HOUSTON --- On a day when Robert Hight’s bid for a historic fifth win in a row ended in the semi-finals, Mike Neff extended the John Force Racing team win streak to six races with his defeat of Ron Capps in the final at Royal Purple Raceway. Neff won an improbable race against the quicker Capps when he drove around a tire smoking Capps at the 700 foot mark posting a winning time of 4.239 seconds at 301.67 mph.
“I don’t know what Capps ran in the final but we were running real close together. I was running all I wanted to run in the second and third rounds. I wasn’t pressing. My Castrol GTX Mustang looked great. I was doing what I needed to do to win the rounds. I tried to pick it up a little bit in the semis. He was running good but it wasn’t like he was way ahead of everybody else. I did try and pick it up. I don’t get intimidated by anybody that I race. We have a good race car and a good race team. We do our own thing,” said Neff who further extended his lead on the No. 3 driver in points, Jack Beckman.
“The business we are in is pressure. There are a lot of high expectations especially when you are on a top team like John Force’s team. John Force Racing is built on winning. There is pressure there but there is no pressure coming from John Force. He is our biggest cheerleader and supporter. Nobody beats anybody up if they make mistakes,” said Neff, the driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
“I think anyone will tell you there is a lot of luck involved in winning these races. Sometimes it is just your day and sometimes it is not. Sometimes little things can derail you from winning. Anything can happen and that is racing. That is what is exciting about NHRA you can’t make it up in the next turn. You get one shot at it. You either get it right or catch a break or it is over with. You have to do it four times in one day.”
Neff opened his day with a win over Jim Head but even that win did not come without issues as he nearly red-lit in the first race. In the second round he outran No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon for the win and in the semi’s he defeated Jeff Arend who he lost to in the final last year at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals.
“The whole weekend has been one of a kind. Not getting qualified until the last session was definitely a nail biter and first round racing Jim Head, my buddy, in the first round. The light it seemed was so long that my foot just went but I never let hold of the brake because I knew I hadn’t seen the yellow yet,” said Neff. “My foot just slipped it but fortunately I was staged so shallow that when it lunged a little but it didn’t go red. I hit it again and I looked down and I saw the green light so I knew I had not red-lit. I legged it on through there even when it started smoking the tires because I knew I did not red light. That was just a total mistake. I caught a break there.”
Last year at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals Neff was nearly unstoppable posting winning times of 4.132, 4.122, 4.133 before fouling out in the finals to Arend. Today he was 4.495, 4.199, 4.176 and 4.239 in the finals. He only had lane choice once today but collected the win nonetheless.
“Going down the track was definitely what we were trying to do in the second round and semis. The track was hot but in the final I caught another break there against Capps. He was out in front of me and I could see him out there. He was on a good run. Something happened to him. I don’t feel that good about winning like that. I like to be able to run quick in all the sessions. Today I definitely backed my way into it. It wasn’t the way we like to do it but we will take it. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.”
Neff was also impressed by his teammate Robert Hight’s bid for history.
“Robert put together a heck of a string. That was impressive for that AAA team. Winning four races and getting to the semis today is hard to do. It is hard in the Funny Cars or in any of the classes. I give them a lot of credit. I am just glad I could keep the streak going for John Force Racing.”
This was Neff’s seventh career win and first of 2012 after three final round appearances. Neff’s previous finals losses were to teammates John Force in Pomona and Robert Hight in Phoenix. The win locks Neff into the inaugural Traxxas Nitro Showdown and for a lucky fan they win a 55” flat screen TV compliments of BrandSource’s Win with Force contest.
“I feel good about getting into the Traxxas Shootout. That is something that everyone wants to be a part of. I am fortunate to get into that and also I am even more excited about getting the XO-1, 100 mph Radio Controlled car,” added Neff, the third qualifier after John Force and Robert Hight.
Robert Hight was about 400 feet away from racing Neff in the final and making a run at his fifth win in a row when the tires on his Auto Club Ford Mustang lost traction and Ron Capps drove around him. The loss ended at 17 rounds Hight’s win streak. He was vying to become only the fourth driver to ever win five races in a row. As it stands he is still only one of five drivers to win four in a row along with Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, John Force and Cruz Pedregon.
“When you are in a streak like this you start to get superstitious. You start thinking I have to do this because I did it last race. You get on an airplane and you think I have to sit on the right side because I did last week and the week before. The truth is none of that really matters it is all silly stuff. What really gets you here and how we won these races is hard work. If you thought superstition mattered that just takes away from the whole Auto Club team and the eight guys plus Jimmy and Eric working on this team. They made this happen. I did my share along the way,” said Hight, the run-away Full Throttle Funny Car points leader.
“It was quite a ride. If you look back it is almost May and this streak started in February. To have the kind of success we had over those months is awesome. This is just the beginning of the season. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed we didn’t tie the all-time record but it is pretty cool having Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Force and even Cruz Pedregon all those guys say the nice things they did to the media leading up to this race. Those guys gave us all a lot of credit for what we did in this era. I still look at it as if we still have a streak going since we can still win six races in a row for JFR. Mike Neff is in a final and he has a good shot of winning. We could be the only three people locked into the Traxxas Nitro Showdown. The way Mike is running and he has a good car; he could get on a win streak too,” said Hight, before the final round.
“We’ll just move onto Atlanta and start another streak.”
Hight’s winning streak started in the desert of Phoenix moved to Gainesville, Florida, then back to the mountains of Las Vegas and finally to the hills of Charlotte, North Carolina. All four races had a variety of climate conditions and track nuances.
“It is huge that we won races in every condition. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and (Asst crew chief) Eric Lane have been great. Eric Lane has stepped up to really help Jimmy. He has been giving Jimmy great support and firm answers. (Track specialist) Lanny Miglizzi has been a big part too. I have a lot of confidence since I feel we can go to any track under any conditions and go rounds.”
“I also get a lot of confidence from this streak because getting these wins like Charlotte and getting as far as we did here that is a lot of pressure. People can say they don’t think about it but you do. Every run you have to focus and do your job but it is still in the back of your mind. It adds pressure and that is the kind of pressure you will have at the end of the season in the Countdown. We all did our jobs under that pressure. That just gives you more confidence at the end. We are going to come through this. It is a long season and we are heade