GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Facing the defending NHRA World Champion in the opening round, twice in as many races is a tough task. In their first meeting a few weeks ago, Terry McMillen and his Amalie Oil / UNOH Top Fuel team pulled off an early season upset when they defeated Larry Dixon at the Winternationals. While the Elkhart, Ind. based team would not be as lucky in their second meeting at the Gatornationals, they would leave Gainesville 10th in points.
“Facing Dixon is tough anytime,” McMillen said. “You don’t win as many races and as many rounds as they have by accident. We got a lot of encouragement from other teams as we pulled through the staging lanes Sunday morning. I think a lot of people were pulling for us and hoping we could repeat the upset. We all know the only way to unseat a champion is to keep them on the trailer and off of the track. We didn’t get that done – but we’ll be ready to try again in Vegas.”
“We still have some work to do with our top-end tuneup, but we’re getting closer with every pass we make,” McMillen added. Another bright spot for McMillen’s team came during round three of qualifying when they reset their career best mile per hour at 316.15mph in 1,000ft. racing.
While McMillen was discouraged with the first round departure, he did find plenty to be encouraged about during pre race promotions and activities. They team spent Monday at the Natures Coast Technical High School meeting students and working with area UNOH recruiters. On Tuesday the team headed toward Orlando for a customer appreciation day with Cold Air Distribution, one of Amalie Oil’s distributors.
While wrangling and wrestling gators was not McMillen’s bucket list, he did find the time to do just that when visiting Gatorland. Tim Williams, the Dean of Gator Wrestling spent time teaching McMillen the finer points of staying safe when managing the working end of one of natures most prehistoric looking reptiles. Williams also brought one of Gatorland’s 5-foot gators to the race. Affectionately known as Willy Bite – as in ‘Will He Bite’ – he was a big hit with the crew and fans alike.
“It was an exciting week, with a lot of activities,” McMillen said. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done a full-fledged hospitality event for our guests and it went really well. I think everyone had a great time. We made a lot of new friends. I can’t wait to do it again.”
The next stop for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing tour will be the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas April 1-3.