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Nitro Shots: Fathers & Sons

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, which carries significant meaning in a sport as heavily family oriented as drag racing.

Clay Millican was a six-time champion in IHRA’s Top Fuel division, winning 51 national events in his time there. In NHRA, however, he was still waiting on his first win to come. That win finally came last weekend at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, the Tennessee native’s home track, in his 254th Top Fuel start. He’d finished as the runner-up eight previous times.

The win was made even more special as it came on Father’s Day. Millican lost his son, Dalton, in 2015 in a motorcycle accident.

“I wondered if I would ever win one of these. I thought maybe it’s not meant to be,” said Millican. “My Momma told me if the time was right, it would happen. There is no such thing as a coincidence. There were so many signs/things today I know was Dalton. Father’s Day is a tough day for anyone who lost a child. Dalton was riding with me today. He got me four win lights.”

Rookie driver Tanner Gray and his father, Pro Stock veteran Shane Gray, had to face off against each other in the second round last weekend. Give the win to Tanner, although I’m not sure what sort of Father’s Day gift it is to best your father on his special day.

The Grays are just one of many families involved in the sport. Troy Coughlin was out there bringing home another Wally in Pro Mod while his son, Troy Jr., was competing in Top Fuel. Matt Smith had the week off from racing his Pro Stock Motorcycle but his dad, Rickie Smith, was also out there going rounds in Pro Mod before bowing out in the semifinals.

Hector Arana, Sr. with sons Adam and Hector, Jr. (l-r) in 2014. (Photo Mike Neff)

Hector Arana, Sr. and Jr. compete as teammates in Pro Stock Motorcycle, although for the first time in nearly a decade, Hector Arana, Sr. will not be competing in the this weekend in Norwalk. Arana suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery on his way back from Englishtown two weeks ago while changing a flat tire on his race trailer. He’ll be sidelined for approximately the next three months.

“We’re hoping I can be back on the bike in time for the Countdown to the Championship but we’ll see when it gets closer,” said Arana. “I had one tendon completely torn off and two more that had bad tears. I had surgery as soon as possible to get the healing process started.”

Arana will still be at the track to help son Hector Arana, Jr. with his bike. While the senior Arana is not ready to give up riding just yet, this might actually work in the favor of his son, who will have the undivided attention of his father for the summer stretch. The elder Arana tunes both bikes, but he can focus all of his energy on just one for the next few months.

It bears mentioning that one of the biggest reasons Hector Jr. got involved is because it gives him an opportunity to spend more time with his father. Tuning the bikes aside, there’s a good chance that Hector, Sr. feels the same way and would still be going to the track even if he wasn’t helping with his son’s bike.

Hey Y’All, Watch This:

Clay Millican’s son, Dalton, rides with him at every race, but perhaps his presence on a special day was enough to help his Dad finally score that elusive first NHRA Top Fuel win. Few wins in the sport have been more popular than this one. Millican brings a smile to everything that he does and is well-liked and respected by his competitors.


QualifyingFriday, November 10, 6:30 PM ETFS1 (Live)
QualifyingSaturday, November 11, 6:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)
EliminationsSunday, November 12, 4:00 PM ETFS1 (Live)


About Toni Montgomery

Toni Montgomery
A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

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