GREENSBORO, N.C. --
McMillen, known for his quick wit and colorful interviews, was caught off-guard as the announcement was made at the awards ceremony. "It was truly a surprise and a great honor," McMillen commented afterwards. "I really didn't know what to say or where to begin. Being on that stage with all of the past winners was humbling."
McMillen, fighting an eye irritation, had not expected to attend the event this year. "So many people - racers, sponsors, friends - everyone, has called and offered prayers and well-wishes," McMillen explained. "The out-pouring of support from the drag racing community has been overwhelming. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their prayers and support."
While McMillen may not have been 100% healthy going into the IHRA Awards Banquet, it didn't stop the friendly banter that goes on between rival drivers. McMillen wore his sunglasses to the evening event to prevent light from aggravating his eye. During his acceptance speech, 3-time IHRA Funny Champion, Rob Atchison took a moment to note that the Funny Car field would look a little different in 2006, pointing out that McMillen would be driving a Top Fuel car and now wore sunglasses indoors, suggesting that McMillen was "too cool" to race in the Funny Car division any longer. While McMillen and the crowd had a chuckle, Terry was already wondering how and when he would have a chance to respond to Rob's comments. Little did he know that his opportunity would come sooner than later when Terry was awarded the "Sportsman of the Year". While the award itself left him almost speechless, it only took a minute for Terry to put on his driver's suit and offer a "comeback" to Rob's earlier comment. Terry suggested that the sunglasses weren't for Top Fuel, but rather to diminish the glare that the stage lights were reflecting from Atchison's head (Atchison chooses to shave his head).
One of the defining moments of the 2005 season came early for McMillen. Coming off a career best finish in 2004, McMillen had once again positioned himself with an opportunity to win his first event at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals. The final round showdown would pair McMillen with then 2-time and now 3-time IHRA Funny Car Champion, Rob Atchison. However, Atchison's car was wounded in a semi-final win against 5-time IHRA Champion, Mark Thomas. Atchison's machine would require a new engine. Making the call for the final round was not a given for the Canadian-based team. McMillen and his crew were among the first in the Atchison pits lending a hand. "That's just how it's done in drag racing," McMillen said. "When we're on that line, we're fierce competitors for about 6 seconds. In the pits we're a pretty tight knit bunch." Atchison would go on to defeat McMillen in the final round.
Some say McMillen had sealed his destiny towards winning "Sportsman of the Year" during that event in San Antonio. IHRA president, Aaron Pulborn would disagree. "There isn't any 'one point' that earns this award. It's one thousand points over a career. Terry consistently works at putting us all in the best light. Whether it's helping the IHRA sell tickets or taking care of sponsors, he does whatever it takes to be successful."
McMillen was quick to add, "I get the credit. But, without my team, the IHRA and great marketing partners, there wouldn't be an opportunity to be in the position to win such an award. I couldn't have done it without marketing partners like Amalie Oil, TORCO Race Fuels, LukOil, XLR8, Fannie May Candies, Flatout Gaskets, NGK Spark Plugs, MSD, Performance Graphics, Powershield Coatings and Crane Cams. It's a team effort. My entire team consisting of Tad and Carrie, Brent and Denise, Dale and Dorothy, Jim and Lynnette, Jack Todd and my wife Rhonda."
Another bright note for McMillen during the banquet was when he learned that two of his sponsors (Amalie Oil and TORCO Race Fuels) were nominated for "Sponsor of the Year". TORCO Race Fuels will add the 2005 "Sponsor of the Year" award to its resume. "I've always said that we have the best sponsors in the business," McMillen added. "Amalie and TORCO prove it year in and year out. I am very happy for Evan. His passion for drag racing has never been more evident."
Evan Knoll, also responsible for the resurgence of the IHRA Nitro Funny Car, was named Drag Racing's Man of the Year by the online publication "Drag Racing Online".