Neff Holds On For The No. 2 Spot In Lucas Slick Mist Nationals; All Four Fords Solid on Final Qualifying Day at Firebird International Raceway PHOENIX -- Mike Neff was magic from both outside and inside the cockpit Saturday, leading the Team ...
Neff Holds On For The No. 2 Spot In Lucas Slick Mist Nationals; All Four Fords Solid on Final Qualifying Day at Firebird International Raceway
PHOENIX -- Mike Neff was magic from both outside and inside the cockpit Saturday, leading the Team Castrol John Force Racing Ford Mustangs to an impressive showing in the 25th annual Lucas Slick Mist Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Neff, who inherited double duty in the Ford Drive One Mustang when crew chief John Medlen was sidelined by chest pains Wednesday and didn't make the trip to the desert, used crew chief skills honed while teamed with Gary Scelzi to get the blue-and-white Ford down the racetrack four consecutive times under power, a performance unmatched in the Funny Car division.
After recording a 4.050 on Friday, Neff rang up his slowest 1,000 foot effort in Saturday's first session at 4.124 before coming before coming back to record the quickest time in the final Funny Car session at 4.063 seconds.
That locked up the No. 2 spot for Neff for the second straight year at Phoenix and will send him into Sunday's first round against former JFR driver Gary Densham. Although Neff was unable to track down Ron Capps' 4.023 for the No. 1 spot, he was quicker than Capps on both runs Saturday.
Facing the possibility of missing the starting lineup for the second straight year, Ashley Force handled the pressure spectacularly and wound up 12th in the qualifying order in her Castrol GTX Mustang. Unfortunately, that sends her against teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight in round one.
John Force had one of the best qualifying performances of recent history and wound up third in the field, just behind Neff at the wheel of the Castrol EDGE Ford. The 14-time series champion was clocked in 4.069 seconds Saturday evening after posting a time of 4.109 in the first session. He was second quickest to a teammate on each occasion.
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol EDGE Ford Mustang.
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.069 seconds, 306.53 mph.
First round opponent and record: Tim Wilkerson (24-7)
Notable: Bidding for his ninth event victory but first since 2005. Quotable: "We are starting to have a race car. (Crew chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) are working together. It is not just those two (though), it is Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas, Jimmy Prock, Mike Neff, Robert Hight and everybody working to get behind these race cars. If we are going to win this championship, it is going to take a great running hot rod and we have four of them right now."
ASHLEY FORCE HOOD, 26, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 12th at 4.129 seconds, 300.06 mph.
First round opponent and record: Robert Hight (1-2)
Notable: Opposes brother-in-law Robert Hight in bid to win her first round at Firebird.
Quotable: "We're just glad to be racing on Sunday. You never want to race your teammate in the first round but it's better than not racing at all like we did last year. We made two good runs Saturday so that gives us something to work with."
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.077 seconds, 303.71 mph.
First round opponent and record: Ashley Force (2-1)
Notable: Track record holder for quarter mile at 4.636 seconds; has left Firebird as the Funny Car points leader each of the last two seasons.
Quotable: "Our Auto Club Mustang is running good. On that last (aborted) run we just tried to run harder. The conditions were good. The Top Fuel Dragsters had a good session and based on the dragsters, we thought we could run a 4.05. It was nice, smooth and fast early. We just have to slow the clutch down."
MIKE NEFF, 42, Drive One Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.050 seconds, 309.06 mph.
First round opponent and record: Gary Densham (1-0)
Notable: No. 2 qualifier for the second straight year; posted top speed of the event at a career best 309.06 mph.
Quotable: "So far so good. (Crew Chief John) Medlen left us good instructions. We have been just going right on down (his) list. That is where our thoughts are at right now, with him. I got a text from his wife a little earlier that he was doing good today. That is all we care about right now. We are trying to keep it all going right now, just like he would. We are real fortunate that we have such a great team here at John Force Racing with all the other crew chiefs. They pitch in and help us out. We have had a pretty good qualifying run."