Elkhart, Ind. — When you grow up in the Midwest, winter can be the ultimate change of season. Staying warm and managing snow drifts can be a full-time effort for the unaccustomed newcomer. But, for Chicago native and Elkhart, Ind. resident, Terry McMillen, winter is just a small inconvenience as he and his team set their sites on this weekend’s Circle K NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calf.
McMillen enters his fifth NHRA season behind the wheel of the AMALIE® Motor Oil INSTIGATOR Top Fuel Dragster and as he boards a plane for Southern California, warm weather isn’t the only thing he expects to find different before professional qualifying starts on Friday.
“In some ways it’s just another short off-season,” McMillen said. “Then again, it’s been as busy as ever. AMALIE has stepped up our program by renewing our contract for 2 more seasons, added Contingency Sponsorship and a midway presences at all events. Every one of our marketing partners are back with us for another run at this. The University of Northwestern Ohio, Ross Pistons, Flatout Gaskets, Penray, Allstar Performance Genesis Tools – they’re all back.”
“My crew has had their heads down working hard,” McMillen added. “We’ve been putting the finishing touches on our new MLR chassis, we did some testing in Palm Beach, we’ve changed our clutch set up and mixed up our crew a little. We’ve checked, double checked and made sure we’ve got the best pieces and parts a Top Fuel car could have. I guess you could say that our level of expectation has raised dramatically. We’re not the new guys anymore.”
The 2013 season could have been the ultimate roller coaster ride for Terry McMillen Racing. The team set new career bests for elapsed time and mile per hour and made four semi-final appearances – another career best for Terry McMillen Racing. However, seven DNQs hampered the team from improving to their ultimate goal. After falling short of the NHRA playoffs twice by less than one round, the 2013 season saw McMillen take a step back, finishing the season 14th in the points standings.
McMillen sees The Countdown as his teams next goal. “It starts by qualifying well,” McMillen said. “Then we have to go rounds on Sunday. Sounds like a simple formula right? Except that target keeps moving. The level of competition keeps getting stronger and stronger each season. When we started in the NHRA an .86 (3.86 elapsed time) would have been a decent number to make the field. Heck, last season we ran better than that on several occasions and barely made the field. So, now we’ve got to run something in the real low .80s or .70s to have a chance. That’s what it’s going to take to stay competitive out here this year.”
Still McMillen keeps his hopes high as the 2014 season approaches. He hopes that hard work and expectations come together in his fifth season. “We want to be an overnight success – I just hope it only takes five years to do it,” he said.
Join Terry McMillen Racing and other NHRA teams at the Holiday Inn Ontario Airport – the official hotel of Terry McMillen Racing when they race in Pomona.