MIKE NEFF NEFF FOCUSES ON POSITIVES WITH HEAVY HEART NORWALK, OH (June 25, 2008) --- For rookie Mike Neff it was easy to put reaching his third final round in five races but missing his first NHRA Funny Car win in perspective last Sunday. He ...
NEFF FOCUSES ON POSITIVES WITH HEAVY HEART
NORWALK, OH (June 25, 2008) --- For rookie Mike Neff it was easy to put reaching his third final round in five races but missing his first NHRA Funny Car win in perspective last Sunday. He joined the rest of the John Force Racing team in sending their condolences to Scott Kalitta's family and his race team. Being there to support your friends was much more important than hoisting a trophy.
The sting of missing a win was obvious to the front-runner for NHRA Rookie of the Year honors. Late in the evening the young driver reflected on where his team has been and where it was going. Neff frankly discussed how he felt his performance stacked up.
"It was another close one but as a driver you need to win those. I didn't do my job right there. I should have had a good enough light to get us a win right there so I am really disappointed with myself. (Crew Chief John) Medlen and the guys gave me a car that should have won that. I am mad at myself for not being at my best. I just feel bad for letting all these guys down."
Neff takes his role and his responsibilities seriously. Even though Englishtown was just his 13th race as a driver and it marked the third time in five races he has been one round away from picking up his first "Wally" Neff understood there are only so many opportunities for drivers in a tough funny car field.
"I know how hard it is to get to a final round and you can't screw up when you get to a final round. You just don't get a final every race and you have to have your act together," said Neff. "You have to be at your best in the final round. It is frustrating for me because I wasn't at my best."
Most drivers would have looked at the bracket on Sunday morning and had to sit down as they contemplated the "Who's Who of drag racers" they might tangle with as the race progressed. In Neff's case he beat perennial Funny Car contender Ron Capps, reigning Funny Car World Champion Tony Pedregon and his last win of the day came against team owner, boss and 14-time Funny Car World Champion John Force.
"Racing guys like that is exciting for me. I feel good about that. It was great racing John. That was the first thing that came to my mind when I found out I was going to be driving a Funny Car was being able to pull up side by side next to John Force and let it all hang out. Not too many people in their life will get to do that," said the former World Champion crew chief. "I feel really privileged to be able to race guys like (Ron) Capps, (Gary) Scelzi and all of these great drivers. Someday when I am not driving anymore that will be something that I'll be able to look back on and feel honored I was able to do that."
With a handful of races left before the Countdown to One Neff and the Old Spice team are taking it one step at a time but they are getting what team leader John Force calls the "eye of the tiger" with each passing race.
"I feel like we got off to a slow start and we've been kind of hit and miss. Going to three finals in the last five races is good I don't care who you are. John Medlen and the guys are doing a great job with the car. I feel like we have a legitimate chance every time we pull into the track. I expect us to win and I know we are good enough to win so that is what makes it frustrating when we don't win," said Neff.
"I lot of people would be tickled to death to go to the finals and I am pleased because we are making up ground. I don't want to be down there bouncing around fighting for that tenth spot. I'd like to get away from that and get ourselves solidly into the Countdown. That is the goal right now. I believe we'll get better and I'll get better. Hopefully we make the Countdown hitting our stride about that point and have a legitimate chance at it."