By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
LAS VEGAS — Terry McMillen hadn’t won an NHRA event in 194 previous starts. After getting married a week earlier, the Top Fuel driver put his first Wally trophy on top of the wedding cake.
When Brittany Force left the starting line too soon, McMillen cruised to his first career victory in the NHRA Toyota Nationals on a sun-baked Sunday afternoon at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His winning time was the slowest of his four runs at 3.870 seconds and 253.99 mph, but it was the least of his worries.
“If there was anything that was going to happen with bad luck, I was going to win that contest,” McMillen said of his past frustrations. “They say after the first one it gets easier, so I’m gonna put that to the test and find out.“I saw the (red) light and thought that was crazy. I was hoping it wasn’t a malfunction. All in all, we’re here to do one thing, and that’s to hit the gas and go fast. That’s what we did and we were fortunate today to come out on top.”
With Force’s run to the final, she cut the lead of Steve Torrence — who lost in the quarterfinals to Shawn Langdon — to 20 points heading to the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks.
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan beat Courtney Force in the final for his fourth event win of the season with a pass of 3.942 seconds at 329.42 mph. He beat teammate and No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman along the way in the semifinals.
“ These Funny Cars are kind of finicky,” Hagan said. “Sometimes they love you and sometimes they rip your heart out and step on it. … You lose hope sometimes, but you gotta get your Pom-poms out and keep everybody up and going.”
Hagan saw his other Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Ron Capps, fall out of the points lead when he lost in the first round to John Force. Robert Hight reclaimed the top spot for the second time in the Countdown by 15 points by reaching the semifinals before losing to Courtney Force.
In the Pro Stock final, Greg Anderson beat Summit Racing teammate Bo Butner in the final and will take a 40-point lead to Pomona. The 54-year-old won for the fifth time at Las Vegas and 90th of his career with a pass of 6.698 seconds at 204.70 mph.
“You couldn’t wrap anything up this weekend,” Anderson said. “We knew it was going to go to Pomona, but the question was with three cars, four or five.”
When Butner beat Drew Skillman in the semifinals, it left the three Summit Racing teammates — Butner, Anderson and Jason Line — with the last shot at winning the golden Wally trophy in two weeks.
“Didn’t think it would happen, but somehow we found a way,” Anderson said. “It’s a dream scenario for us.”
Eddie Krawiec won the Pro Stock Motorcycle title at The Strip, his fourth victory in five Countdown races. He beat Hector Arana Jr. with a 6.924-second pass at 193.16 mph and will take a 150-point lead over LE Tonglet to Pomona. Arana Jr. beat Tonglet on a holeshot in the semifinals.
NHRA Toyota Nationals final results
-Top Fuel: Terry McMillen (3.870 seconds, 253.99 mph) def. Brittany Force (Foul)
-Funny Car: Matt Hagan (3.942, 329.42) def. Courtney Force (4.020, 320.05)
-Pro Stock: Greg Anderson (6.698, 204.70) def. Bo Butner (15.506, 36.72)
-Pro Stock Motorcycle: Eddie Krawiec (6.924, 193.16) def. Hector Arana Jr. (6.949, 192.91)
Photo credit: David Allio/Las Vegas Motor Speedway