NHRA Top Fuel racer Terry McMillen rattled the entire state of New Hampshire on Sunday morning when the engine in his Amalie Motor Oil dragster erupted in incredible fashion during the opening round of eliminations at the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.
McMillen, who qualified fifth in the field (the team’s best qualifying result since Denver in 2012) with a career best 3.723, was racing Scott Palmer in the opening stanza when his car lost traction around the 100-foot mark. With raw fuel pouring out of the pipes, McMillen slapped the loud pedal to hook the car back up, setting off a chain reaction within the 500 cubic-inch powerplant that resulted in one of the grandest engine explosions and fireballs the sport has seen in years.
Whereas the majority of explosions in the nitro categories simply lift the supercharger off of the manifold and damage the rotating assembly and/or the valvetrain, McMillen’s unfortunate and expensive excursion was more akin to the detonation of a bomb — the supercharger being blown clean off the manifold, and the carbon fiber injector hat instantly shredded into oblivion.
McMillen, who has endured his share of replay-worthy engine detonations over the years, was visibly upset at the turn of events, particularly given how well the team ran in qualifying, but he was later able to shine some positive light on the ordeal as the Amalie team heads to Englishtown.
“It really looked a lot worse than it was or could have been,” McMillen explained. “Every piston and rod was in the motor. The intake manifold, blower and blower restraints are junk, but everything else is fine.”
“We were really feeling good about our consistency,” McMillen added. “We felt like it was our weekend to go deep into elimination rounds. What happened was really unfair to our team’s efforts and the farthest thing from our minds as to what the outcome would be. It was really unfortunate and in no way a reflection of our tune-up or maintenance program. The car started to lose traction early in the run and I slapped the throttle like I’ve done many times. We’re not 100 percent sure what happened yet, but something caused an explosion in the intake area and the rest of the story is sure to be part of a highlight reel. The car is back together and we’re ready to pick up where we left off in qualifying when we get to Englishtown next week.”