Terry McMillen

Drag Racer - - Rpm: Real Pro Mod -

SOME OF THE WORDS THAT HAVE BEEN USED TO DE­SCRIBE JOUR­NEY­MAN TOP FUEL DRIVER TERRY MCMILLEN IN­CLUDE “DE­TER­MINED,” “TENA­CIOUS” AND “PER­SE­VER­ING.” And af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing for many years and al­most 200 races in drag rac­ing’s pre­miere cat­e­gory, you can add “win­ner” to the list. As a re­sult of a strong per­for­mance at the NHRA Toy­ota Na­tion­als at Las Ve­gas Mo­tor Speed­way, the dis­tinc­tive al­li­ga­tor-themed Amalie Ex­ter­mi­ga­tor dragster earned Terry his firstever NHRA Wally.

If that isn’t enough, just prior to the race Terry tied the knot with his long-time girl­friend, Cori; so, the win was a wed­ding present most can only dream about.

For McMillen, who was born in Chicago but grew up in north­ern In­di­ana, the long (and hard) road to the NHRA win­ner’s cir­cle be­gan when he saved up his earn­ings as a pa­per­boy and bought a ’32 Ford at the ten­der age of

15. With help from his dad, the McMil­len­prepped, Chrysler-pow­ered Deuce made its de­but at the fa­bled U.S. 30 drag strip in Gary, In­di­ana, with young Terry be­hind the wheel. Need­less to say, he was hooked.

Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing at two of In­di­ana’s best-known in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing, Pur­due and Notre Dame Uni­ver­si­ties, Terry en­tered the work­force as an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer. How­ever, the lure of the 1320 never waned.

In the ’70s he raced a small-block Chevy-pow­ered front-en­gine dragster that even­tu­ally got him into the low eights, but he wanted more. So in 1978, he jumped into a Chrysler-pow­ered ni­tro-burn­ing Corvette Funny Car and hit the IHRA cir­cuit.

Early on Terry rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of bring­ing mar­ket­ing part­ners to the sport, and he de­voted ev­ery minute he could spare to the pur­suit of spon­sor­ships. In fact, he sat things out for sev­eral years, only oc­ca­sion­ally rac­ing the flop­per—now on al­co­hol—to main­tain his rac­ing fix.

Af­ter an ab­bre­vi­ated re­turn to the sport with sup­port from Cana­dian telco Mi­tel (which was sold), Terry fi­nally found the

mar­ket­ing part­ner he’d long sought in Amalie Oil. The com­pany had ear­lier suc­cess in drag rac­ing with its name em­bla­zoned on the flanks of Texan Gene Snow’s cars, but in Terry they found some­one who’d give them 110% ef­fort from the pro­mo­tional side.

Terry adopted the gator graphic theme early on, and his Al­co­hol Funny Car be­came a solid win­ner and fan fa­vorite. In fact, he was named IHRA’s Sports­man of the Year in 2005. Sub­se­quently, Terry teamed up with Paul Noakes, and in 2007, they dou­bled-up with Terry win­ning T/F and Paul the al­co­hol F/C ti­tle at IHRA’s Great Bend race.

This brings us to Terry’s ar­du­ous jour­ney on the NHRA cir­cuit, which be­gan in earnest in 2010. Af­ter years of steady im­prove­ment, he has be­come a solid con­tender, qual­i­fy­ing for ev­ery race, mak­ing it to the fi­nal round three times, win­ning Las Ve­gas, and fin­ish­ing in the Top Ten in 2017 Mello Yello points. Terry’s win in Ve­gas, at age 63, pro­vided an­other high­light: be­com­ing the old­est driver to win an NHRA na­tional event in Top Fuel, sup­plant­ing Texas leg­end Ed­die Hill, who was a mere 57 at his last win.

When asked what has made him a gen­uine threat, Terry told us, “sur­round­ing my­self with the right peo­ple.” He added, “For the first years I raced with NHRA, most every­one on the crew was part time. But now that Rob Wend­land’s come aboard full-time as crew chief, we also have a full-time crew to back him up.” Terry has­tened to say, “Suc­cess didn’t hap­pen overnight. We have grown to­gether. I be­lieve in them.”

What’s in the fu­ture for the Hoosier Thun­der team? Terry al­lowed that, “As great as 2017 was, our goal is to im­prove upon it, go more rounds and try and win more races.”

And then there’s the mat­ter of Terry and Cori’s young son, Cameron, who’s be­ing groomed for his first ride in a Jr. Dragster next sea­son. The McMillen cy­cle can start all over again.

Dur­ing the fi­nal round win at Ve­gas, Brit­tany was lead­ing be­cause she left early.

Terry’s first ni­tro ride harkens back to 1990.

Terry, Cori and crew look happy as clams fol­low­ing their Ve­gas vic­tory.

This is one of Terry’s ear­li­est rac­ing ven­tures from the ’70s.

Then and now: Terry’s NHRA T/F ride in 2009 and his cur­rent mount.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.