This Week In Ford Racing - Mike Neff
Mike Neff earned his second Mustang Funny Car win of the season and his fourth-consecutive final round of 2011 in Englishtown, where team owner John Force had just announced an extension of his deal with sponsor Castrol. Neff now leads the NHRA Full Throttle point standings by 98 points.
THERE WAS A LOT OF PRESSURE ON YOUR TEAM. THE OTHER JOHN FORCE RACING TEAMS WENT OUT EARLY AND IT WAS UP TO YOU TO CARRY THE BANNER IN FRONT OF A LOT OF CASTROL EMPLOYEES AT WHAT IS A HOMETOWN RACE FOR YOU. “There were probably 500 people from Castrol here. (Englishtown) is their home territory, and you always want to do good at your hometown race for your sponsors. John was in front of me. I saw him go out (in Round 1) and then Robert went out and I thought ‘Aw, man.’ The pressure was on. Fortunately we were able to bring it home for all of them. It was exciting for them.”
AFTER YOUR WIN EARLIER THIS YEAR, YOU SAID AS A DRIVER AND A CREW CHIEF, YOU WERE PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY EXHAUSTED. HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO MANAGE THE TWO THINGS NOW? “I’m getting in the groove. Going rounds helps. That’s four finals in a row, so my team’s in the groove, doing what they have to do, and I’m getting into the swing of it too. What happens if you don’t go to the final round or you only go a round or two, it’s no big deal. But if you go to the final it takes a lot out of you. We’ve been kind of like training, if you will, here the last four races.”
WHAT DID YOU DO DIFFERENTLY TO GET YOUR CAR TO RUN CONSISTANTLY IN THE 4.0s DURING SUNDAY’S ELIMINATIONS? “We started off with a bad day on Friday. The car was just too fast. The track surface wasn’t what we anticipated it to be, and we smoked the tires twice. We came out on Saturday and just had to get on the other side of it, back everything way off, and ran a 4.15. Then the next run we picked it up a little bit and ran 4.11 first round, then ran a 4.07. It just took us a little while to just keep working our way back. It really is small moves when you get into that range. From a 4.12 to a 4.07 is really not that much. It’s just really kind of the luck of the draw almost.”
IS THE CAR YOU’RE DRIVING THE SAME CAR YOU TUNED JOHN IN LAST YEAR? HOW HAS YOUR FAMILIARITY WITH THE CAR BEEN A HELP TO YOU? “Yes, it is. In fact, that car is the one that I drove in the last two races of 2009 that I won in. Then we put John in it all year last year. He got out; I got back in it for this year. It’s definitely a positive. Our shop built that car. We took it apart at the end of the year and put it on the gig and I expected we’d just front-half it and freshen it up a little bit. We put it on the gig and it was in perfect order. I just said ‘put it right back together.’ That’s definitely a big thing. The less you’ve got to change, the better off you are in keeping something consistent.”
ON THE FINAL ROUND IN ENGLISHTOWN, DID YOU KNOW CRUZ PEDREGON HAD RED-LIGHTED? DID YOU JUST (MAKE A FULL RUN) BECAUSE YOU WANTED TO SEE WHAT THE FINAL ET WOULD BE? “I knew he red-lit. I was sitting there waiting for the tree to come down when I heard him leave. I knew he red-lit because the tree hadn’t come down yet and I looked over and I saw his bulb was red. Then I looked up and I saw our win light on, but by that time I had already hit the gas and had taken off. But I wanted to see what it would run. Then I was saying to myself ‘don’t run over the center line or something like that.’ Maybe I should have lifted. Anyway, I legged it down there. It happens so fast. In a couple of seconds you’re trying to gather what just happened. Probably by the time I really figured it out, I was halfway down there.”
-source: ford racing