Saturday night’s Wild Ride adds to weekend excitement
NORWALK, Ohio – No one likes losing in the first round of eliminations. That includes Terry McMillen, driver of the AMALIE® Motor Oil Instigator Top Fuel Dragster. And while McMillen has always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, he had no problems finding supporters who also saw the ‘silver linings’ after a first round loss to NHRA points leader Antron Brown.
“This could very well be one of those defining moments,” McMillen said. “One that I’ll remember anyway.”
It’s Saturday night in the Midwest, a 4th of July kind of Saturday night. The kind of night a guy might take his street rod out for a little cruise, maybe even out to the Summit Motorsports Park to check out some fireworks. Someone might describe McMillen’s wild ride during the forth qualifying attempt that way. Others knew it was just a veteran move. After his brakes failed McMillen found himself headed towards the sand-trap. While a little speed was scrubbed from the sand, McMillen was left to navigate the corn field and air strip ahead of him. A slight left turn and the gator themed car rested in the tall grass just north of the track.
“Norwalk is one of the greatest places in the world to drag race,” McMillen said. “I’ve been lucky enough to race here for many years. Heck there’s a picture in our shop with my old Nitro Funny Car when the starter tower was right there on the starting line. So, I remember when I use to run Alcohol Funny Car out here and Rob Atchison got out there and into that ditch a tore his stuff up. And even more recently I was here a few years ago when Angie Smith got out there with her Pro Stock Bike. Needless to say, it was high on my priority list to keep it away from there and learn from what they had been through. I knew once I got through the sand clean and straight I could make a nice smooth left turn. Heck, by the time I was finished we were looking at the runway lights for the airport. I guess I landed a few feet short of the runway – just lost my navigational beacon,” McMillen joked.
But that’s when the work began. “We were joking in the pits about the AMALIE Motor Oil Xtermigator Monster Truck – and how JR (JR McNeal, driver) didn’t have anything on us, since we just proved the Instigator could do a little off-roading itself,” McMillen said. “But in all seriousness, these dragsters aren’t meant for that. So, the guys were here until 3:30 in the morning going over everything with a fine tooth comb to make sure this car was safe to race and then back out here at 7am to get the car ready to race.”
McMillen would post another 3.85 sec. on Sunday to Antron’s 3.79 sec.
“A loss is a loss and I hate it,” McMillen said. “But we’re looking at a bunch of good things here – maybe that defining moment for us. We made five good runs down the race track this weekend. We were able to see the car make repeat performances even after all the changes we made after the off-roading. And when you study the incremental times that we had against Antron in eliminations, you’ll see that our early numbers (60ft-330ft) were a little slow compared to his, but after that we were glued to him. That’s how close we are!”
McMillen knows that’s from the efforts of his crew and crew-chief. “I can’t say enough about these guys,” McMillen added. “Rob (Wendland- Crew Chief) has done a great job getting all of us to work together as a team. We’re starting to come together and I’m excited about that.”