Consistency paid off for Mike Neff at the Auto Plus NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa.
Neff’s reward was capturing his first title at Maple Grove Raceway by defeating Johnny Gray in the nitro Funny Car final round Monday.
Neff clocked a 4.030-second time in his John Force Racing Mustang to defeat Johnny Gray who slowed to 9.305 seconds.
“This is exactly what we needed to do,” said Neff, who also tunes his Castrol GTX machine. “(Jack) Beckman and (Ron) Capps had a pretty good lead on us (in the point standings) and we can’t give up any more ground. Coming in here (to Reading), realistically, we were going to have to win the next three races if we were going to have a shot at it (winning the championship).”
Beckman (2,437) and Capps (2414) of Don Schumacher Racing are first and second in the points chase, followed by Neff at 2383.
This was Neff’s 10th career nitro Funny Car win and fourth this season.
“I give credit to Jack Beckman’s team and also Cruz (Pedregon), those three-second runs that was impressive,” Neff said. “I just didn’t have it (a 3-second run). I made my career-best runs here this weekend, 4.01 and 4.02 and I was pleased. I didn’t want to take the chance of trying to make it run 3 seconds and smoke the tires. I was just trying to play it safe and make some solid runs and just try and get the round wins. We did all we could here and it feels good to make some forward progress.”
During Neff’s four round wins over Tony Pedregon, Jim Head, John Force and Gray, his average elapsed time was 4.029 seconds. Neff beat Pedregon Sunday and then scored wins over Head, Force and Gray Monday. The race was completed Monday after rain and cold weather postponed the event Sunday.
The track temperature during Neff’s final round win over Gray was only 61 degrees.
“I honestly thought the lanes were pretty equal,” Neff said. “Johnny Gray made a great run the round before in that left lane, so I’m sure they felt comfortable over there, but it was nice for me to not have to change lanes even though I didn’t have lane choice. It just worked out.”
After six consecutive weekends of racing, Neff returns to action Oct. 25-28 in Las Vegas.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” said Neff about having a couple of weekends off. “It has been a long couple of months.”
Following Vegas, the 2012 NHRA concludes with the Auto Club Finals Nov. 8-11 in Pomona, Calif.
“You have to have it all right to get a win any more,” Neff said. “The biggest thing is it will be exciting. I want to be able to head out West with a chance. It would be a downer if we were out of it at this point. It is nice to be alive for the championship.”
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