Phoenix: Mike Neff preview

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR NEFF LOOKING FOR FIREBIRD SUCCESS CHANDLER, AZ (February 17, 2009) --- Mike Neff is excited to be getting back to Firebird International Raceway. Last year in his rookie debut at the Phoenix area track Neff raced to the No. 2...

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR NEFF LOOKING FOR FIREBIRD SUCCESS

CHANDLER, AZ (February 17, 2009) --- Mike Neff is excited to be getting back to Firebird International Raceway. Last year in his rookie debut at the Phoenix area track Neff raced to the No. 2 qualifying position but was upended in the first round by No. 15 qualifier and veteran Jack Beckman. Beckman eventually won the event but the feeling of a missed opportunity stayed with the eventual rookie of the year.

After the race Neff knew what he needed to do to improve.

"All in all we were really excited about the performance and as quick as it was running. We still have a few more small changes but I feel like we are real close to being really good. Still getting more runs for me is the main goal. I get a little better every time," said Neff last year.

Neff is still very much in a learning mode. As the 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series gets underway with the second event of the year the 25th annual Lucas Slick Mist NHRA Nationals the second year driver knows that expectations are still high and he feels better about being behind the wheel of his John Force Racing Ford Mustang.

"I feel a whole lot better going into this season than I did last season. I feel a lot more comfortable. Now I can try and start concentrating on being a better driver. I am more familiar with everything. I'll be working on those little things that make a good driver better like staging shallow, being smooth and having good reaction times," said Neff. "Last year was so overwhelming everything was new and it was hard to be able to concentrate on all the little things. I was just concentrating on the big things like keeping it in the middle of my lane and just trying to get it to the other end."

With three final round appearances in 2008 Neff is gunning for his first win and he knows that it will be a tremendous accomplishment as well as an emotional event.

"That will be a great moment (the first win) when we can do that. It will be awesome for me, but more for (crew chief) John Medlen and this team. Since the loss of Eric and everything they have been through it will be real special. The biggest thing is for John Medlen and Eric Medlen. We want to try and carry on where Eric left off and he was a winner. I think it will be a real emotional thing but also a great thing for this whole team," added Neff.

A new season means every team has a shot at the Full Throttle Championship and Neff knows his team will be right in the mix. Last year as the only rookie to make the Countdown to 1 he was in more of a support role for his John Force Racing teammates.

At the first race of the season it was hard for the sophomore driver to get into a racing groove. He qualified in the No. 12 spot and made an early exit after an uncharacteristic red-light start versus Bob Tasca III. Following the red-light Neff went on a wild sideways ride that had him barely missing the guard wall.

"When I hit the throttle it just took off and started spinning the tires that time. When I got back on it the tires still weren't hooked back up yet. When I hit it again it was like it was on ice. It just kept spinning. The next thing you know I am looking at the guard wall. Then I am thinking just keep it off the wall. Do not hit the wall. That was the last thing that I wanted to do at that point," said the always calm Neff. "I was surprised that I did it (red-lit). As I left I caught the red light out of the corner of my eye. I don't know what it was. I haven't seen the time slip. That caught me off guard. Maybe it was just that I was amped up and we'd been out there for a long time. Everybody had been shaking and maybe I was anticipating we would shake and I lost my concentration. I just didn't wait long enough."

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , John Medlen , Mike Neff