NEFF LEADS JFR ON FRIDAY AT GATORS

Mike Neff deploys the parachutes aboard his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Mike Neff deploys the parachutes aboard his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Photo by: Ted Rossino

GAINESVILLE --- The conditions at Gainesville Raceway were solid all day for the 42nd Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals but only one John Force Racing Mustang was able to really capitalize on the first day of qualifying. Mike Neff and his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang raced to the provisional No. 3 spot on the qualifying sheet with a 4.074 second pass at 311.05 mph. Neff’s speed was the fastest of the funny car category.

The three top speeds of the category were recorded by Mustangs including John Force’s and Bob Tasca III’s matching 310.48 mph runs. Neff was able to pair his top speed with a low elapsed time and an all important qualifying bonus point for the second qualifying session.

“That was a good run for us. We wanted to make sure we went down the race track,” said Neff, the crew chief turned driver. “We are still trying to get some confidence in the race track. These guys are really putting some big numbers up so we were kind of tip toeing our way into it. We got a good solid run that should qualify us. That is the first task you want to get behind you so you can sleep Friday night.”

“Tomorrow we are going to experiment and try and get this Castrol GTX Mustang to run a little better. We should be in good shape if the track conditions stay the same, which the weather looks pretty good for tomorrow. The whole weekend should be pretty good it just might be a little warmer on Sunday. The track should continue to get a little bit better. That was a good run for us. We are happy with that but we know we can run better. We are going to try and make some moves tomorrow.”

Neff is followed by 15-time funny car champion John Force who is sitting in the No.6 spot with a 4.119 second pass. While the run has the 132-time winner in the top half of the qualified field Force’s crew chief tandem of Ron Douglas and Dean “Guido” Antonelli know there is more out on the track. Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang was paired up with Cruz Pedregon’s funny car in the second session on Friday and the crowd got their money’s worth as the cars were side by side until Pedregon’s Toyota lost traction at 700 feet.

Robert Hight struggled in both sessions as his Auto Club Ford Mustang will not carry a time over into Saturdays qualifying session. With eighteen funny cars on the property that means two teams will be on the outside looking in on Sunday. Hight does not want to be one of those teams. Hight is joined by a who’s who of top funny car talent starting over on Saturday. Besides Hight, two-time funny car champions Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, veteran Melanie Troxel and journeyman John Smith are all on the outside.

Funny car qualifying will resume tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. Matt Hagan and his DieHard Charger funny car grabbed the top spot on Friday with a 4.030 second run at 309.84 mph.

-source: jfr