Mike Neff described his approach to Friday qualifying at the NHRA Big O Tires Nationals as cautiously aggressive. The former driver turned crew chief for John Force Racing covered The Strip at Las Vegas racing surface in 4.070-seconds at 313.73 miles per hour.
Neff entered this weekend’s event trailing point leader Jack Beckman by 54 points, six points shy of three rounds of competition with eight available in 2012. He cut the deficit to 51 when Beckman failed to gain any in both sessions.
Neff could have been easily characterized as a championship contender with nothing to lose at this point in the season.
“Somewhat,” Neff confirmed. “You have to be cautiously aggressive. This is the way I am approaching the weekend. I have to have two great races after coming off of a great race. I just have to race smart and my car is running really well now. I think I have a legitimate chance at it. If I keep running good, it puts the pressure on the other guys and we have a good chance. I’ve been in this situation before.”
For clarification, Neff described cautiously aggressive as a mix of a careful tune-up with a hint of aggressiveness.
“You can’t be too aggressive and smoke the tires and end up not qualifying,” explained Neff. “You don’t want to go up there Saturday unqualified. It’s a fine line any time you are trying to run one of these cars.”
According to Neff, the racing surface at Vegas is such where it usually yields positive results but for some reason Friday’s track preparation left it below the usual standard. The silver lining in the dark cloud was in getting a good run to build on.
“When you can make a good run like this on your first run, it puts you on the offense as opposed to being on the defense,” Neff said. “We were happy with that and disappointed it didn’t make it down the track in the second session. The track wasn’t what it should have been. That’s why you didn’t see any good runs in the evening session. The lack of spray on the track made for a pretty bad show. I’m disappointed for everyone.”
Saturday will bring a different kind of day than the race teams faced in the first session. Higher temperatures are forecast for the final day of eliminations.
“Saturday will be about getting ready for race day,” said Neff.
Beckman is qualified No. 4 provisionally while Capps is ninth with two qualifying sessions remaining.
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