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By Ian Tocher

n July 3, Clay Millican did what everyone pretty much expected him to do: he won the richest Top Fuel race ever held. Millican and his Werner Enterprises team, led by co-crew chiefs Mike Kloeber and Lance Larsen, picked up a $106,000 check for setting low elapsed time (3.18 seconds over the eighth mile) and beating Tim Gibson in the fuel final at Huntsville Dragway’s 10th annual Rocket City Nationals.

The win comes on the heels of a major leadership change at Team Werner, as founder Peter Lehman recently sold the entire operation to NHRA Pro Stock owner/driver Kenny Koretsky, with small percentages also going to Millican and Kloeber. DRO caught up with an obviously stoked Millican shortly after his big win to chat about what makes his four-time IHRA championship team so successful.

You just won $106,000!

Millican: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I know George Howard’s million-dollar bracket race has paid more than that, several times, but for heads-up racing that’s got to be one of the biggest purses ever. It’s certainly something that I never ever dreamed of doing. And when this whole race came about, I never once thought we were gonna come down here and win it; I had no thoughts of that, none whatsoever because, I mean, I can’t believe that we didn’t have every car there is out here.

Was the track up to Top Fuel standards?

Millican: The track was wonderful. I mean, yes, it was challenging, absolutely, but the reason it was challenging was the heat. The track surface, when we first looked at it, it scared us, but we came to find out it’s got a pretty good grip. All my bracket racing buddies were telling me the track’s pretty fast, but when I first got here and looked at the concrete I thought, ‘Oh, we’re in trouble,’ but on Saturday night when the temperature went down it was wonderful.

And Mike Kloeber is one of the best, as far as I’m concerned. Our car ran like a bracket car, going 3.20-something every lap. And yeah, when everybody reads this they’re going to say, ‘Well, we normally run 3-ohs,’ which is true, but you’ve got to keep in mind we were dealing with 140-some degree track temperatures.

But everybody here worked really hard to give us a good racetrack. If you think about it, there was very little tire smoke, very little. That goes back to Mr. George Howard. I mean, he poured a new concrete pad just eight days before we got here. Like I said, initially me and Mike and Lance, we were scared when we first got here, but these guys did a wonderful job with this racetrack and I hope the next time we’re here we’ll have every car there is in the country. How can you not come and race when there’s $106,000 on the line? Where else are you going to win that?

You actually dodged a bullet when you redlighted in the first round against Roger Dean.

Millican: That was a crazy deal. Roger obviously left before the tree activated and it was so loud that it made me go. But as I was driving by I turned my head and when I saw the red light it actually made me happy, because I knew I got a tree. I knew when I saw my red light that I was okay. I’ve had that happen before (an opponent leave early), but although the track here is wide, I think the grooves for the cars may be a little closer because it was exceptionally loud when Roger hit the gas pedal. Between that and actually seeing his front wheels it just made me go way early, but I knew I had won then, so I just stayed in it to give Mike another run to tune from.


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