LAS VEGAS – Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang continued to keep the pressure on his championship foes as he raced to the provisional No. 1 spot at the 12th annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals today at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Neff posted the quickest time of the day 4.070 seconds at 313.73 mph in the first qualifying session and that strong start gave him high hopes to continue to gain ground on the drivers in front of him.
Unfortunately for Neff and the rest of the Funny Car class those high hopes did not come to fruition as the general consensus was the track could have produced better performance numbers in the second session.
“We were a little disappointed with the second session. The track wasn’t what it should have been. That is why you didn’t see any good runs. The conditions were so good here you should have seen some great runs,” said Neff, the driver and crew chief of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “The lack of spray on the race track made for a pretty bad show which was disappointing for everyone. To be qualified No. 1 and be heading into tomorrow is exciting. Tomorrow will be all about getting ready for Sunday.”
Neff is in third place in the Full Throttle Funny Car point standings and today he gained three points on Jack Beckman the point leader and Ron Capps the No. 2 Funny Car driver. He came into the day 54 points out of the points lead and as of this moment is only 51 points from the lead. Neff knows that he has to press when the opportunity presents itself but not get too heavy handed with his tune-up.
“You have to be cautiously aggressive. I know what I have to do. I have to have two great races these last two races. I am coming off a great race in Reading. I just have to race smart and my car is running really good right now. I think I have a legitimate chance at it. If I can keep running good I keep the pressure on those guys. Anything can happy I have been in this situation before,” said Neff
“You can go up there and choose to be real cautious or you can press it a little bit. You can’t get too carried away and not get qualified. It is a fine line out there and it always is anytime you are trying to run one of these cars. They are always right on the edge.”
“This is a great race track. There have been a lot of great runs here. That is what is so disappointing about tonight. I know the race track is good and as you saw the very first runs. We should learn from that and hopefully tomorrow I think you will see a much better show and good runs tomorrow.”
While Neff was leading the pack his teammate and rookie of the year front-runner Courtney Force was also wowing the fans both on the performance and the appearance sides of the equation. The Las Vegas NHRA fans got a surprise today when Courtney Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang team decided to switch to a hot pink body for breast cancer awareness month right before the first round of qualifying. Force ran the hot pink body at the last NHRA event two weekends ago in Reading, Pa.
“We switched to the hot pink Traxxas Funny Car body right before first round today. We were planning on only running it one race in Reading, Pa., but The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has made breast cancer awareness big this race. We wanted to be a part of that and be involved in what they’re doing. We had the pink body in the trailer so we thought, ‘what the heck.’ Being able to run it out here again this weekend in Vegas is great. I hope it will bring me good luck. It did in Reading and we enjoy running it. I had my career best in that car so I’m definitely excited about running it again this weekend,” said Force.
Force made two impressive passes down the drag strip today and ended up in the No. 3 spot for Friday’s qualifying rounds. She posted the third-best qualifying ET at 4.093, which was tied with Jack Beckman. Force claimed the one remaining bonus point on speed; her 312 mph to his 306 mph run.
“The first run we went up there and ran a 4.09 and took that bonus point away from Beckman with the speed. We’re inching up there (in the points). We’re trying to get around some players; first being my dad. We need to get around him and reclaim that No. 6 spot. Qualifying is really exciting right now in this part of the season because everyone is trying to get any little point that they can. You really have to fight for it.
“The second run we ran a 4.12. We were looking for a bit of a better run. We backed it down and made some changes and this car just wasn’t having it. We’re going to come back tomorrow and we have two more chances to improve. We’re just planning on staying in the top half of the field and doing some damage on Sunday,” said Force.
Going into Saturday’s final day of qualifying two of the most recent Las Vegas winners, Robert Hight and John Force, will not carry qualifying times over. They posted the 13th and 14th quickest elapsed times respectively. Both the Auto Club Ford Mustang and the Destination Force Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE of Hight and Force will be gunning to get into the top 16 with one of the largest Funny Car fields of the season.
Source: John Force Racing