MIKE NEFF BE LIKE HIGHT: NEFF WANTS TO GET ON TRACK FOR CHAMPIONSHIP COUNTDOWN DALLAS, TX (September 22, 2009) --- The start of the 2009 Countdown to 1 in Charlotte was an exciting but unsatisfying weekend for Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One...
BE LIKE HIGHT: NEFF WANTS TO GET ON TRACK FOR CHAMPIONSHIP COUNTDOWN
DALLAS, TX (September 22, 2009) --- The start of the 2009 Countdown to 1 in Charlotte was an exciting but unsatisfying weekend for Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One team. Exiting the first qualifying session Neff was in the number one spot but a few setbacks had him sitting in the tenth spot and facing a first round match-up with teammate Ashley Force Hood.
"We had a good run in the first (qualifying session) which turned out to be our best run. Friday night we were trying to step it up and unfortunately we got a piece of debris in one of the nozzles in a cylinder. It happened some time during the burnout and that cylinder wound up getting really hot and burning out. Basically that night run we were on seven cylinders," said Neff on Saturday night in Charlotte. "The first run today we were trying to step it up again and it ran 4.13. We were a little disappointed. Tonight we tried to get aggressive and it just smoked the tires"
Neff dropped a close first round race to Ashley Force Hood to end his first Countdown to 1 race of 2009. The only upside to his first round exit was it made him eligible to race in the four wide exhibition race prior to the final round. Neff knew he was going to be a part of something special and he was not disappointed. He took the win in the exhibition on a hole-shot over John Force, Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham.
"I needed that [holeshot win] first round today, but that was exciting. On the burnout, when you see cars on both sides of you, that's not something you're used to seeing, and it was actually pretty cool. I actually saw all of these guys because they all did real long burnouts. Backing up, it was exciting. The Tree and all that stuff worked just fine, and it was a really neat thing to be a part of," said Neff.
"I am disappointed with myself for losing first round. I was actually glad to be a part of the four wide. That was a lot of fun. That was a little piece of history. That hasn't been done in a long time. I think that will get a lot of mileage and a lot of ink for Ford. It was awesome having Force there. To be able to technically win it was definitely exciting. Part of me was kind of bummed I lost in the first round because I really wanted to watch it. I know they got some good footage. It will be fun to see."
The silver lining for Neff was being able to see teammate Robert Hight blast up the point standings with his first win of the season. Hight moved from tenth to third in one event. While Neff fell from ninth to tenth he sees the success of Hight as a positive for his Ford Drive One team.
"That is what the Countdown to 1 is about. Robert's car has been running great and my personal opinion is Robert Hight is the favorite to win the whole thing. It is all about hitting your stride at the right time. They hit their stride in Indy. They ran a good race, got in the Countdown, and then they came (to Charlotte) and won. They are up to third in the points and a couple of rounds out of the top spot. They could be the points leader after the next race. The Countdown can benefit you and hurt you. For....guys like myself who are down towards the bottom of the points the Countdown is a great thing," said Neff.
Even in his number ten position Neff is only 103 points behind points leader Tony Pedregon. There are maximum of 150 points available for each driver every race. The new 3-2-1 qualifying bonus points will tighten the points chase up even more. At the first race of the Countdown to 1 Ashley Force Hood and Robert Hight picked up four bonus points in qualifying and Neff picked up an additional three points. Over the course of the Countdown to 1 those points could be the difference between winning a Funny Car Championship or being on the outside looking in.