Bristol: Mike Neff preview

NEFF WANTS TO EXPLODE UP POINT STANDINGS, NOT ON TRACK BRISTOL (May 4, 2009) --- Last year Mike Neff made a statement early in his rookie season when he raced his then Old Spice sponsored Ford Mustang to the No. 1 qualifying position and on race...

NEFF WANTS TO EXPLODE UP POINT STANDINGS, NOT ON TRACK

BRISTOL (May 4, 2009) --- Last year Mike Neff made a statement early in his rookie season when he raced his then Old Spice sponsored Ford Mustang to the No. 1 qualifying position and on race day he defeated veterans Tony Bartone, Ron Capps, and Robert Hight en route to his second consecutive final round appearance of the season.

He had the baddest hot rod on the property but a surprise mechanical problem in the final round at Bristol Dragway led to an upset loss against Melanie Troxel.

As Neff's Ford Mustang pulled up to stage his 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!' (NHRA Official Starter) Rick Stewart is in front of us motioning to go but when we couldn't get the body up 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 (exploded)," said an exasperated Neff from the top end.

His first round victory in Bristol last season was also the 500th round win for crew chief John Medlen.

Neff capped his rookie season by picking up the 2008 Auto Club Road to the Future Award, awarded each season to the top professional rookie performer. Neff followed in teammates Ashley Force Hood (2007) and Robert Hight (2005) footsteps in winning the award. His spectacular final round versus Troxel while not a win, was one of the highlights that kept his name top of mind for the rest of the season.

Two weeks ago in St. Louis Neff's now Ford Drive One sponsored Mustang was on tremendous run in the first round versus Tim Wilkerson when according to an early evaluation by crew chief John Medlen the number two piston loaded up and punched out dislodging the supercharger and surprising the sophomore driver Neff.

"It was trucking along then the next thing I knew boom. It happened super fast. It didn't give me any warning at all," said Neff.

It was another setback for Neff and crew chief John Medlen considering the No. 2 piston had not previously been a problem. The good news is between these two world champion crew chiefs they will get to the bottom of the problem in time for the 9th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

So far this season Neff has continued to improve as a driver with a prime example being his stellar .017 reaction time versus Wilkerson in the first round in St. Louis. Neff is getting more comfortable behind the wheel and that will pose problems as the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads towards the halfway point of the regular season. With all John Force Racing Mustangs in the Top Ten Neff wants to move up into the top half of the Top Ten to have a shot at this first championship as a driver.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Bartone , Ron Capps , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Robert Hight , John Medlen , Mike Neff