DRIVER/CREW CHIEF MIKE NEFF NOT A LONGSHOT AT LAS VEGAS LAS VEGAS, NV (October 27, 2009) --- Heading into Las Vegas Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One are still technically in contention for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship....
DRIVER/CREW CHIEF MIKE NEFF NOT A LONGSHOT AT LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS, NV (October 27, 2009) --- Heading into Las Vegas Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One are still technically in contention for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship. Funny Car is the closest category of the four NHRA professional classes with 159 points separating Neff in 10th place from teammate Robert Hight in 1st. A team can pick up 150 points in one event so with two national events left on the schedule a strong Vegas showing by the Ford Drive One team could shuffle the Funny Car deck.
Neff controls his own destiny behind the wheel and under the hood. For the fourth time this season Neff will be spearheading tuning duties on the Ford Drive One Mustang as well as piloting it down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Earlier this year Neff pulled double duty when crew chief John Medlen missed Phoenix and Gainesville to have heart condition evaluated in Indianapolis. He raced to a runner-up finish in Phoenix and qualified No. 5 in Gainesville.
Three weeks ago Neff was pressed into the dual role again in Richmond when team owner John Force moved Medlen over to his Castrol GTX High Mileage team to work with his brain trust of Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. Neff tuned his Mustang to a No. 8 qualifying position and reached the semi-finals.
The added workload keeps Neff hopping during the races but it is a challenge the world championship crew chief and 2008 rookie of the year is up for.
"It is busy. It is stressful especially when you haven't done it in a while and you are not really familiar with the moves that you are making. You don't feel real sure of what you are doing sometimes. You start making some runs and seeing the results which helps with changes. You sort of feel your way though," said Neff in Richmond. "I was nervous before the first run I wanted to make sure we had everything covered. You just don't really know what to expect. This car has been running god for a while and John Medlen had it set up so this was the easiest deal to step into. Medlen was here all weekend (in Richmond) helping me. It just added more responsibility. I was thinking about the car all the time. When Medlen was making the tuning calls I just bopped around here with no worries until I got strapped in before the run. It just seemed like the wheels were turning non-stop this weekend."
Racing to the semi-finals was a strong showing for Neff and the Ford Drive One team but they are really drawing a bulls-eye on getting the team's first win. Neff knows that he can't afford to make any mistakes if they are going to make it to the winner's circle.
"The positive thing (in Richmond) is we went down the track every run, seven times in a row. I made a change to the clutch and put more cutters in there (on Sunday) and I thought that would help. It appeared to be the wrong thing to do. It really fell off and then I was stuck. I couldn't make it run like I wanted to. That was kind of a mistake on my part. We still learned a lot and we went a couple of rounds," added Neff.
Neff had a big win in Richmond that had huge Countdown implications when he defeated Tony Pedregon in the first round. Neff has been a solid teammate stepping up in the big moments all season. The win over Pedregon was huge with two races left in 2009.
"That was a real big run for us. He is up there in the points and you know how much your teammates are counting on you. To be able to take him out was huge. Not so much for us but for the rest of the team like Robert and Ashley. It was big and I am glad we were able to get down the track. The bottom line is we got the win light and that is all that matters," said Neff.