Millican Defends Turf Four-time IHRA Top Fuel World Champion defeats NHRA power at Norwalk Raceway Park NORWALK, Ohio -- In the movie Rudy, about a walk-on football player making the team and playing for Notre Dame, the actor that played Irish...
Millican Defends Turf
Four-time IHRA Top Fuel World Champion defeats NHRA power at Norwalk Raceway Park
NORWALK, Ohio -- In the movie Rudy, about a walk-on football player making the team and playing for Notre Dame, the actor that played Irish coach Dan Devine told his team, before its game against Georgia Tech, "No one comes into our house and pushes us around."
Clay Millican, although a Tennessee Volunteers fan, got the message.
Millican, the four-time defending IHRA World Champion from Drummonds, Tenn., defeated NHRA power Cory McClenathan in the Top Fuel final of the IHRA Skull Gear World Nationals presented by PPG. With McClenathan (Bristol, Tenn.) dominating the qualifying session and taking the pole position at his first-ever IHRA race getting much of the publicity over the weekend, Millican went from his #3 qualifying position to Ironman #7 this season when he powered past McClenathan in the final.
"All weekend everyone wanted to know 'are you going to beat Cory?' And those guys run really quick and really fast," Millican said. "They proved that when they went out and laid down the numbers during qualifying. But there is one thing I always feel confident about, and that's (Crew Chief) Mike Kloeber. The thing he is always able to do is make that car go down the race track, and we're one step closer to that fifth World Championship."
The Top Fuel bracket ensured it was going to be an IHRA-NHRA battle in the final. In the semifinals, McClenathan defeated NHRA driver TJ Zizzo while Millican, in the bottom half of the bracket, took out Bruce Litton. The final was also a bit of redemption for Millican.
"I raced Cory in the final round of the NHRA race in Atlanta and he beat me," Millican said. "He beat me over there, I think it was only fair to beat him over here. He was really a gracious guy. We had a big hug down there and the cool thing was there was no pressure. There was no battle for points between the two of us. Obviously I need the points, but we just got to stand on the gas and have fun. That's the way racing is supposed to be."
The Torco Pro Mod final did not have any of the drama of the Top Fuel final, but Mike Castellana (Westbury, N.Y.) will take the results. Castellana took over the World Championship points lead with his bye run victory at Norwalk Raceway Park. Steve Bareman (Elma, N.Y.), driving his Summit-sponsored entry for Jim Oddy, broke after his burnout and could not stage the car.
Castellana is the only repeat Torco Pro Mod winner on the Hooters IHRA Tour this season, winning also in Milan, Mich. and Martin, Mich. earlier this season.
"We came in here real confident, but had to change engines after the second round," Castellana said. "You never know what's going to happen when you make a change like that. But we made the changes for the final round and, with some luck, we won."
Jim Sickles (Caledonia, N.Y.) also visited the Winner's Circle at Norwalk Raceway Park. Sickles, who also won at Rockingham earlier this season, was able to defeat two-time defending IHRA Funny Car World Champion Rob Atchison (London, Ont.) in the final. It was Sickles' third straight World Nationals victory at NRP.
"This is a great feeling, and to win three times in a row here is a great deal," he said. "It's the time of the year where we needed a little shot in the arm, and here it was. Atchison has been running extremely well and the .76 he ran in the second round definitely woke us up. We had a new blower on the car that we actually tested here last Thursday. We figured it out and we're starting to run some good, solid numbers."
Steve Spiess (Manhattan, Ill.) won his third consecutive Hooters IHRA national event, and fourth of the '05 season, when he defeated Rick Jones (Galesburg, Ill.), the man who built his '05 Chevy Cobalt, in the Torco Pro Stock final. In the process Spiess put the world championship points race in a stranglehold with his victory at Norwalk Raceway Park.
"This is beyond my wildest dreams," Spiess said of his third consecutive win. "I'm tickled pink and just happy everyone is doing their job well. The car is running great and I really want to thank all the people who supply me the parts. And it is always fun racing Rick Jones in the final. Sure, I want to win but if I wouldn't have won it really wouldn't have mattered. I'm having a great time and I hope it continues a little bit longer."