Clay Millican probably never thought in his lifetime he'd ever be doing a burnout in front of Elvis' house.
But that's indeed what Millican, a 38-year-old who splits time between the NHRA and IHRA, found himself doing recently as part of Elvis Week festivities outside Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.
And not just any burnout, mind you, but a wild, nitro flame-throwing burnout in an 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster that left significant rubber marks on Elvis Presley Boulevard and a thick cloud of smoke hanging over a crowd of Elvis fans.
Following the burnout, Millican jumped out of the car and pumped his fists into the air, then threw his racing gloves out into the audience, who soon flooded the streets to get a closer view of Millican and the Elvis-theme painted car.
"That was absolutely awesome!" Millican said. "I am so grateful to Elvis Presley Enterprises, the city of Memphis, Memphis Motorsports Park, and my team owner, Peter Lehman, for the opportunity to drive this Elvis-themed dragster. It is quite an honor to be able to race it in my hometown."
It was an honor that's been a long time in the making for Millican, whose rise to success in the drag racing world has been much slower than his run down Elvis Presley Boulevard.
It wasn't until Millican was 32 that he earned his NHRA Top Fuel license. After a few false starts, taking driving jobs with underfunded teams which gave him only sporadic exposure to the big leagues, Clay was finally hired by Peter Lehman Racing to drive his IHRA Top Fuel entry teamed with veteran tuner Mike Kloeber. It's an association that has rewarded Lehman with three IHRA World Championships in 2001, '02 and '03.
As the team prepares to compete on Aug. 20-22 at the 17th O'Reilly Midsouth Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park, not far from Millican's home in Drummonds, Tenn., a special paint job commemorating the life and times of Memphis' most celebrated son, Elvis Presley, will adorn Millican's dragster.
The car features an Elvis logo on both sides with the phrase "That's All Right," commemorating Elvis's very first single. "He Dared to Rock" is written on the front wing of the car, and the "50 Years of Rock 'n Roll" logo is on the nose of the car.
Lehman Racing crew members wore Elvis-themed jerseys featuring a picture of Elvis on the front and the "50 Years of Rock 'n Roll" logo on the back. The jerseys will be auctioned off by Memphis Motorsports Park following the Mid-South Nationals and all proceeds from the auction will benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
This is the first event of this kind in more than 17 years on a U.S. city street. The last time was when "Big Daddy" Don Garlits performed a burnout outside the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., as part of the festivities when one of his legendary "Swamp Rat" dragsters was placed on permanent exhibit there in 1986.
Source: NHRA / Updated: Aug 11, 2004