NHRA top rookie favorite Mike Neff gets to help his John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight in a big way in Sunday’s first round of eliminations in the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Neff, who qualified ninth, faces points leader Tim Wilkerson in the first round that starts at 11 a.m. Wilkerson qualified eighth.
Neff is not concerned that he is 0-5 against Wilkerson this year.
"It will be the biggest race that we have had, definitely. We have raced Wilkerson in two of our (final rounds),” Neff said. “We gave him a good race in both runs, but he nipped us in both of those.
“I’m confident in (crew chief) John Medlen. He has the Old Spice Ford running good. The (Ford) Boss 500 motor has been looking real good this weekend. We’ll give it our best shot and it sure would be nice to be able to do our job here and take him out. That is what it’s all about.”
Hight picked up a few points on Wilkerson by winning the Las Vegas pole. Hight is ranked fifth in points, 87 behind Wilkerson. Each round win in eliminations is worth 20 points.
Neff is no newcomer to championship pressure. He was the crew chief for Gary Scelzi when they won the 2005 Funny Car championship.
"A race like (Sunday) morning is why most of us are out here. You want that competition. The mere fact that we are competing at that level for something as important as that round win would be great for us.
“I remember when I was a crew chief for Scelzi in 2005. It was coming down to the last race for the championship to be decided. I know what that pressure feels like and if you are able to come out victorious when you are put in those types of situations there is nothing greater. Those are the memories that will always be with you."
VERY HOT ROD
“Hot” Rod Fuller qualified for his 84th consecutive NHRA race Saturday, and the seven-time Top Fuel winner and defending event champion of the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals clocked the second fastest 1,000-foot speed to qualify third.
On his fourth and final qualifying effort, he posted his best run of 3.816 seconds at 318.39 mph.
“That was an awesome run,” Fuller said. “That’s how this CAT car is supposed to run. It felt great. I’m really confident about (Sunday). I have a really good feeling. I’m excited to go some rounds and put on a show for all the home fans here in Vegas.”
The Las Vegas resident will face No. 14 qualifier Tim Boychuck in the opening round
AN NHRA WASTE OF TIME
Before the last pair of Top Fuel dragsters finished the final qualifying session Saturday, an oil-down delayed racing for 38 minutes.
Tony Schumacher was one of the cars left waiting, along with about 20,000 spectators who sat patiently.
Instead of the lull, NHRA could have held the celebration for Schumacher clinching his sixth Top Fuel championship.
He was sitting on the pole and the worst he could do was qualify second, but all he had to do was qualify for Sunday’s 16-car championship elimination rounds to be crowned.
But ,no, an NHRA spokesman said they couldn’t name him the “champion” until after qualifying.
NHRA just didn’t want to distract from its ceremony at the end of the track immediately after his final qualifying pass.
Great priorities. Play to a national television audience that was watching on tape delay and ignore 20,000 in the grandstands.
Schumacher could have skipped his last run and still would have become the champion.
A meteor could have fallen on his car while waiting for the cleanup and he still would have become the champion.
He could have retired before the run and he still would have become the champion.
Worse than letting the fans sit bored, it delayed qualifying for the last Funny Car session. And in nitro racing, the cooler the air and cooler the track enhances quickness.
That could have wrecked havoc in the Funny Car championship race.
Then, after the two pairs of Funny Cars ran, racing was stopped for about 10 minutes while a stage was rolled to the starting line and a rushed ceremony was held.
So about 50 minutes of racing was delayed. Compounding the idiocy of NHRA marketing gurus, racing was halted for Sportsman eliminations by rain at around 7 p.m.