NEFF WINS AGAIN AT NORWALK
NEFF WINS AGAIN AT NORWALK
NORWALK, OH — Mike Neff used all his mechanical and driving skills this weekend at the 6th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals en route to his back to back victory in Norwalk. Neff tuned and drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the No. 2 qualifying spot and then the win over Tim Wilkerson. Neff outran Wilkerson 4.217 to 4.244. He became the first two-time winner at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park and this was his second win of 2012.
“The weather conditions this weekend were so difficult. Even today was much nicer than yesterday but it still got warm after first round. The track was up over 130 degrees. Any time you have track temperatures like that it is just tricky. It just comes down to being able to go up and down the track without smoking the tires,” said Neff.
“Friday night was really critical. That was going to be by far the coolest conditions of the weekend. That was the one run you had to make a good run. You had to get yourself a good spot in qualifying. You had no chance of running any better on Saturday. That kind of set the pace and fortunately for me I made a good run. I was No. 2 and it was a good position. I caught a break because the car back-fired the first round but you create your own luck. You qualify No. 2 and you are running the No. 15 guy. Your odds of winning go way up. That is the way I look at it.”
Neff’s four runs today were 4.299, 4.229, 2.281 and 4.217 for an average ET of 4.254 seconds. Having his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in the four twenties all day was key for Neff.
“The final I would say that was a good solid run for me. I was on a really good run in the first round and I thought it would run 4.11 but it popped the blower. The second round it spun the tires from half-track to the finish line. It put a hole out in the semis and ran 4.28. Finally in the final I got it to run on all eight and it made a good clean run right when I needed it. Tim Wilkerson put up a heck of a run over there. It had to be very close at the finish line. It was just our day,” said Neff, an eight-time Funny Car winner.
For the back-to-back Norwalk champion and three-time finalist as a crew chief Neff has a good feeling about racing at Norwalk. He can’t put his finger on why he does well here but he is glad to have the good luck.
“This place is kind of tricky. We have done fairly well on the hotter race tracks. Sometimes it just seems like you go to a track and you just always do well there. There are also just some tracks where it seems like you can never do anything right. I don’t know how it all works but Norwalk has definitely been really good to me,” said Neff, the first two-time Norwalk Funny Car winner.
“That was a great run in the final. It ended up being a good run in the second round even though it spun the tires. It still was right in there. You weren’t going to run much better out there. The track was kind of slippery and that was about all it had.”
With Neff’s win he stopped the Wilkerson point charge and secured a bit of breathing room for John Force in the tenth spot in the Full Throttle point standings.
“That was big. Our goal is to get all four cars in the Countdown. John is down there and Tim was on a roll today. You run the best you can and you hope it is good enough. Fortunately for us today it was.”
Neff moved from 5th to 3rd in the Full Throttle Funny Car point standings. This was the third time Neff has met Wilkerson in a final. He was 0-2 before today dropping finals at St. Louis (first career final) and Englishtown in his rookie season (2008). The win also held off a charging Wilkerson in the point standings.
“We found something that wasn’t quite right. It has been a lot of fun here this weekend. It has been tricky conditions. Today is a little nicer than yesterday,” said Neff. “I am thrilled to be able to get into the semis. Unfortunately Courtney put up a great run (in the second round) but couldn’t get around Cruz. I’m just glad to still be out here for all our sponsors like Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools, Auto Club, Traxxas and BrandSource and we are just going to try to keep going.”
With his win Neff also secured a 55” flat screen TV for Darrell Orelski of Erie, Penn., as part of the BrandSource Win with Force promotion. All weekend fans have been signing up at the John Force Racing sponsor trailer for a chance to win a washer and dryer set if JFR is No. 1 qualifier or a 55” flat screen TV is JFR wins. So far this season JFR has given away five sets of washers and dryers and seven flat screen TVs in twelve races.
For the second Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals Mike Neff defeated Cruz Pedegron in the semifinals. Neff went on to win last year over Ron Capps. Neff and Pedregon were 6-4 going into semis with Neff posting six consecutive wins, a streak he has now extended to seven in a row. After the race Neff was pleased with his Castrol GTX’s turn around.
“We found a few things testing and this weekend that weren’t quite right. We kind of have it back in line. I am feeling good to be going up and down the race track,” said Neff.
Neff outran Bob Bode in the first round and defeated Jeff Arend in the second round.
Robert Hight began making withdrawals from the JFR luck bank in his opening round versus No. 1 qualifier Johnny Gray. As Gray executed his burn-out his parachute deployed and he was forced to pull off handing Hight a single and a pass into the second round. He did pick up his 250th career round win.
“That was a tough one. You really want to go out there and win by inches at the finish line. You know you are going to have to press it racing those guys. We dodged a bullet. We got to the next round as the No. 16 car and No. 16 hasn’t won in a while. We are still in and we’ll give it a shot next round,” said Hight.
The last time a No. 16 qualifier won a Funny Car race was current Funny Car Crew Chief Del Worsham in 2003 at St. Louis. He defeated John Force in that final. In 2010 Force qualified No. 16 at this event and raced his way to a final round match-up with Tim Wilkerson before bowing out.
It was not to be a Cinderella situation for Hight as his Auto Club Mustang went up in smoke almost at the hit of the throttle in the second round versus Wilkerson today. Hight will hold onto his Full Throttle points lead and will not lose any ground to main threat Ron Capps, who was also a second round loser.
“We got a break in the first round against Johnny Gray. We want to hold onto the points lead and hold off Capps. We both went out in the second round so we didn’t lose any ground,” said Hight. “The Western Swing will be huge and we are excited to get out on the West Coast. In that second round I think the track was just tricky for a lot of the crew chiefs. Neither Tim nor I made great runs in the first session so it was kind of a toss-up. Good to get Ford for sure to the finals and hopefully we’ll get a win for Ford.”
When rookie driver Courtney Force took her Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car to a quarterfinal-finish this weekend, she not only qualified for her 11th straight event of her career, but she lengthened her “Rookie of the Year” stretch. Her friend and fellow female competitor Alexis DeJoria suffered her second DNQ of the season after being bumped out of the field at the end of the day on Saturday.
The Traxxas team endured scorching temperatures throughout qualifying attempts with the exception of Friday night’s session. Track conditions proved to be some of the trickiest they have seen all year and caused major issues for several cars, teams and drivers.
“My team put together a great race car for me this weekend. We struggled a little bit in the heat just like most of the other teams out here. I got to have some fun and race my dad in qualifying. That’s always a good time just because he has taught me everything I know about drag racing and it’s cool to have him in the other lane beside me, even if it was just for qualifying. I outran him on that run and it’s always cool to turn on a light when I’m up against him. Most importantly, we got our Traxxas Ford Mustang qualified for the show in the sixth spot,” said Force, who ran her best run of the weekend during Friday night’s session, a 4.140 second ET which held through Saturday’s hits.
“This heat wave out here has really been hard on my guys. It’s really hard to work and to concentrate in such hot conditions, and it’s hard to get your car to make any kind of decent runs down the race tracks sometimes. My team, led by Ron Douglas and Dan Hood put together a good car with a good set-up and got it going down the race track with a decent pass and that’s really the most important thing going into race day, knowing that you can get your car to do what it’s supposed to do in the heat,” said Force.
Force would match-up with Todd Lesenko in the opening round of eliminations. The 24-year-old faced and defeated Lesenko earlier this season in Phoenix.
“Today we had much cooler conditions. First round I had Lesenko and I screwed up a little as a driver. I lost my focus and got a little confused while I was staging. I pulled up and put my pre-stage light on, but it also started to flicker my stage bulb. It threw me off a little bit so by the time I staged my car and looked over at the Christmas tree, the green light was already on and I was late. We got lucky, but I was able to get the win light and even made a good run; we ran a 4.166.
“We were able to go on to the second round and I had a tough competitor, Cruz Pedregon. We still made a decent run. It was a close head-to-head race. I was able to see him out my window. We weren’t able to take home that win, but it was a good weekend. Everyone stayed safe and we got to root my teammate Mike Neff to the win.”
Coming into this race weekend, Force was sitting just two points behind Jeff Arend. Fellow Ford racers Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson managed to gain a necessary amount of points throughout qualifying and eliminations to push Force and Arend back and into a tie for 8th place in the point standings.
The team JFR luck was used up by the time John Force pulled to the starting line beside fellow Ford racer Tim Wilkerson. The pair of veterans had met 39 times previously with Force holding a 29-10 advantage. Today was Wilkerson’s day as Force smoked the tires as his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang drove past the Christmas Tree. Wilkerson hazed the tires at the top end and Force was trying gallantly to reel him in but he ran out of track.
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