OLD SPICE'S NEFF DRIVES MUSTANG TO RUNNER-UP BRISTOL FINISH BRISTOL, TN -- Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang had to battle one of the toughest Funny Car fields, Mother Nature and a surprise mechanical problem in the final...
OLD SPICE'S NEFF DRIVES MUSTANG TO RUNNER-UP BRISTOL FINISH
BRISTOL, TN -- Mike Neff and his Old Spice Ford Mustang had to battle one of the toughest Funny Car fields, Mother Nature and a surprise mechanical problem in the final round at Bristol Dragway en route to an upset loss to Melanie Troxel.
As the Old Spice Ford Mustang pulled up to stage Neff's team was unable to lift his Mustang body. As a result crew chief John Medlen was unable to make critical engine adjustments to his BOSS 500 Ford motor. At the top end Neff's Mustang erupted in flames as Troxel pedaled and drove past him.
"I'm saying let's go! Let's go! Rick Stewart is in front of us motioning to go but when we couldn't get the body up (crew chief John) Medlen couldn't get in there and arm all the switches which I didn't know he armed those things. I'm just saying go let's go. So naturally none of the system worked and that is why it backfired," said an exasperated Neff.
"I am happy for Melanie but for something like that to keep us from having a good drag race is too bad. Congratulations to Melanie and for Old Spice and Ford that is what makes it so frustrating. We have been running so good we should have been able to make a good run right there. It just didn't go that way. We'll get them next time."
No. 1 qualifier and Rookie of the Year front-runner Mike Neff made a strong run at 4.877 seconds in the opening session to dispatch Tony Bartone. The win was crew chief John Medlen's 500th career round win.
Ashley Force defeated Gary Scelzi in the first round when the 2005 Funny Car champion jumped the Christmas Tree forcing a red-light disqualification. In the second round Force matched up for the first time with fellow female fuel coupe driver Melanie Troxel but she came up short in the first female versus female Funny Car elimination round. Force put the round in perspective from her pit following her loss.
"I'm just relieved to get that done with. We really just want to win our rounds regardless of who is in the other lane. We come out here to win. We didn't come here to just beat girls or we are in the wrong sport. We came here to beat whoever is in the lane next to us," said the first female to win a Funny Car national event. "It is exciting for the fans but I am sure there will be plenty of more times we'll race each other this season, I hope. It wasn't our time this time and hopefully it will be next time."
Robert Hight announced his presence with authority when he ran an event low ET, 4.746 seconds, in the first round versus Del Worsham to grab his first round win at Bristol Dragway. That ET was a track record and bested the previous record of Hight's late teammate Eric Medlen.
In the second round he stopped Funny Car points leader Tim Wilkerson in his tracks with a stellar 4.773 second pass but in the semi-final round he lost to teammate Mike Neff after a nearly 90 minutes rain delay.
"To get Tim Wilkerson stopped makes this a big day for us," said the 2007 Funny Car championship runner-up.
Team leader John Force was the lone JFR Ford Mustang not to advance to the second round. After sitting on the starting line for over two hours during multiple rain delays he dropped a first round match-up to his nemesis Cruz Pedregon when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang had a clutch malfunction causing the defending event champion to lose traction almost immediately.
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.821 seconds, 308.78 mph
Race Results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.
Quotable: "That was an expensive final round. I hate to see the race end like that for Old Spice, Mike Neff and John Medlen. I am excited about the progress of my young drivers. Ashley and Robert went some rounds today and we got Zippy (Mike Neff) up into the Top Ten."
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.792 seconds, 324.98 mph
Race Results: Beat Gary Scelzi. Lost to Melanie Troxel.
Notable: Second round match-up was first female versus female Funny Car elimination round...held onto No. 2 position in points
Quotable: "We do have more confidence and we have a really consistent car. I am starting to get better lights and we are fine tuning. We have a good thing already but you can always make it a little better. That is what we are working on."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.803 seconds, 311.63 mph
Race Results: Beat Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson. Lost to Mike Neff.
Notable: Retained 4th position in points but closed gap in points standings behind teammate Ashley Force
Quotable: "We made some progress today. I am glad Mike Neff made it to the final and I hate to see him lose like that. Jimmy and I figured some things out this weekend. I'm liking this car now. When we are running fast and going rounds it is a lot of fun. We still have some work to do."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.783 seconds, 321.04 mph
Race results: Beat Tony Bartone, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Lost to Melanie Troxel.
Notable: Raced to back-to-back finals... crew chief John Medlen won 500th round as crew chief with win over Tony Bartone in first round
Quotable: "We definitely feel good about moving up in the points. We are moving forward and making progress. The car is running good. It was our best qualifying start. It was the first time we started No. 1. It was a positive day but it was also frustrating that we gave one away tonight. That is just hard to swallow."