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Note: The following article was written by Clay Millican for Drag Racing Online. Clay was the 2001 and 2002 IHRA Top Fuel champ (2000 T/F runner-up). He also earned 11 straight wins during the 2002 season! Clay grew up up in the Memphis area, and while too young to race at Lakeland, the track still left an indelible impression on him. This article appears here with his permission. (Thanks Clay!)

My First Time

By Clay Millican

Having been born to a father that loved racing, I cannot tell you the first time I attended a drag race. But I can tell you the first one I remember. It was at Lakeland International Raceway in Lakeland, Tennessee. It was a great place to go as a kid. It had amusement park rides, a dirt track and a place to go swimming on those hot summer days.

'Big Daddy' Don Garlits in the Swamp Rat

Clay MillicanMy first memory is a very vivid one of a black top fuel dragster driven by "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. He was in Lakeland that day match racing a Big Block Chevrolet powered Top Fuel car driven by Jim Bucher. On the first run between these two loud fire breathers Big Daddy lost his rear wing and traction at the same time so the Chevy powered car won round one. But it was at this very moment I knew I had to drive one of these nitro-burning machines. In between matches my Dad carried me to Big Daddy's pit area and I was amazed to see Big Daddy working on the car him self. And then came the warm-up I began to cry from the smell of the nitro and just could not believe the sight, sound and smell of this wild machine.

Round two, all Big Daddy from start to finish he just powered by Jim Bucher in a great race. My Dad and I sat in the stands to watch some of the other machines including Bill "Maverick" Golden in the Little Red Wagon wheel stander. Also there was the Green Monster of Art Arfons in his jet-powered dragster. Both great machines but it was the Top Fuel cars I wanted to see.

Then came the car called Swamp Rat with Big Daddy behind that funny looking steering wheel racing for the win in this final run of the day. It was all I had hoped for side by side right down to the finish line and Big Daddy got the win.

This track closed before I was old enough to race there, but it was the sight of that black dragster called Swamp Rat forever etched in my mind that set me on the path to becoming a top fuel pilot.


Copyright 2001, Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source


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