O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals
Neff goes to first final
“You can’t win without a good crew, sponsors like Castrol, Ford, the Auto Club and Old Spice and crew chiefs like Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly,” Force said. “Five hundred races (a milestone he achieved at
A few minutes after Force stopped down at the top end for the obligatory photo op, new driver Mike Neff grabbed round win number one at the O’Reilly Midwest NHRA Nationals with a victory over seasoned Nitro driver and Funny Car rookie Melanie Troxel. As Neff wrapped up his top end interview and headed back to the pits to get ready for a second round match-up the reserved Neff took inventory of his day so far.
“It felt like I was going 1,000 miles per hour in there,” said the
Neff wasn’t satisfied with getting one round win as he worked his way through a tough second round match-up with Mike Ashley. In the semis Neff had to race teammate Robert Hight. He once again powered down the quarter-mile as Hight had to pedal his Auto Club Mustang to set up a final round with veteran Tim Wilkerson.
Just before the final Neff was able to get perspective on his ninth race and how he hoped to turn his early season struggles around.
“I was nervous before first round just because this first round thing - 0-8 in previous races - was really starting to wear on me. Once we won first round I actually got calmer as the day went on,” said the front-runner for 2008 Rookie of the Year honors. “I was probably as calm in the final as I have been all day.”
Wilkerson has been arguably one of the hottest drivers in the Funny Car class this year and in the final both drivers left together but at the top end Wilkerson was able to just hold on for the win as Neff was charging beside him.
“We didn’t back our way into the final. We made four good runs and we lost on a squeaker. It was a good drag race we just came up a little short,” said the former crew chief turned driver. “We aren’t greedy it was a great day for us in the Old Spice Ford Mustang camp.”
Team leader John Force was beyond pleased with his newest driver’s performance.
“It is exciting for Mike, new driver with a new sponsor Old Spice and the Boss 500 motor. That is cool get that into the Final. At the end of the day what makes it special win or lose is that it will always be Eric Medlen’s car. I just felt Eric was riding with him,” said the winningest driver in Funny Car history. “(Tim) Wilkerson is a great racer. It was his day and he got the win. It was some great racing for the fans. I thought we won that final it was side by side and both drivers left on time with 70 lights and both cars ran good. The fans in
Even though Hight was stopped in the semifinals by his teammate he knows that the success of Neff and the Old Spice team is not a negative for his Auto Club team.
“(Mike) Neff is going to be good. He and I work well together. He is big asset to the team and I am glad he is here. I knew of Mike but I didn’t know him before he joined our team. He is just a great guy,” said the 2006 and 2007 Funny Car championship runner-up. “I honestly thought he has going to get his first win today. He’d never won a round and then goes to the final. He is going to have a bunch more finals.”
Return to Team Reports Archive
Return to the Home Page