Elkhart, IN – Drag Review Magazine (DRM) the official publication of the IHRA, featured Terry McMillen in the current issue (#8) of their bi-weekly publication. DRM is distributed to nearly 25,000 fans, racers and sponsors primarily in the U.S. and Canada.
McMillen, driver and team co-owner, with wife Rhonda, of the Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team pilots the Amalie Oil InstiGator Funny Car powered by TORCO Racing Fuels. Mike Perry, Assistant Editorial Director for DRM, penned his article after the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals. The feature highlights Team InstiGator’s quest for its first IHRA Ironman trophy. It also chronicles the involvement of Terry, his team and other drag racers working side by side to help defending Funny Car Champion, Rob Atchison, rebuild his engine before the McMillen – Atchison final round contest.
While much has been made about the circumstances around the event, McMillen chooses to down play the attention. “I’m thankful for the recognition,” McMillen explains. “If we had it to do all over again, we would do it the same way. For about six seconds we are fierce competitors, the rest of the time we’re all pretty close. Rob and his team have helped us the same way.” The Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team races with top tiered, high performance companies like Amalie Oil, TORCO Racing Fuels, Flatout Gaskets, NGK Spark Plugs, MSD, Performance Graphics, Powershield Coatings and Crane Cams.
Mike Perry’s article from DRM’s “Perry’s Chronicles”, is reprinted below with permission from IHRA.
– Mike Perry
I am still kind of new to this drag racing thingâ€¦only having come on board here at IHRA seven months ago. Before I arrived at IHRA, my sportswriting experience consisted of 15 years dealing with mainstream sports. I saw plenty of selfless things over those 15 years.
NBA forward Christian Laettner (who always had the reputation of being difficult on sportswriters) once chased after me through the bowels of Gund Arena in Cleveland, wearing only a towel, because he thought he had insulted me by giving a sarcastic answer to a tough question after his team had just lost a game it should have won. He just wanted to apologize and let me know he was just blowing off steam. Major League outfielder Kenny Lofton, who has always been considered surly and egotistical, once was moved to tears by a special needs child who couldn’t get out the words to ask for an autographâ€¦then was unable to hold on to the ball he signed for her. He spent a good half hour with her, just talking, hugging and making friends. He was choked up when he leftâ€¦and you could tell he didn’t want to leave (this was after a game in the tunnel under Jacobs Field in Cleveland).
There are many more examplesâ€¦Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, former Cleveland Indian Charles Nagy, former San Antonio Spur David Robinson, Cleveland Brown Jeff Fain, PGA golfer Hal Suttonâ€¦there are many athletes who are genuinely nice guys that give of themselves all the time.
In all my years covering sports, however, I don’t think I’ve seen a better example of sportsmanship than Funny Car driver Terry McMillen exhibited at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals in San Antonio. In what had to be one of the biggest moments of his driving career, McMillen went above and beyond the call to help his opponent defeat him. McMillen had never won a Hooters IHRA national event before and was in great shape to take home win #1â€¦but he wanted to earn it and, in essence, gave it away.
You have to start at the beginning of the weekâ€¦before all the racers and fans showed up in San Antonio for the race. The Texas Nationals are sponsored primarily by Amalie Oilâ€¦who also happens to be McMillen’s major sponsor. McMillen spent the week leading up to the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals traveling around the San Antonio area doing advance public relations work for his team as well as IHRA. He tirelessly promoted, then went and raced.
When you are a professional race car driver, your first career victory will always be specialâ€¦something you will never forget. If McMillen would have won at San Antonio Raceway, it would have been that much more special, not just for himself, for his crew and his sponsor. It would have been a storybook ending to what was a great event.
McMillen qualified in the #4 position and defeated Terry Munroe in the first round. He then backed that up with a victory over Mark Poyser in the semifinals to advance to his second career Funny Car final where he would face two-time defending IHRA Funny Car World Champion Rob Atchison.
Atchison qualified #2 behind Dr. Tom Carter and defeated Jim Sickles in the first round. In the semifinals, against long time rival Mark Thomas, Atchison crossed the finish line first. Along the way, however, he blew his motor upâ€¦leaving his status for the final against McMillen up in the air. To make the call, Atchison and his Erickson Manufacturing crew had a lot of work to do in a very short time.
Here is where McMillen proved in drag racing it is more important to lose with grace than win without a challenge.
As the Atchison crew thrashed around the pits, working furiously to get his car ready for the final, they were joined by McMillen’s crew. Along with Mark Poyser and his father, the McMillen and Atchison crews worked side by side to get Atchison’s car ready for the final.
If all were equal and those who do good deeds were rewarded with immediate gratification, the final would have went differently. As it was, Atchison defeated McMillen to chalk up his 10th career Ironman. McMillen was left still searching for career win #1. I have a feeling McMillen will be rewarded in other ways, however. Things tend to come full circle and, if you are a believer in karma, McMillen has a large dose of success coming his way. He also made a lot of fans and did his sponsor proud. Sure, a win would have been the perfect way for McMillen to end the weekend. However, the winner is not always the one that gets down the track first.
Atchison even said he felt bad about winning. Looking back, he said, it might have been better had McMillen’s crew not helped him. I don’t think so, nor would McMillen if you asked him. He wants an Ironman in the worst way, but he wants to earn it. I hear drivers say you can be best of friends in the pits, but once you light the top light, that all goes out the window. McMillen and his crew did their job in the pits by helping out their friend. Atchison did his job once the race got underway. I would bet my bottom dollar McMillen and his crew would do the exact same thing in Rockingham if the situation arose.
This is why our sport is different.