Heads Up racing, by its nature, is a sport that thrives on innovation and progression. It requires time, effort, and dedication, as well as money and sacrifice, to be competitive. This competitive nature drives the car owners and drivers who run in the sport to push the level of their equipment, and more often than not their upgraded components, to achieve a higher level of performance.

This formula, and inherent “name of the game” as it were, is very familiar to NMRA Pro Outlaw 10.5 racer Dan Millen. However, as privy as he may be to these conditions, he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to them, at least not 100%. Recently, we at PowerTV were given the opportunity to talk with Dan regarding his racing past, the evolution of the sport, and other hot topics.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dan Millen, he is a longtime competitor in the Ford racing scene and the 2001 NMRA Super Street Outlaw Champion, with his championship coming from behind the wheel of his famous single-turbocharged 1991 Mustang coupe. He is also one of the driving forces behind Livernois Motorsports, the Livonia, MI based high performance powerhouse that deals with Ford, GM, and Mopar Performance. Today, Millen is regarded as one of the heavy hitters in the world of Outlaw 10.5 racing, as well as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking racers around. His performance on the track, along with the success of Livernois Motorsports, speaks volumes about his dedication to the hobby and sport that he loves. However, Millen is not one to rest and bask in his accomplishments. He is always pushing the boundaries of his combination and continuing to improve his performance on the track.

PowerTV: How and why did you get started in racing?

Dan Millen: I started racing go karts before I could drive, but it really started when I got my first car, which was a 1985 Mustang. Starting with small bolt-ons, I eventually worked my way up to the engine and started racing at the local dragstrips (Detroit Dragway and Milan). After reading about the FFW series and the Spring Break Shootout in 1996, a buddy and I decided we could give it a shot and take the car to the first race of the year and see what happened. I ran a 302 N/A with a 5-speed and got my butt kicked. Later, we put some nitrous on it and became somewhat competitive and won some races. It was from this point that I became hooked and decided I wanted to race more often.

PowerTV: You are a big part of Livernois Motorsports. What are your day-to-day duties there?

Dan Millen: My day-to-day duties include a variety of different roles. I can go from sales one day to chassis and engine dyno tuning the next day. The company wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for my brother Tom. He has really made a big difference here in the organization, staying on top of things and getting organized.

PowerTV: What, if any, are the compromises that you have to make as a businessman and competitive Heads Up racer?

Dan Millen: Well, it’s a Catch-22 if you want to race and be successful. You have to test a lot and spend time on your business. Several compromises have been made in my racing program over the years. We used to do a lot of the 'race car stuff' during the business day, but the last couple of years, with the economy, it’s strictly an after hours job and strictly out of pocket. Again, without my brother Tom and the dedication from the leaders at our shop, this would not be possible. Wireless internet has saved me several times. Tuning cars at our shop while at the racetrack has enabled me to do both.

PowerTV: You and your racing program are noted for several things, but one of those things in particular is your engine combination. Why have you stuck with an SBF/Single Turbo combo?

Dan Millen: There are a few reasons for sticking with this combination. First, we’ve been working with this combo for several years now and we are really starting to understand it. I feel that my combo still has more to be gained, and constantly switching combos doesn’t allow for that. I see several racers switch combos because someone else went fast, instead of working on what they have. Also, to switch combinations would take a good amount of money - new blocks, heads, cranks, headers and so on. It's something we just can't do right now.

PowerTV: The SBF/Single Turbo combo is viewed as a sort of David in a class full of Goliaths. What do you think the potential of your combo is when compared to some of the more radical combos?

Dan Millen: I do feel that the SBF/Single Turbo combo is considerably at a disadvantage, especially when you look at people with cars in our class that have significantly more power than we do. I just do the best I can with the parts I have.

PowerTV: Another unique aspect of your program is the use of a Liberty 5-speed transmission. This seems to be a hit-or-miss setup in the world of Outlaw 10.5. How have you made this setup work for you?

Dan Millen: Testing mostly. Craig at Liberty Gears has been very helpful with gear changes and turnaround time when we need something changed. It also doesn’t hurt that their shop is ten minutes away. I have been running the Liberty for several years, and I can say that every time we go out, we learn something. A clutch car is no easy task. I have great respect for it and anyone else that can make it work.

PowerTV: The dragstrip at Milan, MI is basically your home track and is noted as being a great facility. Do you feel that you have an advantage having such a great surface available to test on, or do you think those that test on more marginal surfaces have an advantage, specifically in regards to chassis setup?

Dan Millen: Milan Dragway is one of my favorite tracks. It’s close and it’s a great track. Over the years they keep improving track conditions and the way they run it. I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it's definitely a luxury to have a great track so close for testing! If a racer was by a poor track and raced at an event with bad conditions, then yeah, I think having a bad track near you that you are familiar with would give you a good handle on a poor track, but it also works on the flip side. You just have to race the track that you’re at.

PowerTV: On the subject of tracks, you just came off of a stellar performance at both the Joliet race and the Zmax race, two completely different track conditions, having laid down a best of 6.67@215 mph. First, congratulations. Second, what do you feel has allowed you to run times such as these?

Dan Millen: Basically it’s just been a lot of testing. We’ve gotten a lot more familiar with the clutch setup and being able to make the clutch adjustments. It’s basically just experience at this point.

PowerTV: On the subject of your car and its performance, I have to ask the hot topic question at the moment. There’s a certain amount of controversy regarding your car and its bodywork. Can you elaborate on that some?

Dan Millen: When the car came out, I felt that Skinny Kid had built what was arguably the best Outlaw 10.5 car he had ever produced. The bodywork is basically the same as the others in the class. However, Skinny Kid had done some innovative molding and fitting, etc.. When the car came out and it was new, people had all these crazy ideas about the car, like it was shortened, sectioned, lengthened, etc., basically just because of what some people said on the internet. The roof itself is an exact molding off of a factory roof. The sail panels from a stock roof will bolt right up to that exact location. We brought the car out, Tom looked at it, and told me what I needed to do to comply. I never tried to pull one over on the NMRA or cheat in any way. That was never the intention. I complied with everything the NMRA said and cooperated fully. The NMRA measured every aspect of the roof and body and verified that it was in line with stock dimensions and allowed me to run the car.

PowerTV: You’re currently in a win streak of sorts, with two back-to-back NMRA wins and a couple of wins in Milan’s Heads Up series. Do you feel that you finally have a good handle on your combo?

Dan Millen: I’ve never felt more in control of the car and its combo. The only hurdle now is parts breakage. We are having to deal with old parts and breakage more than we have before, so it makes it bittersweet. The car is set up great, but the parts are the limiting factor.

PowerTV: Is the goal for this season a championship?

Dan Millen: Yes, absolutely. My goal in any series is always a championship.

PowerTV: Columbus ’08 was your last NMRA victory until Joliet of this year. How did it feel to get back in the Winner's Circle at Joliet and then to follow up with a win at the Zmax race?

Dan Millen: It was very satisfying, to say the least. That was probably my most satisfying win besides the WFC win. Because of the controversy surrounding the car and what people were saying about me and our operation, it was very rewarding. The Zmax victory really helps to carry the momentum into the next event in Columbus.

PowerTV: It seems that as of late a lot of the momentum has been shifted to the ADRL’s Xtreme 10.5 class. In your opinion, is traditional Outlaw 10.5 racing dead or on the way out?

Dan Millen: At first, when the ADRL came out with their class, I was unsure how it would go. Obviously, the business model and the way they treat their racers is working, so I give them props. When I built my car I took into consideration that I would like to run some ADRL races. Is traditional Outlaw dead? No, I don’t think so, but some of the organizations are going to have to make compromises to ensure a somewhat modified ADRL car can run at their event.

PowerTV: Before you entered the foray of Outlaw 10.5, you were a part of the fabled 'four horsemen' of SSO in the NMRA, (yourself, John Urist, Mike Murillo, Chris Derrick). It was also during this time that you won your first NMRA championship. Would you ever want to see a “reuniting” of the 'four horsemen,' so to speak, perhaps all of you being in Outlaw 10.5?

Dan Millen: It was different back then though. We all had similar combinations, so I don’t think we would be considered in that category if it were to happen today. There are so many combos today and the Outlaw field is so huge, that it just wouldn’t apply today. Back then, we were really the only four guys who went fast with a turbo. You could label us the 'four horsemen' again because that's what we were back then, but I don’t think it would really have the same meaning.

PowerTV: Speaking of days gone by, do you have a favorite racing memory, or one trip/race in particular that stands out to you?

Dan Millen: My favorite memory or highlight was racing Bob Glidden at the World Ford Challenge in 2002. I’ve always liked Bob Glidden. I’ve looked up to him. He’s a legendary Ford racer, and to get to race him was a thrill for me.

PowerTV: If you could accomplish one thing before you hang up your racing shoes, what would that be?

Dan Millen: If the opportunity arose, I would like to move up to a higher level of racing; possibly drive for someone else in NHRA style of Drag Racing. Pro Stock racing would be a great challenge I think.

PowerTV: Where do you plan on going from here? Would you like to continue in Outlaw-style racing or do you plan on stepping up to another class or style of racing?

Dan Millen: I would like to continue the racing I am doing today, but I don’t know if I will do both the NMRA/NMCA or ADRL racing. I definitely want to go to a couple of the ADRL races in the upcoming future.

Dan plans to attend the remainder of the NMRA events this season in hopes of winning his second NMRA championship, as well as local events to keep him on his game. No matter what, one thing remains certain about Dan Millen and the Livernois Motorsports crew: if they’re in the other lane – you better be ready.

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