NEFF LOOKING FOR EAST COAST SUCCESS
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (June 18, 2008) --- Mike Neff is getting his money’s worth out of his rookie season. The driver of the Old Spice Ford Mustang started the season with eight consecutive first round losses but he never got down on himself or his team. In his ninth start of the 2008 season in St. Louis he won his first competitive round right after his boss team owner John Force picked up round win No. 1000. Neff then raced his way to his first final round appearance.
He followed that race with another final round appearance in Bristol. The final round match-up with Melanie Troxel had more drama than a soap opera as Neff’s team could not get his Ford Mustang body unlatched denying crew chief John Medlen the opportunity to arm the engine for a full power run. As teammates, fellow drivers and crew chiefs reached under and around the carbon fiber body in vain an ESPN2 live television audience was on the edge of their seat. Neff’s car exploded just past the 300 foot mark and Troxel roared to her first win of the season. The next day the talk on the NHRA scene was Neff’s determination not to give up.
Never giving up has been a trademark of the former Funny Car world championship crew chief since joining John Force Racing. Following the Bristol final Neff’s Old Spice team has stumbled but they have not fallen. The attitude Neff projects is one of confidence and support for his entire team.
“We’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster. We started off the season and we weren’t doing too good. We had a couple of good races and a couple of bad races. We are definitely looking forward to having more good races and stabilizing. We want to go some rounds, that is what it is all about for us. I have all the confidence in the world in John Medlen and my team. I now the performance of the car will be there. We’ve been working hard making sure everything is in tip-top shape. We’ll be ready to go for Englishtown,” said Neff.
He has remained in the Top Ten in points which is critical as the cut-off for the Countdown looms on the horizon but hanging on is not the goal of Neff.
“We don’t talk about the Top Ten or anything like that. We all know what is at stake. We want to get into the middle of the Top Ten and we want to win a race. That is our goal; winning a race,” said the former off-road truck racer. “If you win a race then the points come along with it. We want to make sure we are definitely in that Top Ten but like I have said all along our expectations aren’t to be No. 10. In a perfect world we’d be No. 1 rolling into it (The Countdown).”
As he continues to learn the ropes of driving Neff is also working with crew chief John Medlen on the development of the BOSS 500 Ford motor. They were able to make some recent history qualifying No. 1 in Bristol with a Ford powered Mustang for the first time in 38 years.
Neff is looking to make some more history in Englishtown by picking up his first win and continuing to keep himself in contention for Rookie of the Year honors. John Force Racing drivers have won the Auto Club Road to the Future Award two of the last three years with teammate Robert Hight winning in 2005 and Ashley Force garnering the honor last season.
Did you know…
Mike is trying to become just the second racer to win pro championships as both crew chief and driver. The only person to have accomplished that feat is Dick LaHaie, who won a Top Fuel title as a driver in 1987 and as crew chief to Scott Kalitta in 1994 and 1995.
When Neff does capture his first win for John Force Racing he will become the seventh different drivers to have won Funny Car races on the NHRA tour – John Force, Tony Pedregon, Gary Densham, Robert Hight Ashley Force and the late Eric Medlen.
A strong season for Neff would also continue another John Force Racing tradition as he is trying to become the third John Force Racing, Inc., driver in four years to win the Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie of the Year following Robert Hight (2005) and Ashley Force (2007).