MIKE NEFF: NEFF HOPING TO DEFEAT HEAT IN CHICAGO CHICAGO (June 2, 2008) --- For the past month NHRA Funny Car rookie Mike Neff was riding a wave of success with back-to-back final round appearances in St. Louis and Bristol, Tenn. He had moved up...
MIKE NEFF: NEFF HOPING TO DEFEAT HEAT IN CHICAGO
CHICAGO (June 2, 2008) --- For the past month NHRA Funny Car rookie Mike Neff was riding a wave of success with back-to-back final round appearances in St. Louis and Bristol, Tenn. He had moved up from 14th to 7th place in the Funny Car points standings. His Old Spice Ford Mustang was the toast of the NASCAR circuit following a spectacular burn-out prior to the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.
That wave came to a crashing halt last weekend in Topeka, Kansas, when the front runner for Rookie of the Year honors failed to qualify for the 20th annual Summer Nationals. It was the first time in ten starts that the former world champion crew chief failed to crack the top 16 Funny Car field as a driver at an event.
Neff knew that the Summer Nationals was going to be a tough event when during his first round qualifying session his steering wheel came off in his hands.
"In the first run the steering wheel fell off so I had to lift. John (Force) told me the same thing had happened to Eric Medlen once too. Luckily it wasn't going any faster than it was. It was only going about 100 mph," said the unflappable Neff. "It came off and whoosh my hands came up over my head. I was like whoa. I looked up and the thing wasn't going straight. It was going towards the wall. I had to keep it off the wall so I pushed (the steering wheel) just enough to get a tooth to grab and I got just enough to turn it away from the wall."
For the next three qualifying runs his Old Spice team battled high heat and tricky track conditions never really getting a handle on the racing surface. By the end of the day on Saturday he was on the outside looking in but still philosophical about his chance heading to Chicago and Route 66 Raceway.
"This was just a tough weekend. We never really got a handle on the tune-up. I know we will have it straightened by Chicago," said Neff. "We just had a problem with dropped cylinders at the hit if the throttle. We ran down there on seven cylinders. We were definitely hoping for better than that but it is a little tricky out there"
This will be Neff's first time behind the wheel at Route 66 Raceway and Neff is looking forward to rolling his Old Spice Ford Mustang into the racing stadium.
"We're going through everything right now. We don't have an answer yet of why it's putting cylinders out (but) we'll get them in Chicago. We'll have 'er fixed by then. Between me and Medlen, we'll get it figured out," added Neff.
Prior to the Summer Nationals Neff was one of only five drivers to have qualified for every NHRA event so far this season. He also had the longest qualifying streak at John Force Racing. As he and his Old Spice team get back into racing mode in Chicago qualifying will be his first priority and then getting his first win of the season.
"Our goals haven't changed. We want to be in the thick of the championship countdown," said the leading rookie in the POWERade point standings in 9th place. "I know I am a rookie but this team led by John Medlen has a lot of experience. We will this Old Spice Ford Mustang rolling and we'll be in good shape for the rest of the season."