Millican Wins at Rockingham For Seventh Straight Time
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Overshadowed in qualifying by Australian Andrew Cowin, Clay Millican showed Sunday why he is the most prolific winner in IHRA drag racing history by driving the Werner Enterprises Top Fuel dragster to its seventh victory of the season and its seventh straight win at Rockingham Dragway.
Millican, who now has 37 IHRA tour victories in a Top Fuel career that began just five years ago, beat Cowin in the semifinals and then turned back Danny Dunn of Wilkesboro, N.C., in the final to win the ninth annual Bethesda Softworks World Finals, last event in the 2004 IHRA Hooters Drag Racing Series.
Other winners in Sunday's attrition-marred and rain-lengthened season finale were Al Billes of Barrie, Ontario, Calif., in Pro Modified; Brian Gahm of Lucasville, Ohio, in Pro Stock; and Fred Tigges of Holbrook, Mass., who upset two-time reigning champion Rob Atchison in the Funny Car final.
Millican was clocked in 4.672 seconds at 307.79 miles per hour, well off the 4.534 second IHRA world record Cowin set on Saturday but still good enough to cover Dunn's ailing 7.107 at just 111.10 mph which made the North Carolina driver a runner-up for the third time in as many final round appearances.
"We changed everything on the car," Millican said, "I mean everything and it just wouldn't run better than a 4.67. We changed the fuel system, the ignition. We just had a bracket car. It ran 4.66, 4.66 and it would have run 4.66 in the final but I stole a little bit (through is positioning at the starting line.)"
The Millican-Dunn final was a rematch of last April's IHRA Spring Nationals also contested at The Rock. This time, though, Dunn made a race of it -- at least for 600 feet. In the spring, he suffered mechanical problems that made it impossible for him the answer the call, sending Millican to the title on a single.
"We have done really well at this racetrack. This place has been good to me. If (Rockingham owner) Steve Earwood had all the races here, I probably wouldn't be griping about it, that's for sure."
As for Cowin, he saw his hopes of a breakthrough first IHRA victory evaporate when his 7,000 horsepower dragster lost traction in the second round. In fact, the 25-year-old's bid began to unravel in the warmup preceding the race against Millican when the crew found a faulty fuel pump and was forced to replace it under duress.
The race was delayed for an hour-and-a-half by morning rain and delayed further by the cleanup from a rash of oildowns.
While Millican was just going through the motions Sunday after clinching his fourth straight Top Fuel title three weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, titles were on the line in three other categories including Pro Modified where Mike Janis was crowned champion for the second time in four years in what was little more than a formality.
On the other hand, the much-ballyhooed battle for the Pro Stock title between Long Island, N.Y., neighbors John Nobile and John Montecalvo, was over almost before it began. It was decided when Montecalvo, desperately needing a first round win on a track on which he was the winner last spring, was late to react to the starting signal and lost to Rob Mansfield even though he enjoyed a 6.479-6.482 performance advantage.
For Nobile, it was a great finish marred only by a final round loss to the man he supplanted as champion, Brian Gahm of Lucasville, Ohio, whose World Finals victory enabled him to move all the way up to second place despite three DNQs during the season.
The race for the Funny Car championship proved to be only slightly more interesting if only because the driver who entered the race in second place, defending champion Rob Atchison of London, Ontario, Canada, managed to get around the pre-Rockingham leader, Mark Thomas, for his second consecutive title.
However, the victory lacked the drama many had anticipated, especially after the two managed to qualify 1-2. Instead of a final round showdown with the winner getting the trophy, Atchison claimed the title in the second round when Thomas was upset by Tigges.
Tigges completed an unlikely scenario by stopping Atchison in the final round to claim his first tour victory.
"I actually felt bad about that," Tigges said of his drama-ending victory over Thomas. "Even though it's racing, we haven't run that many races this year and those guys worked long and hard to get where they were and it's not really a good feeling to take it away from them.
"On the other side of it, it's racing and I'm not going to go up there and lay down, that's for sure."