There was a hit in Chicago this past weekend as the WELD Racing equipped Top Fuel Dragster of Clay Millican and Ford Mustang Funny Car of Tim Wilkerson took down the competition in a haze of burnt rubber and nitro fumes at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway located just outside the Windy City. It was a battle to the finish as our drivers let it all out down the track. While the competition was fierce, Millican and Wilkerson drove their 12,000 horsepower machines with grit and determination and were victorious in their quest for a win.
For Clay Millican, he collected his first NHRA win in five years when he took down Josh Hart in the final round of Top Fuel. Millican’s 12,000-horsepower supercharged machine powered to a 3.801-second pass at 328.94 mph and his second Route 66 Raceway title. It was 2018, when Millican won his last Top Fuel event which ironically, took place in Chicago. This is also team owner Rick Ware Racing’s first NHRA win. It’s the fourth career win for Millican who had a bit of a draught but last Sunday was his day as he enjoyed every moment of his memorable victory at Route 66 Raceway.
“I still love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’m not done yet,” said Millican, who was 12th in points entering the weekend. “This is huge for this team. We’ve been struggling and it’s been tough. We got all new parts and pieces from Rick Ware, and they believed in us. For a little while, it looked like we were better with the old stuff, but I think we’ve got it figured out and hopefully, we can go out and get some more of these this year. We’ve had so many changes,” exclaimed Millican as he savored his victory. “I’m so thankful for Doug and Whitney Stringer keeping us out there. Rick Ware wanted to go racing and bought our team and took over at the U.S. Nationals last year, and the next thing you know, it’s new trailers, new racecars, new parts. You would think it would have been much easier, but it wasn’t, we really struggled. For Millican, the long-awaited win was particularly poignant. His most recent victory had been five years prior, and it happened at Route 66 Raceway, precisely 20 years after his very first race. “Here we are, 25 years later, in the same place,” said Millican. “That number 25 means something to me, and I almost lost it at the top end. I held it together, but what a day!”
In the Funny Car class, another seasoned veteran that had been in a slump was Tim Wilkerson. His recent Route 66 Raceway victory snapped his 33-race winless streak, which dated back to the 2021 NHRA Carolina Nationals, and he couldn’t have been happier to hoist the Wally trophy in front of a hometown crowd. “I’m trying to keep my emotions in check, but I’m so excited, I’m about to cry. To be this close to home, we have so many people with us this weekend, we’re not going to have a big enough lens for our winner’s circle photo, but it’s very exciting,” joked Wilkerson, a lifelong resident of Springfield, Ill. “All my grandkids are here, and my wife, and my kids. We have about two dozen close friends here and it was just a great day.
Wilkerson’s Sunday outing began as his Mustang took down Blake Alexander and Alex Laughlin, respectively. By advancing to the semifinals, Wilkerson earned a spot in the next Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Funny Car Challenge, slated for the series’ next event in Epping, N.H. The quarterfinal round win also set up a contest between Wilkerson and John Force, another racer that runs WELD wheels. Wilkerson’s final round opponent during the 1999 running of the Route 66 Nationals, where he scored his first career win by defeating the sport’s winningest Funny Car pilot. “In 1999, one of the Force cars had won every race up until that point, and I’ll never forget that win, and 24 years later, here we are again, back in the Joliet winner’s circle and it feels really good,” added Wilkerson of his second Route 66 Raceway win.
The next NHRA event will be the NHRA New England Nationals from June 2-4 at New England Dragway located just outside Epping, New Hampshire. Known for the awesome clam chowder and lobster rolls that are part of the ‘regional flare,’ there’ll also be some ground-pounding action. The NHRA New England Nationals and its home at the historic New England Dragway will take you back in time with a nostalgic setting and the earth-shattering 300-mph Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars.