Topeka: Mike Neff preview

BACK TO BACK FINALS HAVE NEFF RIDING HIGH TOPEKA, KANSAS (May 27, 2008) --- After struggling to go rounds at the start of the season rookie funny car driver Mike Neff has found his groove in the last two events racing to back to back finals and...

BACK TO BACK FINALS HAVE NEFF RIDING HIGH

TOPEKA, KANSAS (May 27, 2008) --- After struggling to go rounds at the start of the season rookie funny car driver Mike Neff has found his groove in the last two events racing to back to back finals and making a dramatic move up the POWERade Funny Car point standings. For a team looking to maintain momentum they are excited to be heading to Topeka for the NHRA O'Reilly Summer Nationals and its lightning quick racing surface.

The front runner for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award presented annually to the NHRA professional rookie of the year Neff and the Old Spice team have moved from 14th to 7th in the point standings since St Louis in early May. A current nhra.com online opinion poll has Neff positioned as the favorite to win by a wide margin, over 70% but he knows that continued success is what will really set him apart.

"We definitely feel good about moving up in the points. We are moving forward and making progress. The car is running good," said the former off-road racer.

He was denied his first win in Bristol two weeks ago when his team was unable to lift his Ford Mustang body after his burn out and activate his BOSS 500 engine. He was out in front of a tire smoking Melanie Troxel when his engine let loose with a tremendous fireball and Troxel drove around his Old Spice sponsored fuel coupe.

"That is just hard to swallow. We should have won that race. For something that fluke like not being able to get the body open and I say that because we had that happen before," said the former world champion crew chief. "I am mad at myself because I should have said something and made sure that it got fixed and I didn't. I am mad at myself for that happening. I am not mad at anyone person. It is just frustrating."

Neff gave an emotional interview at the top end following the final to a national live TV audience on ESPN2 and added a new legion of fans with his passionate reaction to losing his second final in a row.

"I'm saying, 'Let's go. Let's go.' (NHRA starter) Rick Stewart was in front of us motioning for us to go but when we couldn't get the body up (crew chief John) Medlen couldn't get in there and arm all the switches. I am just saying, 'Go! Let's just go!' so naturally none of the system worked and that is why it backfired. I'm pissed!," exclaimed a frustrated Neff. "I'm happy for Melanie but for something like that to keep us from having a good drag race it's just too bad. For Old Spice the Ford motor is running good and that is what makes it so frustrating. We'll get 'em next time."

The time between the disappointment of the loss in Bristol and the O'Reilly Summer Nationals has not been spent dwelling on what could have been but rather promoting the NHRA to new fans.

Less than twelve hours after he was engulfed in flames at the top end of Bristol Dragway Neff was engulfed in new fans at the Greensboro, NC, Old Spice production and distribution facility. Neff along with JFR teammates John Force, Ashley Force, and Robert Hight spent the afternoon signing autographs with NASCAR's Tony Stewart for the 350 employees that make Old Spice deodorant. Neff's crew was also on hand along with his Old Spice Ford Mustang Funny Car and his 18-wheeler transport.

This past weekend Neff joined the Old Spice team at Lowes Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600. His Old Spice Funny Car was on display on Saturday and on Sunday he executed a high speed burn-out down pit road to the delight of the massive crowd on hand. Throughout the weekend Neff was promoting the NHRA POWERade Series as well as the new state of the art drag racing facility being constructed adjacent to the NASCAR facility.

Neff is getting more comfortable with his growing fan base and as the POWERade Series move to America's heartland he hopes more fans will begin to follow his team.

"After getting to the finals in St. Louis we definitely had a few more people on the ropes in Bristol. Now that we have gone to two finals in a row I think we are getting a little bit of a following. It has been an interesting transition from crew chief to driver that is for sure."

A win in Topeka would continue Neff's momentum which is just what the rookie is looking to do.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Stewart , John Force , Ashley Force , Melanie Troxel , Robert Hight , Mike Neff