NORWALK, Ohio – Mike Neff became the first two-time winner in Funny Car at Summit Motorsports Park by going back-to-back in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
Neff's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang took down Tim Wilkerson in Sunday's final round to repeat his 2011 victory.
"Sometimes, it seems like we go to places and you just always do well at," Neff said. "And there's some tracks you go to, it just seems like you never do any good no matter how you've been doing up until that point. I don't know how it all works, but Norwalk's definitely been good to me."
Norwalk was also good to Top Fuel's Spencer Massey, Pro Stock's Vincent Nobile and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Andrew Hines as all won Sunday, capping a difficult weekend because of scorching weather in the Midwest.
Temperatures were in the mid-90s Friday and Saturday, with a heat index approaching 110 degrees both days. Though it dropped to the low 80s Sunday, heat was still a factor, Neff said.
"The weather conditions this weekend were so difficult," Neff said. "Even today, a much nicer day outside than it was yesterday, it still got warm after first round, and the track was up over 130 degrees. Any time you have track temperatures like that, it's just tricky. The track gets slick because it's so hot. It just comes down to being able to go up and down the track without smoking the tires. That's what usually goes rounds and eventually gets the win."
Neff cited the second qualifying session Friday night as critical to his victory.
"That was the one run you had to make a good run and get yourself a good spot in qualifying," Neff said. "You had no chance of running any better on Saturday. That kind of set the pace. Fortunately for me, I made a good run Friday night."
He qualified No. 2 with that run, setting up a first-round matchup with No. 15 qualifier Bob Bode.
"I got a little break when my car backfired first round, but you kind of create your own luck," Neff said. "You qualify No. 2, and you're racing No. 15, your odds of winning go way up."
The way Neff talked, every round of eliminations were a struggle. He popped a blower in the first round, spun the tires at half-track in the second round, and put a hole out in the semifinals.
"Finally in the final, I got it to run on all eight," Neff said. "It made a good, clean run, just when I needed it to. Tim Wilkerson put up a heck of a run over there. It had to be very close at the finish line. It was just our day."
Neff ran 4.217 seconds at 298.21 mph to beat Wilkerson's 4.244 at 296.96 mph.
Holeshots decided the Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle finals, with Massey getting the best of fellow Texan Steve Torrence in Top Fuel. Massey had a .024-second advantage on the Christmas Tree, enough to overcome Torrence's pass of 3.894 seconds at 315.71 mph.
"I try and be the best on reaction time," said Massey, who went 3.916 at 312.50 mph in the Fram dragster. "Right now, Steve Torrence has been the No. 1 guy on reaction time. He beat me in Chicago on a holeshot, and he's the only guy who really has beat me on a couple holeshots. It's nice to get one back on him."
Massey's .054 light in the finals was his best of the weekend.
"When I had to step it up, I stepped it up," Massey said.
Vincent Nobile certainly stepped up this weekend, as he scored two victories in two days. He won Saturday's K&N Horsepower Challenge, a special race for the past year's top qualifiers, and then went to victory lane in Sunday's national event.
"Never in a million years would I think I could be this lucky," Nobile said. "I've got to thank my team for supplying me the fastest car this weekend. If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't have won first round. I have the greatest team here."
Nobile, known for his starting-line prowess, actually left second against Jason Line in the final round. But Nobile's NAPA Dodge overcame the .010-second disadvantage with a pass of 6.661 seconds at 208.01 mph to beat Line's 6.705 at 207.88 mph.
Hines was outrun by Hector Arana Jr. in the finals (6.929 at 193.43 mph to Arana's 6.928 at 191.84 mph) but Hines left first with a .043-second reaction time to Arana's .073.
"It was a heck of a race with Hector Jr." Hines said. "I know I beat him on a holeshot in Houston, and that was huge. To do it again was ice cream on the cake."