GAINESVILLE, FL – March 10, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Terry McMillen has enjoyed one of the best starts in his Top Fuel career, winning rounds at each of the first two events of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
McMillen and his team are excited and encouraged by the early-season success, which may prove to be perfect timing for the 47th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 17-20 at historic Gainesville Raceway.
The tradition-rich event is especially big for McMillen as AMALIE Motor Oil sponsors the NHRA veteran driver’s team. The company’s main headquarters is less than an hour from the famed track, which means there is extra emphasis for McMillen and his team to put on a show in their 10,000-horsepower AMALIE Motor Oil XTERMIGATOR dragster.
“While we race 24 times a year there’s only once where we do it front of AMALIE,” McMillen said. “They really pack the people in and what’s rewarding to me is the sensory overload that they get all weekend. Whether it’s working on the car or going down the track, they become emotionally attached.
“The memories of the people that show up to the race and the experience we’re able to give them, those are the things that make this race very special. Plus, it’s just a big race. It’s the first race of the season on the East Coast and that in itself draws a lot of fans. To showcase what we do and be a part of this race, it’s just overwhelming.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET). It is the third of 24 races during the 2016 season and McMillen hopes to continue his early-season momentum.
The team, led by crew chief Rob Wenland, has been consistent out of the gates, making full passes on a regular basis during qualifying and eliminations. That has paid off in a number of respects, most notably leading to round wins against eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher in Pomona and Steve Torrence, who won the opening race and held the early points lead, at the most recent event in Phoenix.
McMillen remains confident and hopeful the team can continue to push forward, but he is thrilled about the steps everyone has already made in 2016.
“We’re making some major strides, especially this year,” McMillen said. “Rob and the entire crew have done a great job in getting to this level. It’s hard to maintain, especially for a one-car team, but I think we’ve come a long way. The new car is probably the best car I’ve ever driven in my life. We just have to keep working hard, but if we win one round at every race we will finish in the top 10, I feel confident in that.”
A top-10 finish and a berth in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship are among McMIllen’s primary goals for 2016, which means performing well at the early-season races is crucial. He’s done it so far by putting together consistent runs. The team hasn’t dipped into the 3.70s yet, but McMillen, who has a career-best E.T. of 3.806, is confident that will happen and is currently more focused on how the car has gone down the track more often than not.
“You look at what the cars are doing right now and it’s anybody’s race on race day,” McMillen said. “In qualifying we don’t know how to run low 3.70s yet. We’ll get there, but on raceday it’s a different set-up. The thing now is to make the car go down the track without smoking the tires. If somebody outruns us then so be it, but every time we make a full pass we’re getting more data.”
Garnering that data has been critical for competing against a loaded Top Fuel field that starts with defending world champion Antron Brown. Others to watch at Gainesville include 2014 event winner and current points leader Doug Kalitta, four-time Gatornationals winner Schumacher, rising star Leah Pritchett, who won her first career race two weeks ago in Phoenix, Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, Brittany Force, Richie Crampton, Dave Connolly and Clay Millican.
But McMillen continues to see improvement, which could pay dividends in not only his long-term goal of finishing in the top 10 for the first time, but also his short-term goal of scoring his first NHRA Top Fuel victory.
“If we make an adjustment we’re seeing an improvement and that’s a great thrill,” said McMillen, who has six career semifinal appearances. “As a driver, that helps you drive the car better, and if you know what the car is going to do you’re going to be better on the lights and be more comfortable. We’ve got more round wins this year through two events than by mid-year last year. We can’t pat ourselves on the back, but Rob has a really good handle on the car and what it wants.”
In Funny Car, current series points leader Capps, who won in Pomona, came out victorious in Funny Car at Gainesville in 2015 and the three-time Gatornationals winner hopes to add to that list again this year. He’ll face off against the likes of Tim Wilkerson, who won the most recent event in Phoenix, defending world champion Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Courtney Force, seven-time event winner John Force, Robert Hight, national record holder Jack Beckman, two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr.
For the new-look Pro Stock class, Anderson will ride into Gainesville looking to defend his 2015 Gatornationals title. Anderson defeated teammate Jason Line in the final round of the event last year and both already have victories in 2016. The Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro tandem has combined for seven victories at Gainesville Raceway, but get tough competition from reigning world champion Erica Enders, two-time Gators winners Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., and category young guns Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha and Bo Butner.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class will make its 2016 season debut at the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. The two-wheeled class races at 16 events throughout the season and reigning world champ Andrew Hines is after his third consecutive world championship. Trying to prevent him from getting there will be teammate and three-time event winner Eddie Krawiec, 2015 event winner Stoffer, Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie and two-time world champion Matt Smith, among others.
The event also will serve as the season-opening race for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and will feature plenty of thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, March 18 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 19, at 12 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 20.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
AMALIE MOTOR OIL NHRA GATORNATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series.
WHERE: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla. The track is located on 11211 North County Road 225 in Gainesville.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, March 17-20
THURSDAY, March 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, March 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at noon and 3:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:45 and 4:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, March 19 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 3:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, March 20 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, March 18, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, March 19, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 6:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, March 20, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS:
Spencer Massey, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; Karen Stoffer, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Warren Johnson, 9, PS; John Force, 7, FC; Don Prudhomme, 5, FC; Joe Amato, 4, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, FC/TF; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Don Garlits, 4, TF; Jason Line, 4, PS; Ed McCulloch, 4, FC; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Dave Schultz, 4, PSM; Terry Vance, 4, PSM.
- Top Fuel – 3.743 seconds by Morgan Lucas, March ’12; 329.02 mph by Spencer Massey, March ’15.
- Funny Car – 4.022 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, March ’15; 317.12 mph by Robert Hight, March ’12.
- Pro Stock – 6.473 seconds by Mike Edwards, March ’12; 214.69 mph by Erica Enders, March ’14.
- PS Motorcycle – 6.750 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12; 199.26 mph by Krawiec, March ’11.
- Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
- Funny Car – 3.884 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
- Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
- PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.