MEET CLAY MILLICAN, NOT THE TF RACER, BUT YOUTUBE STAR
Clay Millican didn't set out to be a social media star, but he certainly has become one.
Millican, the likable Top Fuel driver from Drummonds, Tenn., a small town outside of Memphis, has moved in ways a Top Fuel dragster driver cannot. He's transformed from a talkative, outgoing driver into a social-media influencer.
"I did not intend for the YouTube channel to get so popular," said Millican of his video page, which boasts more than 60,000 subscribers. "When I made my first video, I never thought about doing it all the time; it never even crossed my mind. So the channel's been around for, like, 10 years, but there's only one or two videos, maybe for years. But if you scroll back through all the bazillion videos I've now posted, they started getting more often during COVID."
It is said that idle hands are the devil's workshop, but for Millican he turned those idle hands into something angelic.
"I was bored, and those videos are absolutely horrible," Millican admitted. "It's me and Donna doing some home improvement stuff at Mom and Daddy's place, and I started actually enjoying doing that. The more I did it, the more I liked it, and I honestly enjoyed doing it. I edit everything. I do it all. Every bit of it is me. I do get a little bit of GoPro footage and some help from the kids on the race car, but all the footage comes to me, and it's all done with my iPhone, iMovie."
Millican thought he was playing to a relatively minute audience. Still, as racing started to re-engage in the summer of 2020 following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Millican realized there were scores of bored people who sought entertainment. He made videos, and they watched them.
"Now, I know in the span that I was standing up there [at the first race back], about three people came up and said, 'I love your stuff,'" Millican said. "I mean, you're an entertainer in a race car, but outside of a race car?"
Anything and everything was fair game in Millican's world of low-budget video entertainment. He takes his newfound role of drag racing ambassador seriously.
"I work on cars all the time, and it has grown from that," Millican said. "I have two truck projects that have kind of taken a life of their own. I'm constantly going to all kinds of events and different things, and I share what I'm doing on my YouTube channel, and it continues to grow. And I'm happy about that. And one of the coolest things.
"I can't tell you how many people that told me it's either their first NHRA drag race or the first time they came in years because they feel like they're getting some behind-the-scene information from our team that they get nowhere else. And our sponsors have actually dove into my YouTube channel as well. I mean, we're on our second SEMA car build, and that's purely from my YouTube channel."
One of the more popular builds has been the rebuild of a truck belonging to his son Dalton, who died on August 15, 2015, in a motorcycle accident. The project was in conjunction with CRC Industries, a company long known for its famous brand of brake cleaner.
"They saw the value of the YouTube channel very quickly, and they helped us finish," Millican said. "Me and Jeffrey Lutz finished 'Dently,' and when we delivered Dently to the SEMA show last year, they very quickly said, 'We want to do it again, but what do we want to do?'
"What that turned into, aside from the car, which is a 2006 GTO, is an amazing car with only 1,350 miles on it. And now it's an even better car with the Lutz touch."
Millican said the GTO will be auctioned at the Mecham Auction, where the proceeds will go towards 10 scholarships for aspiring automotive workers.
"The YouTube channel has turned into all kinds of things besides just what happens with this race team," Millican added.
And what happens on the race team? Millican learned very quickly that there are boundaries.
Crew chief "'Jim O' [Oberhofer] has been open to basically not saying, 'You can't show this. You can't show that,'" Millican said. "We don't hide what the clutch looks like on this car. The only thing we don't really show is his tuneup. Other than that, what happens here, I'm showing it, and people, it's not edited very well. It's not the slickest production, but I think people know that it's real.
"I'm not giving you some made-up nothing. And some of the content I think's good. Some of it, I think, is bad. But you're getting what's happening with an NHRA Top Fuel team and all the people that are part of this whole program."
It's that backwoods, shadetree-type production, Millican adds, that has made his channel a hit.
"I've been in the corporate world for close to 25 years," Millican said. "The YouTube is just me. Whatever you think of me, that is just me. I don't have an on-camera presence. What you get is just me, whether good, bad, or indifferent. It's just you get me. That's why it's what you get.
"Am I a country boy? Yeah, absolutely. I'm a country boy. What I film and what I put up, it's basically my everyday life. That's what you get."
And in everyday life, that's what Millican does better than driving a Top Fuel dragster. That's what makes him a YouTube star.