Baytown: Mike Neff preview

NEFF AND MEDLEN HAPPY TO BE TOGETHER AGAIN Baytown, TX (March 24, 2009) --- 2008 NHRA Rookie of the Year Mike Neff is looking forward to a relaxing weekend at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown. He'll be as relaxed as anyone can be piloting the ...

NEFF AND MEDLEN HAPPY TO BE TOGETHER AGAIN

Baytown, TX (March 24, 2009) --- 2008 NHRA Rookie of the Year Mike Neff is looking forward to a relaxing weekend at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown. He'll be as relaxed as anyone can be piloting the 8,000 horsepower Ford Drive One Mustang Funny Car down one of the quickest race tracks in the country. He is just happy he'll only have to drive and offer the occasional tuning tip to returning crew chief John Medlen.

Medlen missed the previous two NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events while he recuperated at home in Indianapolis from a heart procedure. Prior to the event in Phoenix Medlen checked himself into an Indianapolis hospital with chest discomfort and eventually spent five days in the hospital as a number of tests and procedures were conducted to regulate his heart rate.

In his absence Neff pulled double duty at the two NHRA national events in Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla., driving and handling all the on-site tuning responsibilities. He got plenty of input from Medlen via cell phone and text messages but it was not the same as having his crew chief a few feet away. For his efforts Neff raced to a runner-up finish in Phoenix but an aggressive tune-up in the first round of the Gatornationals in Gainesville ended his day early.

"The conditions were a little better (on race day) and we tried to get more aggressive. We gave it a little bit too much. It went up in smoke as it went past the tree. I am just kicking myself for that. We gave it our best shot. All in all it wasn't the best weekend but it certainly wasn't the worst either. We are still learning and trying to get some things figured out. We should have John Medlen back in Houston and that will be real helpful for all of us. We are really looking forward to that," said Neff.

Neff and Medlen have a unique relationship when you consider both are world championship Funny Car tuners. Medlen won his crown tuning Tony Pedregon to the championship in 2003 and Neff steered Gary Scelzi to his lone Funny Car championship in 2005. Both men have a tremendous amount of respect for each other and it was Medlen who championed Neff to fill the driver's seat for his son Eric, who passed away just over two years ago following a testing accident in Florida.

"There's only one Eric (Medlen) and no one's ever going to take his place, but to fill that spot and carry on where he left off is a real honor. John Medlen was one of the main reasons I came over here -- to work with him," said Neff. "I have high expectations. I know the performance of the car will be there plus we should be better just because we have a year of experience behind us. I know that if I do my job, we should be in the hunt (for the Full Throttle Funny Car championship)."

Running his Mustang almost solo for two races also has given Neff a leg up when it comes to understanding where the car needs to be in qualifying as well as race day. It is an advantage that Neff hopes to exploit when he and Medlen get back on the track together again.

"I think we will be better now that I have been able to learn more about the car. I think I'll be able to give Medlen a better perspective since I'm now a lot more aware how it is all working," summed up Neff.

Having reached four finals in his young career Neff is looking to use his new perspective to drive into his first winner's circle at the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals this weekend.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , John Medlen , Mike Neff