Neff Talks About Mindset Heading To Vegas
DEARBORN, Mich. -- Mike Neff, driver-tuner of the John Force Racing-owned Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, talked with national media this week about his chances for winning the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Series championship title. It would be his first as a driver.
Neff is third in the points with two races remaining in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. He needs to make up what would amount to three rounds of competition to catch the current leader, Jack Beckman. He’ll get his first chance in Las Vegas next week at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Below are excerpts from the teleconference hosted by NHRA.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, talk about where you and your team are right now.
MIKE NEFF: “Well, (we’re) just fortunate to be in contention at this point. A few races back, Ron (Capps, currently second in points) obviously had a pretty substantial lead, and Jack (Beckman, the current points leader) has been running great. Fortunately we felt good to have a good weekend in Reading and get out of there making some positive ground, especially with Jack setting the national record getting that extra 20 points there. You know, it's an exciting time right now. This is why you put all that work in over the last winter and go through this whole season to come to the very end here and you just want to have a shot, especially with the way the Countdown system works now. You know, the point is we've been running better here lately; like I said, I ran my career best here this last weekend, which felt good. So I feel like I said, I'm just happy to be in contention and definitely these last two races going out West is going to be exciting for everyone.”
Q. You have teammates, teammates who are very important to you until the final round. If you're facing each other in the final round, how do you deal with each other at that point in time?
NEFF: “Like Jack said, there's no question about it, when you have four cars on each team, Schumacher (Racing) as well as John Force's team, you end up running into each other, and that's the last thing you want to have happen is to have to race your teammate. Yeah, one of them is going to go on, but you hate to put the other one out. You know, and everybody has got their own incentives, as well. We have different sponsors, Castrol, Traxxas. Courtney, she needs to do well in competing for the Rookie of the Year. John, he hasn't had his best year, either, so he needs wins. He's got people on his back about that. And then myself, as well, trying to do it the best I can. You know, it's a tough situation. It was really unfortunate in Reading last week, the way that that went down when I had to race John Force that they left the throttle stop on there, which was clearly not intentional. John was upset about that, because it made us look bad, because we talked about it before we went, let's go race, and they knew I had the better car and the odds are that I was going to win, but let's go race. You know, if I do my job, I should win. We went up there with those intentions and for them to leave the throttle stop on there and have it look like that was just a bad deal because you always have your critics, and furthermore, if they were going to throw the race, they would have gone up there and smoked the tires like half the other cars did in eliminations, not leave the throttle stop on. They're not that stupid, and it made us look bad because then I have to hear about it from everybody else as we all do about, oh, was that intentional. It wasn't. But it's just the way that it is, and you can't avoid what people are going to say or what they think.”
Q. The long season that you guys work with, it's certainly a team effort as we all know. Is there a best way for you and your team over a long season plus the intensity of the Countdown when you get toward the end of the season, is there a best way to sustain team morale?
NEFF: “You just want to try to finish strong, and like I said, the ultimate motivator is being in contention at the end of the year and running strong and finishing on a good note. That's the best race to win is the last one of the year because that carries over all winter long. So just finishing strong is the best way, but also, even when you don't have a good year, you're glad for that once that season is over, you know you've got all winter long to gear up and you get to start fresh the next year.”
Q. You have had a very tough Countdown up to this point. You don't race until the 25th at Vegas. Are you going to use this to regroup? Would you rather be racing this weekend, or do you welcome the time that you can regroup, check your equipment, what you're feeling on this little space of time you have between Vegas and the Pomona race, which are both very crucial to you to winning the title?
NEFF: “It's like (Beckman and Capps) said, that with the four races in a row and then Indy raining out, it turned into six weekends straight, and I think I know all of us here, including myself, that we were glad to have a break here, have a couple weeks off, be able to just unwind and kind of regroup. I mean, it almost feels like that was it. We're on the downhill stretch. Now we get to go out West, race Vegas, have a weekend off and then (the finals in) Pomona, Calif. The hard part is over with, so it's nice to have a break.”