Indy ORP: Mike Neff preview

NEFF IS IN COUNTDOWN, WANTS INDY WIN TO BUILD MOMENTUM INDIANAPOLIS, IN --- Mike Neff and the Old Spice Ford Mustang team will roll into O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis for the 54th Mac Tools US Nationals with one goal already in their ...

NEFF IS IN COUNTDOWN, WANTS INDY WIN TO BUILD MOMENTUM

INDIANAPOLIS, IN --- Mike Neff and the Old Spice Ford Mustang team will roll into O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis for the 54th Mac Tools US Nationals with one goal already in their back pocket. Neff secured his spot in the Countdown to 1 with a semi-final finish at the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading so he can enjoy the pressure of the most prestigious race on the NHRA POWERade tour without any other distracts. The rookie driver is thrilled to be in the Countdown and pleased with where his team is at this point in the season.

"Getting in the Countdown was definitely one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We really wanted to get in there (leaving Reading) solid so we didn't have to worry about that going into Indy. Indy is just such a high pressure race. It feels good to get that monkey off our back," said the Fisher, Ind. resident.

While Neff wrapped up one of the final two Countdown spots along with veteran Jack Beckman in Reading there will still be some opportunities to move up in the Countdown field during the Mac Tools US Nationals. Neff is just 40 points - less than two round when you consider qualifying points - behind No. 9 Beckman, 44 points behind No. 8 Ron Capps and 63 points behind No. 7 Gary Densham. With a strong qualifying performance and a win Neff could move right into the thick of the championship chase. Getting into the semi-finals at Reading has this possibility at the forefront of Neff's thinking even though they were still working through some performance issues at the Toyo Tires Nationals.

"It felt good to go some rounds (in Reading). We couldn't get the set-up right going down track. We spun the tires the first two rounds and this last run we thought we were going to fix that but we put a cylinder out. That is what cost us that race. I really thought we were going to get him (fellow semi-finalist Frank Hawley) and go to another final," said Neff.

Racing, much less winning the Mac Tools US Nationals is a goal for just about ever drag racer who has strapped himself or herself into a high performance race car. Everyone readily admits there is something special about racing Indy. As a former crew chief Neff wanted to make sure his cars always looked the part for the biggest race of the year and this year as a driver he wants to make sure he soaks in all the new experiences.

"Indy is the biggest race with all the prestige. Just going to Indy in general even as a crew chief you just always wanted to make sure everything was tip top. You put on a new set of fuel lines and changed this and that. You break out all your best stuff for Indy," said the former crew chief for Gary Scelzi. "You wanted to make sure you weren't holding anything back. That is the one race if you can win one race out of the year that is the one you want to win. To be able to do that as a driver would be awesome."

Neff is a big believer in momentum and the cycle of a racing season. He knows that drivers and teams can get hot, cool off and get hot again. As he works his way through his rookie season checklist getting that first win is still on the radar for the former off-road racer.

"The goal at the very beginning of the year at least how I viewed it was make the Countdown. That is the first goal and then after that try to be a contender. We are going to be spotting those guys quite a few points ahead of us."

"I don't really feel we have hit our stride yet. It kind of goes in cycles some guys will get hot for a couple of races and some guys get cold for a couple of races. There is a cycle to these things. I think we got a little bit going when we made it to those two finals (St. Louis and Bristol) back-to-back. Hopefully we can get hot again. We have been struggling here a little bit but we showed a better sign of life in Reading. If we can get a little bit of momentum and hit our stride to pound out a few good races in a row I think that will be the key," said the front-runner for rookie of the year.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Jack Beckman , Frank Hawley , Mike Neff