(Photos by Mike and Jeff Burghardt) Yeah, it is that time of the year, the Silly Season in all of motorsports, the time when crew chiefs and drivers consider better deals, better positions, more money and the intangibles each professional racer has gotta consider in a successful career. Well this is a Big One – with the announcement today that John Force’s personal Crew Chief Mike Neff is leaving him!
In preparations for the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season well underway, DSR owner Don Schumacher announced changes to the Don Schumacher Racing team roster.
Accomplished tuner Mike “Zippy” Neff joins DSR as crew chief on the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster of eight-time NHRA champion Tony Schumacher. Neff had prior success at DSR winning the 2005 championship as crew chief on Gary Scelzi’s Dodge Funny Çar team. Neff’s initial stint at DSR was from 2001-’07 before joining rival John Force Racing where he helped earn the 2010 NHRA Funny Car crown with Force. He also won one Funny Car race in 2009 as a driver/tuner.
Former U.S. Army crew chief Mike Green, who guided Schumacher to 27 event titles and championships in 2009 and ’14, will remain at DSR. Green’s guidance on safety and performance projects have been vital to the organization’s success.
“We welcome Mike Neff back to the DSR family,” team owner Don Schumacher said. “We know Mike will be a great asset to DSR and feel he will help the Army team run for a championship in 2018. Mike knows DSR and we know his talents as a crew chief.
“Mike Green will continue to play an important role at DSR, including working with all seven of our teams. Mike developed the enclosed cockpit dragster that all the DSR cars and others in the sport run. Mike’s passion for the sport will help make the DSR cars safer and perform at a higher level next season. We thank Mike for helping us win two NHRA championships with Tony and the Army.”
It was a lackluster season for the “The Sarge”, since there wasn’t a U.S. Army Top Fuel championship in the cards for the first time in four years for eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher.
The Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster driven by three-time champion Antron Brown will be tuned by Mark Oswald and Brad Mason in 2018. Brown enters the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with 49 career Top Fuel victories. A rumor going around is that Brian Corradi, co-crew chief on Brown’s dragster is leaving DSR, moving over to John Force Racing.
“Mark is a very talented person. He can drive, tune, fabricate and do many, many things on these race cars. He is an asset to DSR and this is a great opportunity for Brad to move up as he has been waiting his time to move into the assistant crew chief seat.”
DSR also has promoted NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car car chief Dustin Heim to be Rahn Tobler’s (right) assistant crew chief for the NAPA Dodge driven by 2016 champion Ron Capps. Heim has been at DSR since 2009.
DSR’s seven race teams amassed 25 wins, 22 runners-up, 19 poles and one Traxxas Funny Car Shootout win last season. They will begin the 2018 season with preseason testing near Phoenix on Jan. 31, 2018, before the 24-race NHRA season begins on Feb. 9 at Pomona, Calif. Last February, DSR’s Leah Pritchett and Matt Hagan swept the nitro titles at the historic NHRA season-opener.