There was a time when DNQs were not that uncommon for veteran Top Fuel driver/team owner Terry McMillen.

That time has long passed.

However, it reared its ugly head for McMillen at the Arby’s Southern Nationals in Atlanta May 3-5 when he didn’t make the 16-car show.

“Not that anybody is immune to it, but we certainly have a better car than that and we tried a couple of things and then nothing panned out and the weather didn’t help us, losing a run,” said McMillen, who dropped to ninth in the season point standings. “We lost some consistency in our blower department and that continually changed the power curve of the motor.

There’s no doubt Rob (Wendland, McMillen’s crew chief) and the whole team will get it all back together and back on track. It’s frustrating. I believe it has been since 2016 the last time we didn’t qualify for a race. We have been running really, really well and it’s frustrating that we didn’t get it together. It is what it is. We can’t change it and it happens to others.”

Now, McMillen and his team have turned their attention to Virginia NHRA Nationals May 17-19 near Richmond.

“Mentally, the other side of the coin is that it is probably a reality check and we are going to dig in that much harder and work that much harder to be better,” McMillen said. “Maybe it is a good thing because it happened so early in the year that it doesn’t really reflect as we get closer to the Countdown. Right now, I promise you it has given us motivation, not that we didn’t have it before, but now it’s like attention to detail. Rob is touching every piece, every department and making sure everything we are doing is 100 percent.”

McMillen said his team didn’t do any testing prior to Richmond.

“I just think for us, it is the attention to detail, the small things,” he said. “We have kind of identified where things went wrong. I can assure you that we have a game plan going into Virginia and put Atlanta behind us.”

McMillen’s carved out a path over time in his NHRA career that has seen him go from NHRA pretender to championship contender. A year ago, he won the most prestigious race on the circuit – the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. That trajectory is part of the reason the recent DNQ in Atlanta stung even more.

“There was a day that we were just happy to run 4 seconds and just get into the show,” McMillen said. “Rob has made a lot of great changes to the program and it started leading us to better elapsed times and qualifying positions. You look at our qualifying right now and it is a 3.763. That’s pretty crazy. I think what makes it more frustrating is that you go to a race and you can’t even run 4.30 to qualify. That’s far out of whack it got between the ride from Charlotte to Atlanta. We hit a bump somewhere and it really knocked some things loose and now we are fixing it.

You know drag racing is a roller-coaster and it could be good on any given day. I think the frustrating part is that you know forever you have been a good car in qualifying here lately. We get back after a run sometimes and we only run a 79, and it is like you have to be kidding me. A few years ago, we were begging for 4.0s. It’s the nature of the beast.”