By Anthony Caruso III
Posted: June 17th, 2014 at 3:00 am EST
Terry McMillen is a veteran Top Fuel driver in the NHRA Drag Racing Series. He knows that you are going to have ups and downs in a sport that can change in a matter of a second.
McMillen’s team is 2-9 in round records this season. Both of his round wins this season has come in recent weeks.
At Heartland Park Topeka, he upset Steve Torrence in the first round after going 13 race weekends without a win. This past weekend, he also beat J.R. Todd in the first round of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
“We’ve been struggling a lot,” McMillen acknowledged. “We started out the year with a six disc clutch, then we switched away from that. We then went to a five-disc clutch to try to find some consistency. When the six-disc clutch was right, the car was running right. We couldn’t control it, so we had to go back to the five-disc clutch. We’re very happy with where it’s going now.”
The Amalie Oil Top Fuel dragster team started the season with a six-disc clutch. After struggling, they have been using a five-disc clutch since the NHRA Southern Nationals in May.
“The biggest different is the six-disc clutch is very smooth,” McMillen said. “The five-disc clutch can be more aggressive. Many times, the five-disc clutch gets hotter faster, and it’s more likely to weld faster. There’s also a bigger window of tuning with the five-disc clutch in the car. There is a difference, but we have more experience with the five-disc clutch and that’s why we’re back with it.”
Since the change, his team is 2-4 in the last four races. The team also made a switch in its manifold, as well, by using a John Force Racing manifold.
“We want to try to get some information on it,” McMillen said. “That manifold doesn’t blow up as bad, and it doesn’t destroy the tires. We don’t want the car to blow up like Antron Brown’s car did in Atlanta. As a one-car team, we can’t afford it.”
This team does not have the budget that many other bigger teams have. Many of their qualifying runs are their test sessions to gather data for their car.
Since the MacTools US Nationals, McMillen’s team has lot a lot of money. In fact, when his team losses in the first round, they make no funds at the race, and his crew has a hard time supporting them selves, and their families.
“There was definitely a financial hit that we went through during that streak,” McMillen said. “It hurts us when we’re not funded all the way that we need. We have Lance Larson working for us now, and that has been a big plus for our team. Richard Hartman was just trying to do too much in order to help us win. Now with Lance on board, it makes more pressure off of Richard.”
This season, he has faced Steve Torrence five times in the first round. Shawn Langdon has faced McMillen in the first round twice, while he has faced Tony Schumacher and J.R. Todd in the only first round match-ups.
He also had a DNQ at his sponsor’s home race when they raced at the 45th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in March.
“It makes it easier to focus when you face the same opponent over and over again,” McMillen admitted. “We know what they’re likely to do, and they also know the same about us. We talk to everyone out here; however, they are only willing to offer up and help with a certain amount of information. They have to hide the secrets, because at the end of the day, you may race them at one point or another in the season. Nobody is going to give you the best information to beat them, because it would cost them financially.”
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