Seattle: Mike Neff preview

NEFF LOOKING TO TIGHTEN GRIP ON TOP TEN IN SEATTLE SEATTLE, WA (July 15, 2008) --- Rookie of the year favorite Mike Neff has been getting acquainted with his new teammates at John Force Racing for almost a year. From day one they have been...

NEFF LOOKING TO TIGHTEN GRIP ON TOP TEN IN SEATTLE

SEATTLE, WA (July 15, 2008) --- Rookie of the year favorite Mike Neff has been getting acquainted with his new teammates at John Force Racing for almost a year. From day one they have been helpful and eager to see him succeed. As Neff learned the ropes they were there to offer insight and suggestions to help the former crew chief handle his Old Spice Ford Mustang as he navigated the various racing facilities on the NHRA POWERade series.

That help may begin to dry up.

Neff has pulled up beside John Force Racing teammates an astounding six times in the last eight races this season. Unfortunately he has never met a teammate in a final which would guarantee a JFR winners circle. He has a respectable, if not impressive, 4-2 record against JFR but he would rather meet up with his teammates at the end of the day instead of early.

"You always hate to have to race your teammate. You know somebody will have a bad day since they are going to lose the first round (later in the day). The one positive is you are guaranteed getting a car to the (next) round," said the Hemet, California native.

Two of the last three races Neff has drawn teammate, 14-time Funny Car champion, and boss John Force in eliminations including a first round match-up in Denver last week running his personal record against the winningest driver in NHRA history up to 2-1 with a win. Neff lost his first match-up with Force at the Southern Nationals in Atlanta before beating him in the semi-finals at the Super Nationals in Englishtown three races ago.

"That was a close race against Force in the first round. The Force Mustang has been running so good since they put that Ford BOSS 500 motor in there a race ago," said the winner of the first BOSS 500 vs. BOSS 500 funny car race in recent memory. "I definitely felt we were a big underdog against him. We were fortunate to get that win in a race that close."

Neff eventually fell to points leader Tim Wilkerson but he feels like his team is on the right track heading to Seattle.

"We felt we had a good plan against Wilkerson. Actually to the 300 (foot) clock we were dead even and then it put a cylinder out. It just fell off from there. That was the first cylinder we have dropped all weekend," said Neff. "On the positive side we tried a couple of new things here that were working for us."

Only going two rounds was enough for Neff to put a little bit of distance between his current 9th place position and Top Ten newcomer Jack Beckman. Throughout the season Neff has been adamant that making the Countdown was a priority and with five races to go he is locking in on fulfilling that goal.

"As far as points, which are so important right now, we hung in there. We didn't hurt ourselves. We put a round on 10th place I think. We got through this race and that is important right now. You don't want to go backwards you want to go forwards. "

Neff has established that he is capable of overcoming a variety of obstacles without losing ground. His positive outlook combined with a proven winner's attitude will continue to make him a worthy adversary for anyone in Seattle. He is just hoping to get a shot at anyone not carrying the JFR banner.

Did you know...

When Neff does capture his first win for John Force Racing he will become the seventh different drivers to have won Funny Car races on the NHRA tour -- John Force, Tony Pedregon, Gary Densham, Robert Hight Ashley Force and the late Eric Medlen.

A strong season for Neff would also continue another John Force Racing tradition as he is trying to become the third John Force Racing, Inc., driver in four years to win the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie of the Year following Robert Hight (2005) and Ashley Force (2007).

Mike is trying to become just the second racer to win pro championships as both crew chief and driver. The only person to have accomplished that feat is Dick LaHaie, who won a Top Fuel title as a driver in 1987 and as crew chief to Scott Kalitta in 1994 and 1995.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham , Scott Kalitta , Dick LaHaie , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Mike Neff