Clay Millican

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Clay Millican
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Born (1966-02-09) February 9, 1966 (age 58)
CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationProfessional Top Fuel Nitro dragster driver

Clay Millican (born February 9, 1966), is a professional Top Fuel Nitro dragster driver who races in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Clay resides in his hometown of Drummonds, Tennessee with Donna, his wife of 35 years, son Cale, and their two bull terriers, Iggy and Millie.

Racing Career Start

Clay got his first race car at the age of 16 and began racing in the mid-eighties at local 1/8 mile drag strips near his Tennessee home. Clay has always favored cars built by the Chrysler Corporation, known affectionately to their fans as “Mopars”. Clay began racing in what is known as bracket or E.T. racing, but advanced to race in Index classes, such as Super Gas, Super Comp and Modified Eliminator, where he even held an E.T. record in A/Dragster. However Clay’s lifelong dream was to run Nitro Top Fuel, having seen “Big Daddy” Don Garlits run his Top Fuel dragster, the “Swamp Rat”, at Lakeland International Raceway in Memphis during the late seventies.

Top Fuel dragsters are the quickest accelerating vehicles on the planet. They produce over 11,000 horsepower on nitro-methane fuel. They can go from zero to 100 miles per hour in as little as 8 tenths of a second, and Clay has driven his Parts Plus dragster over 294 miles per hour in just an eighth of a mile (660 feet). The cars can reach a top speed of 335 miles per hour in just 1,000 feet, and will subject the driver to over 4g’s upon acceleration, and over 5.5g’s on deceleration. It was no wonder Clay was mesmerized, and knew instantly that was what he wanted to race, upon witnessing one of the earlier versions of the nitro fueled dragster driven by Big Daddy.

Clay worked throughout his early racing career to pursue that goal, winning at local, divisional and National events in various sportsman classes. But the realization of his Top Fuel dream came about in 1998 when friend Peter Lehman suggested they team up to campaign a Top Fuel car. Peter would serve as Team Owner and Clay as driver. Good friends would make up the all-volunteer crew, with wife Donna alongside for emotional support. The only experienced person in the new team was Mike Kloeber, who would serve as Crew Chief.

At the time, Clay was working as a forklift driver at Kroger, and Donna encouraged him to leave Kroger and pursue his dream, while she would then work full time to pay the couple’s bills.

Turning in his notice, Clay traveled to Florida to obtain his Top Fuel Competition License with the help of Funny Car legend Paul Smith. They then debuted the car one week later at an NHRA event held near Chicago, Illinois with sponsorship provided by the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Clay’s debut was also marked by the fact that his was the first ever Top Fuel car to go down the track at Route 66 Raceway.

From that humble beginning, Clay and Peter, along with crew chief Mike Kloeber, made up what still stands today as the winningest Top Fuel Team of all time in IHRA competition. [1]

Clay moves to IHRA

Though Clay made his debut at an NHRA track, he and Peter decided to race instead in the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA). Not only were the events fewer in number, but the Top Fuel fields were commonly smaller, and it would be a better learning experience for their new team, and would hopefully require a smaller budget.

Along with the great fortune of acquiring a major sponsorship from trucking giant Werner, Inc., the decision to race in IHRA proved to be the best they could have made, as they ultimately ended up winning no less than six Top Fuel Championships from 2001 until 2006. They also scored three consecutive final round appearances in NHRA in 2004, but chose to race the full IHRA schedule during those years.

Clay still stands as the winningest Top Fuel driver of all time in IHRA with 52 National Event wins. He also holds the all-time record of 60 appearances in a Top Fuel final round.

Clay’s accomplishments and records while racing in IHRA have yet to be improved upon by any driver. Making the move to race full time in 2000, he won 68% of all races he entered from 2001 to 2006. In addition, Clay racked up the following records:

•The only driver to advance to every Final Round in a single season (2003)

•The most consecutive Top Fuel Event wins with 10 (2002).

•The most consecutive round wins in all of Top Fuel racing with 30 (2002)

•The most wins in a Season with 11 (2002). [2] •Clay was the first driver in the four second zone in IHRA, and still holds the IHRA World Record in Top Fuel with an elapsed time of 4.48 seconds at 328 miles per hour in the 1/4 mile. That record will never be bettered as IHRA no longer campaigns a Top Fuel program. [3]

Clay also holds the distinction of winning the largest payout in the history of Top Fuel by winning the Rocket City Nationals held in Huntsville Alabama, which earned him a record $106,000 for being the number one qualifier and winning the event.

Moving back to NHRA

In late 2005, Peter informed Clay that he had decided to pursue other interests. They departed amicably, and remain good friends to this day. Left without a team owner, Clay then scored a new owner in the form of Kenny Koretsky, a successful NHRA Pro Stock racer. Clay won another IHRA championship in 2006 with Kenny, also known to many as “Captain Chaos”.

Then Werner Trucking, Clay’s sponsor throughout most of his IHRA career, was forced to shut down their sponsorship at the end of 2006 due to the soaring rise of fuel costs. Koretsky had purchased the Nitro Fish Racing Apparel Company in 2005, and it was decided that Nitro Fish would sponsor Clay’s Top Fuel Team and that they would campaign the car in NHRA for 2007.

Clay continued to race in Top Fuel in NHRA, but on a part time basis from 2008 to 2011, as sponsorship woes plagued him and many of the top fuel teams during those recession years. Then in 2012, a new partnership with Memphis-based Parts Plus, who is still his sponsor as of 2021, allowed him to compete on the full NHRA tour with Mark and Lauren Pickens as new owners, who raced under the MPE Motorsports banner.

Clay, with Parts Plus on board as a major sponsor, then raced for Bob Vandergriff Motorsports in 2013. After that team disbanded, Clay and Parts Plus went to Dexter Tuttle Motorsports for another full season in 2014. When Tuttle’s expanding businesses forced him to cut back his Top Fuel involvement for 2015, Clay once again found himself without a ride.

Enter Doug Stringer, a successful marketing guru, and at that time a NASCAR Team owner. Doug and Clay had already formed a friendship years before. Doug had actually worked on Jim Epler’s funny car and loved drag racing, but was in NASCAR when he and Clay began talking about a possible Great Clips sponsorship, as Doug was their Marketing Director at the time. Doug is quoted as saying “I love drag racing, but I went to NASCAR to make a living.”

As mentioned, Clay had approached Doug about involving Great Clips as a sponsor for his Top Fuel car. One conversation led to another, and Doug invited Clay to bring his tractor trailer containing the race car to Doug’s house in McLeansboro, Illinois, as Doug was hosting an after-party for a Jason Leffler Memorial Race. Doug later recalled that once he saw the operation pulling in, he knew he was going drag racing. Doug then later called Clay and asked if they could form their own team. Naturally Clay agreed. They purchased a dragster from Steve Torrence while Parts Plus remained on as Sponsor, and it was now known as the Stringer Performance Parts Plus Nitro Top Fuel Team and the rest, as they say, is History.

Stringer Performance, which was Doug and wife Whitney, decided to base their drag racing operation out of McLeansboro in two shops located behind Doug’s home. But they were in need of a full time Crew Chief.

David Grubnic, known to all as “Grubby”, was an Australian who at the time was racing in Top Fuel as well for Kalitta Motorsports, but had been let go by the team in April of 2014. Donna was one who always liked to remain in the shadows of the operation, but had the ear of Clay in all things important. She suggested to Clay that they hire Grubby as their new Crew Chief. In talking with him about the possibility, they learned just how ‘smart’ Grubby was about tuning a nitro car, and he was brought aboard in 2015. That partnership earned Clay two 1,000 foot national elapsed time records, and three National Event wins including Bristol on Father’s Day, a race which both Clay and Doug say is their all-time favorite race win. Clay made the quickest ever pass by a Top Fuel car in September of 2017 when he covered the 1,000 foot in 3.631 seconds at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois just outside of St Louis. [4] Clay then broke that record with a blistering 3.628 second pass at the Fairplex Fairgrounds in Pomona, California later that same year. [5]

Then, as continually happens in racing, change took place once again within the Stringer Performance/Parts Plus Team, as David Grubnic announced his departure at the end of the 2018 season. As an even further blow to the Parts Plus Team, the rest of the crew left with Grubby.


As luck would have it, the search for a replacement Crew Chief was over fairly quickly, as Doug began talks with Clay’s famed former Crew Chief Mike Kloeber about his coming aboard. Mike wasn’t crewing full time for anyone and agreed to join the team. That put the winningest duo in IHRA together again to battle this time among the best in NHRA. Enthusiastic and talented crew members were added one by one, and this newly formed group was ready to do battle.

Since Clay rejoined NHRA his overall stats have been very impressive, especially in light of the fact they are a single car Top Fuel team (meaning they have no other team to share run data with or gain data from) and are considered to be a “low buck” operation, although there is no such thing in Top Fuel with the staggering costs it takes to compete. Clay has racked up 16 final round appearances, and been number one qualifier 25 times, each time earning the coveted NHRA “Green Hat” awarded to number one qualifiers.[6] His three wins and two national records previously mentioned are standout accomplishments in the premier Nitro class. Clay has finished as high as third (2018) in the NHRA Points Standings, in addition to leading in the Points for a number of races that year, and has been in the Countdown to the Championship seven times since returning to NHRA.

A Stronger Team

Over the winter of 2018, at the Annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show held in Indianapolis, Team Owner Doug Stringer announced Stringer Performance had taken on partners in the form of Scott Gardner and JJ Koehler. Together they had formed SSG, an acronym for Straightline Strategy Group.[7] The group also announced SSG was adding new teams and drivers in each of the Pro categories with the exception of Pro Mod. Those members would be Paul Lee competing in Nitro Funny Car, Janette Thornley riding in Top Fuel Nitro Harley, Matt Hartford, who would compete in Pro Stock, and car builder wizard Jeff Lutz, competing in Street Outlaws.

Backed by a wealth of racing knowledge, and somewhat deeper pockets, the future indeed looked bright for Team SSG and in particular for Clay and the Parts Plus Team. 2019 was an overall good year for the newly staffed Parts Plus Team, with three runner up finishes in as many final rounds, and they qualified number one at three separate events, earning three more green hats.

But Covid-19 had other ideas for 2020 and the limited schedule of Events didn’t allow them to gain the momentum they’d hoped for. That was due in part to the fact that qualifying sessions were cut short from four to three at the limited events they were able to race. Qualifying sessions are critical in gathering data for Sunday’s Eliminations, especially when weather changes from day to day at an event. Still, Clay managed to finish a respectable eighth in the Countdown and gained 2 more Green Hats, qualifying number 1 at the Lucas Oil Summernationals at Indianapolis, and at the Amalie Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

Personal life

Clay married his high school sweetheart Donna on October 25, 1985. Together they were blessed with two sons, Cale and Dalton. Clay has two sisters, Tracey Millican and Leigh Millican Hubbard. Clay’s father Jimmie Millican passed away in February of 2018 and his mother Martha Millican passed in September of 2019. Clay is an avid golfer and plays throughout the year when time permits. He and Donna love to ride trails in their side by side, even doing so in the California deserts when racing takes them out West.

Tragedy strikes

Clay and Donna’s younger son Dalton was very athletic, and was a successful professional racer in his own right, winning a National Championship in ATV racing, and later piloting the FELD Blue Thunder Monster Truck, competing in the ‘More Monster Jam Tour', where he finished fourth in points for the season in 2015, his first year. [8]

Tragically though, they lost Dalton in a motorcycle accident in August of that year, at the age of 22.

One of Dalton’s favorite sayings was “Stomp on that loud pedal” referring of course, to the accelerator and the massive ‘open header’ noise his supercharged Blue Thunder Monster Truck would make when he’d push it to the floor. When Clay lost Dalton, that catchphrase became his saying as well in honor of Dalton, who was not only his son, but his best friend. Dalton’s memory lives on through that saying in T-Shirts, bumper stickers, on the race car, as well as every time Clay utters it in interviews, and on social media. ‘Stomp on that Loud Pedal’ is known throughout the racing community and has become synonymous with Clay’s favorite thing to do, which is to make noise with his Top Fuel car at every opportunity, but in truth it is all done in honor of the memory of Dalton Millican.

In addition, Clay’s Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster bears the competition number 25, which was Dalton’s competition number. NHRA Racers finishing in the top ten in points are allowed to own and display competition numbers related to how they finished in the points standings the previous year. That would mean Clay could wear the number 8 for 2021, but instead he has stated he’ll always wear the number 25 unless he earns the number 1 spot, again in honor of Dalton.

Another result of losing Dalton was Clay’s joining with former Top Fuel racer Doug Herbert, a former rival, in Doug’s B.R.A.K.E.S. organization.[9]

B.R.A.K.E.S, an acronym for Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe, is a program designed to teach teens to drive safely. It was founded by Doug in 2008 after he lost both his sons in a car crash. Clay helps in hosting the event when it’s held at Memphis International Raceway near his hometown, and supports the events throughout the year. Clay has been quoted as saying “It’s not what the tragedy does to you, it’s what you do with the tragedy”, and has vowed to help in teaching all young people safer driving skills.

Television Roles

As one of NHRA’s most popular drivers among the fans, Clay’s outgoing personality, drag racing knowledge, and ever present smile have opened the door to several opportunities in Television, as well as in Social Media.

Working alongside Producer Ray Iddings, Clay has hosted many performance/racing based cable TV shows.

His first full time effort was “Blow It Up”, featured on SPEEDTV in 2007. This show centered on pitting host Clay against owners of various race cars with the intent of literally blowing up the engines through brutal racing scenarios and exercises.[10]

In February of 2009, Clay returned to SPEEDTV with another drag race show entitled “Drag Race High”. This new show focused on two groups of students from two different San Diego high schools who would build cars to race each other. The Teams were given $10,000 each to build drag cars in their auto shops at each school, with Clay as Head Judge of their work as Host of the fun show.

Clay also hosted “Pinks All Out” in 2009, the popular drag race show where losers literally gave their “pink slips” or car titles, to winners.

In 2011 filming began on “Burnout: The Ultimate Drag Race Challenge” on MTV2 with Clay as host. The Series focused on students from UTI who were given the parts necessary to build drag race machines, competing to eventually crown a Team Champion. [11]

And in 2014, Clay co-hosted Gear Heads on MAVTV along with JR Todd. This show focused on building the ultimate drag race machines out of Houston, Texas based Fastlane Garage.

World Traveler/Racer

Clay’s infectious smile and wide fan base has always placed him at the center of drag racing’s extracurricular activities too, including four trips overseas.

In 1999, Clay traveled to Hockenheim, Germany where he competed in the “Nitro Olympics” in a Top Fuel match race against Danielle Deporter. Clay drove the Top Fuel car of the late Donnie Holbrook, an NHRA Hall of Famer. [12]

In May of 2008, along with NASCAR star Jeremy Mayfield, NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, and NHRA Funny Car racer Phil Burkart, Clay visited the U.S. troops in Iraq and surrounding territories offering their support. It was a life changing experience for Clay and team, seeing firsthand the bravery and courage of the troops committed to keeping America free.

In November of 2017 Clay once again headed overseas, this time to visit the British Museum of Drag Racing, where he presented UK Top Fuel racers Karsten Anderson and Per Andersen with an award for their own Top Fuel record, since Clay was the current NHRA E.T. record holder in Top Fuel in the States at that time. [13]

Then in November of 2019, Clay was invited to the “Global Auto Salon” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This would be the first-ever Riyadh Car Show. Global Auto Salon featured world-class hot rods, muscle cars, exotics, classic cars, trucks, sports compacts, race cars, and other specialty vehicles. Clay was among dozens of industry experts and celebrities in attendance, and represented NHRA and the United States well, as always.

A tribute to Elvis Presley

In a much publicized 2004 event in Memphis during “Elvis Week”, Clay and then team owner Peter Lehman worked with Elvis Presley Enterprises and Memphis Motorsports Park’s President Jason Rittenberry to commemorate the release of Elvis Presley’s first record. With the help of Memphis City Officials, Elvis Presley Boulevard was shut down in front of Graceland, Elvis’ beloved Memphis home, and the team unveiled their “He Dared To Rock“ Top Fuel dragster which sported Elvis’ likeness on each side along with the phrase “That’s All right”. Clay, wearing blue suede racing boots with his fire suit, then readied himself as his crew brought his 8,000 plus horsepower ride to life, and he hit the throttle doing an over 200 foot long smoky nitro burnout right down the center of Elvis Presley Boulevard to the delight of the thousands of fans lined up on the 4 lane Boulevard. It was the first time anywhere in the U.S. a Top Fuel dragster was allowed to do a burnout on a city street. After the huge burnout, Clay climbed out of his dragster and threw his driving gloves into the crowd, who were then allowed to view the dragster up close and meet with Clay. [14]

Clay on the Pitcher’s Mound

Yet another highlight for Clay in a non-racing setting took place on May 30th of 2019, as he was selected to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians that Thursday evening. It was fitting that Clay be offered such an honor, as the Chicago White Sox were sponsors of Clay’s Top Fuel dragster in 1998 when he made his nitro drag racing debut at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. NHRA was returning to Route 66 Raceway for their event held there that coming weekend, and having Clay throw out the pitch gave much more awareness to NHRA being in Illinois to compete. [15]

Social Media

Clay has a fan page on Facebook simply entitled Clay Millican, and currently has over 45,000 followers, attesting to his immense popularity.

He and wife Donna also host a weekly Facebook Live show appropriately titled “The D&C Show”, where they interview racers, owners, and various other racing personalities.

Clay recently unveiled his own YouTube channel to immediate success, and a popular feature is his “Parts Plus Motorsports Moment” where he and Mike Kloeber break down a particular part of the dragster each broadcast and describe its function. [16]

Underscoring yet again his immense popularity with fans, Clay has amassed over 117,000 followers on Twitter, and he has over 50,000 followers on his Instagram account.[17][18]

The Future

Clay’s popularity and huge fan base following will only continue to grow, as will his on track accomplishments, as he will compete in Top Fuel with the Stringer Performance Parts Plus Top Fuel dragster throughout the 2021 season and beyond, ensuring his certain-to-be rightful place among the legends of the sport of Championship Drag Racing.


  1. IHRA's All Time Winningest Driver
  2. Clay Millican Returning to IHRA Competition/
  4. Clay Millican sets national e.t. record in St Louis
  5. Millican sets record pace in Pomona
  6. Clay Millican leads Gainsville qualifying
  7. Straightline Strategy Group forms Marketing Alliance
  8. Dalton
  10. Blow It Up (TV Series 2007-)-Full Cast & Crew-IMDb
  11. Burnout: The Ultimate Drag Race Challenge
  14. Stephens:Millican's smokin' in Memphis
  15. NHRA Top Fuel driver Clay Millican hopes Chicago is his kinda town again
  16. Clay Millican
  17. Twitter
  18. Instagram

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