This Week in Ford Racing
February 9, 2010
After a year helping John Force earn his 15th NHRA Funny Car Championship as a co-crew chief, Mike Neff is back behind the wheel of his own Ford Mustang Funny Car. Neff talks about pulling double duty as crew chief and driver for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Season.
MIKE NEFF - driver/crew chief Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car
YOU'RE NOT ONLY GOING TO BE THE CREW CHIEF THIS YEAR, BUT YOU WILL BE DRIVING AS WELL. "Yes, back at it. It's a thrill. I'm excited to be back driving that Mustang; it's amazing. It's taken a little bit to get going, but fortunately we've been able to get back up to speed pretty quick and get some really good runs with all of these John Force Racing Ford Mustangs at this first test. We're feeling pretty good at this point."
DURING YOUR YEAR OFF FROM DRIVING YOU WERE INSTRUMENTAL IN JOHN FORCE EARNING HIS 15TH CHAMPIONSHIP. THAT'S SOMETHING A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T GET TO SAY. "We had a great year. I'm fortunate everything worked out our way. John [Force] drove great and it was a lot of fun getting him back on track and being able to win. The car ran good and we finished strong and it's made it a lot easier now because we've just changed minimal stuff as we had to. So far it looks like we got the car running just like we finished off last year. That makes your life a lot easier when you're not starting off chasing a bunch of problems."
JOHN ALSO GAVE YOU HIS CREW THAT YOU WORKED WITH LAST YEAR. AS A DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF THAT MUST ALSO MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER. "Absolutely and that's the other key thing here, the crew that I have. We've been together now for a few years. They were actually my crew when I drove so we've worked together before. I know them, they know the drill and how we do things. That's the other key thing to help make this work is the fact that this is like a well oiled machine. Everyone knows what to do. They're not making any mistakes or causing any problems. They're super helpful. They make my life a lot easier so that's a big part of the reason why we're able to get off to a good start."
HOW MUCH MORE COMPLICATED IS IT BEING BOTH THE DRIVER AND THE CREW CHIEF? "It just never ends. It's always something. As a crew chief you have your down time when you can make decisions and you have a little time to kill. Same as a driver, when you're a driver you have a lot of time to kill. Now doing both it just seems like you never get that 10 minutes here or there to take it easy or just unwind. It seems like it's always something. You're always on the run but it's exciting. I'm thrilled to be able to drive it. I think we will be able to do okay at it based on all of the help. I still have Bernie Fedderly to help. All I have to do is tell them what I want and they can go out there and execute everything. That's the key here to make it not too difficult."
IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD NO RUST OUT OF THE GATE AT PALM BEACH INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY DURING TESTING. YOU'RE RUNNING LOW FOURS OUT OF THE BOX. "Our first pass down the track ended up being the quickest run of the whole entire weekend. That kind of surprised us a little bit. We weren't really trying to run that good. You make a couple of changes; put a couple of different things to the clutch and it just runs a little better than we expected it to, which is a bonus. A lot of times that goes the other way and it doesn't run as good as you wanted it to. This kind of gave us a little shot in the arm there. We're real excited about that."
YOU'VE HAD TIME TO WORK WITH THE JOHN FORCE CHASSIS AND THE FORD BOSS 500 ENGINE. IS THAT STARTING TO PAY OFF? "Absolutely, our whole race car is either John Force Racing [JFR] or Ford [built/engineered]. This is our very first chassis that we've built in our shop ourselves. The one that I'm driving is the one that John drove last year all year. It's the one that I actually first drove the year prior just for a couple of races. It's our chassis, our engine, our blowers, it's everything. With the help of Ford and everything that they've done for us, with all of their engineering, this whole car is either JFR or Ford. There's really nothing else in it that's not ours. We've built the clutch, we've done just about everything on this car."
SOMETHING THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT LAST YEAR IS REACTION TIME. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK ON NOW? "There are Christmas Trees, little practice trees that you can do. I don't have time to be messing with that stuff, pulling double duty. What we've done, we've just tried to make things a little better on the car and make the car react a little better and honestly, it seems like it goes a lot better when you try not to think about it. If you try to go out there and think 'I'm going to cut a good light' it just doesn't seem to work out that way. If you don't think about it, and you're just reacting, you're relaxed and you go out there, go through the motions. It always seems like it works out better that way. My reaction time has actually been okay here. Hopefully we can keep that up. We should be looking pretty good."
ARE YOU HAVING FUN BEING BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL? "It's hard to explain. There's nothing like that feeling when the thing makes full runs over 300 mph. It's definitely just an awesome experience."
-source: ford racing