker times to win but be better getting down the track.
“What we’re looking for is the consistency,” he said. “Our goal is to make the car go down the track consistently. It’s hard to run those crazy low (elapsed times), but what turns on the win lights are the consistent runs down the track. We’re seeing that with Steve Torrence now. Yes, he’s had a couple of No. 1 qualifiers, but he’s kicking everyone’s tail by going down the racetrack.”
Millican is no stranger to that kind of success. While he has a trio of NHRA wins, he ranks as the winningest Top Fuel driver in IHRA history. During a streak from 2001-06, he won 52 races and six world championships. He recently reunited with that era’s crew chief, Mike Kloeber, to try to duplicate that success.
“You get to a point where you think you can do no wrong,” Millican said. “Eventually, you get to a spot where you don’t want to do anything wrong and be the one on the team responsible for breaking that incredible streak. I appreciate what Steve is doing.
“Here he is five races in a row. It’s hard to get that momentum going. What they’re doing is unreal. They have an amazing team to race his daddy last week in Topeka. But anyone can be beat and their streak will come to an end, but it sure is fun when you’re doing it.”