NEFF LOOKING TO CONTINUE TO MOVE UP AT MOTORPLEX ENNIS, TX (September 17, 2008) --- Rookie Mike Neff was excited to get the Countdown to 1 underway at zMax Dragway in Concord last week. Heading into Ennis, Texas for the 23rd annual O'Reilly...
NEFF LOOKING TO CONTINUE TO MOVE UP AT MOTORPLEX
ENNIS, TX (September 17, 2008) --- Rookie Mike Neff was excited to get the Countdown to 1 underway at zMax Dragway in Concord last week. Heading into Ennis, Texas for the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals the former crew chief turned driver has not lost any enthusiasm for his championship hopes. A first round win over fellow Countdown competitor Gary Densham and a surprising DNQ by teammate John Force helped Neff move up one position in the POWERade standings.
"Moving up one or two spots is definitely a positive. If you can do that every race you would be looking good," said the only rookie in the Countdown to 1.
Neff is most excited about how well his Old Spice Ford Mustang performed on the all concrete track in North Carolina and he is looking forward to getting onto the Texas Motorplex's all-concrete surface.
"All in all we had a pretty good car (in Charlotte). It is unfortunate that the track was going away a little in the left lane at the starting line. We gave up lane choice and that put us in the left lane. It turned out not to be quite as good as the right when we were running. Our car had been a little bit slow all weekend we were trying to pick it up there in the second round. The combination of the track going away a little bit and us being a little aggressive we just tipped it over and it went up in smoke right away."
"That is pretty rare for us. We haven't done that all weekend and I really can't remember the last time that happened at a race. To see him (Tony Pedregon) not make a good run, that was just salt in the wound. We feel like we gave one away right there. All we had to do was go down the track like we have been all weekend but we are moving up. The car is running good. I feel good about our chances to keep moving up the point standings."
Neff knows from his world championship experience as Gary Scelzi's crew chief in 2005 how much pressure comes to bear during the last races of the POWERade season. Racing into three finals this season has given Neff a taste of race day expectations but he has yet to get into the winner's circle.
"Now is the time of year when you really have to bring your "A" game. You have to be at your best every run and every race from here on out. Every round is just going to be huge from here to the end. I am excited to be in it. I feel good about how (crew chief) John Medlen has our Old Spice Ford Mustang running. I'm just excited about (the Countdown)."
The most commonly asked question for Neff as he rolls into new markets and events is which role he likes better crew chief or driver. Neff handles that query like a parent asked to picked their favorite child.
"It is different. Everybody has to bring their A game. It is exciting to be in the Countdown as a driver but it is also exciting for the crew chiefs. As far as I go I just have to make sure I'm at my best. I just have to do my job and what I am supposed to do. I have all the confidence in John Medlen and my crew that they are going to be doing their best. I just have to make sure I carry my part of the deal."
The focus and determination on the former off-road race from Hemet, California has Neff looking to make a move in Dallas and keeping his championship hopes alive.
"Getting in the Countdown to 1 was definitely one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We really wanted to get in there. It feels good to get that monkey off our back."
Making the Countdown to 1 was a major step for the former world championship crew chief but there is one goal on the horizon that Neff and his Old Spice team have narrowly missed and he hopes that this weekend in Dallas he can check getting his first win off his to-do list.
"I don't really feel we have hit our stride yet. It kind of goes in cycles some guys will get hot for a couple of races and some guys get cold for a couple of races. There is a cycle to these things. I think we got a little bit going when we made it to those two finals back-to-back," said Neff of his St. Louis and Bristol efforts. "Hopefully we can get hot again. If we can get a little bit of momentum and hit our stride to pound out a few good races in a row I think that will be the key."