NEFF LANDS AT TOP TO OPEN AUTO CLUB FINALS (POMONA) --- Mike Neff, rookie of the year favorite, powered his Old Spice Ford Mustang to the top of the Funny Car field on Thursday at the 44th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA...
NEFF LANDS AT TOP TO OPEN AUTO CLUB FINALS
(POMONA) --- Mike Neff, rookie of the year favorite, powered his Old Spice Ford Mustang to the top of the Funny Car field on Thursday at the 44th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway. Neff's run of 4.105 seconds was hands down the best run of the day bettering a gaggle of competitors bunched together with 4.12 second runs. The California native was pleased to start the last race of the year with a solid run since it served dual purposes for John Force Racing.
"That was a very important run. To get down the track and get in there solid is our game plan. We want to get all four of our Mustangs in the top 4 or 5 spots so we wouldn't have to race each other until the semis. There are three runs left but that was pretty solid and I expect that will stay in the top twelve," said Neff.
"We need (teammate) Robert (Hight) to get up there hopefully get right up there with us or even in front of us. He is our shot for the championship. We have to be up there to so we can take some of these other guys out. It was important and it feels good. It relieves a lot of the stress. You aren't sweating it out tomorrow and Saturday. It was a big run and John Medlen did a great job with that tune-up."
While Neff was impressed with his run, Robert Hight was thrilled to have his first qualifying run behind him and to be in a solid position heading into the weekend. Hight knows that a race can be totally derailed by a poor opening session performance.
"I am almost positive 4.12 will stay in so that gives us some room. If we screw up tomorrow it will not be the end of the world. It would really have hurt us if would have screwed up today. I think today was perfect. I am happy with how today went," said Hight.
"I don't think we could have had a better start. If would have tried to run harder we would have smoked the tires and then we would have been playing catch up all weekend. It was a nice conservative run. It doesn't get any better than that. It is a perfect way to start and we are ahead of the guys we need to be ahead of. We get to watch them run tomorrow. They will be running before us which buys us some time since Funny Cars are running second tomorrow. It gives the sun a chance to go down some more and cool off a little more. We are in a position now where we can be more aggressive tomorrow. I think if it gets cool enough we could run an .08 or .07 tomorrow even."
The other two John Force Racing Ford Mustangs made solid if not spectacular runs to position themselves in the provisional top twelve heading into Friday's second qualifying session. Team leader John Force had his hands full when his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang spun the tires at the top end but the veteran was able to keep it under control and post a respectable 4.144 second run.
2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force suffered a mechanical problem in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and was slowed to a 4.207 second run at a top speed of 302.62 mph. She was happy to get the first run behind her and be in the show going into a stressful event.
"It is always weird here because it is a Thursday. It is almost like you aren't running and then you get called to the staging lanes. It was nice to have our first lap go A to B. We even had a problem. It only ran on one mag or something. It was something that never happens and it still ran top speed. We were really fortunate. Usually if something goes wrong on the car the run is done. I think we are 10th but still have three more runs. Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli) seemed happy with it considering we had a problem," said Force.
JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 6th at 4.144 seconds, 282.95
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 10th at 4.207 seconds, 302.62 mph
Quotes: "We are running the pink Rookie of the Year car that we ran in Indy. It wasn't very good luck in Indy but we are trying to not think negatively. We are giving it another chance because we'll never have another chance to run this body after this year. We wanted to get it out one more time and the fans really loved the pink car. It will be fun to finish the year off with a specialty car."
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club/Los Angeles Dodgers Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 4th at 4.122 seconds, 298.14 mph.
Quotes: "I don't think we could have had a better start. If would have tried to run harder we would have smoked the tires and then we would have been playing catch up all weekend. It was a nice conservative run. It doesn't get any better than that. It is a perfect way to start and we are ahead of the guys we need to be ahead of."
MIKE NEFF, 42, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.105 seconds, 299.13 mph
Quotes: (on teammate Robert Hight) "He is a very intense competitor. He wants to win this championship more than anybody. He handles the pressure really well. He is focused just like Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Prock) is and the whole team. I think that they are really good under pressure. I think that is what you are going to find out this weekend is these guys that are in the hunt is how they deal with the pressure. That will work to some people's advantage over others. I expect Robert's team to not fold under the pressure. I think that they will be as strong as anybody."