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Event: 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, 3rd of 24 events in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Site: Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.
Dates: Mar. 12-15, 2009

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“My main thought (heading into Gainesville) is actually I feel good about our Mustang and the way that it runs. This is a really good car. (Crew chief) John (Medlen) has this car set up so we can tune it. The main thing is I’ll feel better when John gets back” – Mike Neff

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The Driver

Mike Neff, 42, driver of the Ford Drive One Mustang, is entering his second season with high expectations. Prior to the NHRA Gatornationals Neff reached the finals in Phoenix and is currently No. 4 in Full Throttle point standings. In his rookie year he reached three finals, was No. 1 qualifier twice and finished in 9th place in the Countdown to 1 championship race. Neff took over the driving duties for the late Eric Medlen, who succumbed to injuries sustained in a testing accident in March of 2007. A racing veteran Neff grew up in Hemet, Calif., racing dirt bikes and off-road trucks.

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Mike Neff By the Numbers:

3 – Number of finals Neff reached in rookie season

3 – Number of JFR drivers who have been named Auto Club Road to the Future Award winners, most recently Mike Neff was honored as the professional rookie of the year (Robert Hight, 2005 and Ashley Force Hood, 2007)

4 – Neff’s position in the Full Throttle point standings, his highest ranking of his career

4.07 – average ET of Mike Neff’s Ford Drive One Mustang at the recent Lucas Slick Mist NHRA Nationals

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Full Throttle Point Standings (After two events of 24 Full Throttle events)

Funny Car
1. Ron Capps, 229; 2. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 132; 2. Del Worsham, 132; 4. Mike Neff, Ford Drive One Mustang, 129; 5. Jim Head, 124; 6. Bob Tasca III, 107; 7. Jack Beckman, 105; 8. Gary Densham, 104; 9. Ashley Force Hood, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 88; 10. Matt Hagan, 84. Also 12. John Force, Castrol EDGE Ford Mustang, 71.

Top Fuel
1. Antron Brown, 206; 2. Brandon Bernstein, 164; 3. Doug Kalitta, 163; 4. Tony Schumacher, 127; 5. Morgan Lucas, 124; 6. Spencer Massey, 85; 7. Shawn Langdon, 83; 8. Cory McClenathan, 82; 9. Mike Strasburg, 81; 10. Larry Dixon, 88.

Pro Stock
1. Jason Line, 171; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 169; 3. Greg Anderson,155; 4. Mike Edwards, 153; 5. Allen Johnson, 132; 6. Kurt Johnson, 127; 7. Greg Stanfield, 104; 8. Ron Krisher,103; 9. Jim Yates, 84; 10. Johnny Gray, 83.


Track Records:
Top Fuel* - 4.481 seconds by Dave Grubnic, March ’05; 333.95 mph by Tony Schumacher, March ’05.
Funny Car* - 4.686 seconds by Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, March ’07; 331.94 mph by Hight, March ‘07.
Pro Stock - 6.536 seconds by Greg Anderson, March ’07; 211.69 by Jason Line, March ’07.
PS Motorcycle - 6.911 seconds by Angelle Sampey, March ’07; 197.45 mph by Andrew Hines, March ’05.
(*performance records will not be officially recorded in Top Fuel and Funny Car at this event)


Race Schedule:

Friday –
FC Qualifying: 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Saturday –
FC Qualifying: 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Sunday –
Pre-race: 10:00 a.m.
Final eliminations: 11:00 a.m.

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Gainesville, FL (March 9, 2009) --- Mike Neff is looking forward to getting to Gainesville Raceway and back on the track for the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals. Last season Neff was still developing as a driver and during the opening round of his first Gatornationals he was on his way to his first round win when his Ford Mustang smoked the tires. The eager rookie got back onto the throttle too early pushing his 8,000 horsepower fuel coupe over the center line disqualifying the eventual Rookie of the Year.

A year later Neff rolls into historic Gainesville Raceway smarter, more experienced and as one of the hottest drivers on the Full Throttle Series. A broken part of his clutch linkage in the final gave Ron Capps a free pass into the winner’s circle in Phoenix. Neff knew almost immediately he would not be racing Capps in the final at the end of his burnout.

“The clutch linkage broke and there was no was no way to push the clutch in to put it in reverse. It must have happened during the burnout. I tried to push the clutch in and there was nothing there. I tucked my foot underneath the pedal to see what was going on and I could feel that the clutch pedal was broken. I knew we were dead so I just had to take off to get out of the way,” said Neff.

That mishap capped an emotional weekend for Neff and the rest of John Force Racing. Prior to the event Neff’s crew chief John Medlen admitted himself to an Indianapolis hospital for chest discomfort and did not make the trip to the desert. Ever the optimist Neff found the silver lining in a disappointing final round.

“It was definitely unfortunate and it is not the way we wanted it to go. Everything happens for a reason though. This is John Medlen’s team and Eric’s (Medlen) car and it is only right that he is here for the first win,” said an emotional Neff.

One of the main reasons Neff was selected to join john Force Racing was his tuning pedigree. Neff tuned Gary Scelzi to the 2005 Funny Car world championship and he filled the role of back-up crew chief for Medlen throughout the 2008 season. Pressed into duty in Phoenix Neff followed the John Medlen playbook and received solid support from the John Force Racing crew chief brain-trust.

“(Phoenix) was a collective effort. All the other crew chiefs Coil, Bernie, Guido, Ron, and Jimmy plus Robert were pitching in as well as all the other crew guys. That makes is a little more disappointing since it would have been nice to win that for everybody’s sake. Everybody was working. Like I said it wasn’t meant to be. We had a good weekend. We came here and we were dealt some bad circumstances with Medlen not being here. Our number one concern is his health and him getting better. That is more important than winning a drag race. We are just hoping he gets better and back out here. We’ll save that win for another day,” said Neff.

“Medlen is one of the smartest guys I know without a doubt. It is his car and he set all this stuff up. I didn’t come in here and wave a magic wand. I just picked up and tried to do what he would do. I tried to continue on how he would do it. There is no question our performance would have been the same. We didn’t do anything differently. We have a great car.”

Even with his success in Phoenix Neff still gave himself a tough grade in the driving department.

“I didn’t think I did very well. I did a good job of keeping it in the groove. My reaction times weren’t very good (in Phoenix). I just think I had so much on my mind I could just never focus. I had too many thoughts. I just didn’t feel like I was doing as good a job as I could have.”

This weekend Neff will most likely be handling the driving and tuning duties. One advantage is he has continued to work beside Medlen at the Indianapolis shop and he knows well in advance he’ll be calling the shots. Medlen continues to improve and will meet with his doctors this week to get more information regarding his timetable for a return to the drag strip.


Did you know…

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 2008 rookie season for Neff allowed him to continue another John Force Racing tradition becoming the third John Force Racing, Inc., driver in four years to win the Auto Club’s Roa

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