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A bad year for Mickey Ferro is a good year for just about anybody else.
Ferro finished "just" fifth in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car standings last year and won "only" one national event - things most drivers never accomplish in their entire careers. "We were disappointed with the season, to be honest," says Ferro, whose lone national win came in Gainesville, site of this weekend's Lucas Oil Series regional event. "We expect to win every race we go to. That's never going to happen, obviously - especially with a guy like Frank Manzo in our class - but we know that at any given race, we can win. Last year, it didn't happen nearly enough."
Ferro has seven career national event victories in 13 finals, and if it wasn't for his nemesis, Manzo, he'd be well into double figures by now: He's 0-5 in final-round competition against Manzo, 7-1 against everybody else.
"Frank's the best ever in our class, obviously," Ferro says. "I mean, how many years has he been doing this? Just to make it to those finals and run close to him was an honor, and he's the one who really drives us to keep working to stay on top of everything. You ever see his car break? No. You know why? All the time he spends preparing every piece on that car. That takes commitment, and Frank really puts in the work."
So do Ferro and crew chief Anthony Terenzio, and this year, their efforts will be focused more on consistency and less on all-out performance. "You're always trying to get more out of your car, but if you're looking the wrong places, you end up with something that's undriveable," Ferro says. "Last year, we got a little over-center, and when the car's in trouble right off the starting line, it's never going to make it. This year, we're going back to what we know, back to more of what worked for us in 2010. We won a few races that year [including five in a row to finish the season - three national events and two divisionals] and finished second in the points. Then last year, we kind of got away from that."
Ferro's Ryco-sponsored team will have a new Monte Carlo body on the chassis that was fronthalved following his accident at the Jegs Allstars event in Chicago. Racing Tony Bartone, Ferro got out of the groove and over by the centerline in the first round of eliminations, and when he brought it back, the car got up on two wheels, shot back across his lane, and plowed into the wall.
"He got out on me, and I stayed in it too long," Ferro admits. "I was too aggressive because I'd gotten away with it too many times in the past. The back end washed out, and normally you can correct it, but it kept coming around. I was staring at the wall, I knew it was too late, and I was thinking, 'How did I let this happen?' It was embarrassing. From now on, when something like that happens, I'm listening to that little voice that we all have in our heads and shutting it off."
First up is the Eastern Regional this weekend at Gainesville Raceway, one of Ferro's favorite tracks and one at which he traditionally does well. He's a two-time Gatornationals champion, with both wins coming at the expense of Paul Gill in the final and both coming on holeshots - in 2007 for his first national event title anywhere, and last year for his fourth in row overall, including Dallas, Las Vegas, and the Finals in late 2010.
"I've always liked Gainesville," Ferro says. "There's just something about it. The conditions are always good, it's the first big one of the year for all of us on the East Coast, and we've had some good luck there in the past. Last year, we really backed into the win. I'm not saying we should have run a 5.43 like Frank, but with air that good and a track that good, we definitely should have run at least a tenth better than we did, something in the high 5.40s like we did in 2010. We had mechanical problems - quirky stuff, stuff that never happens - and we were lucky to win the race. We were just in the right place at the right time."
Ferro, Terenzio, and crew have a 10-race national tour planned for 2012, with stops in Houston, home of major sponsor Ryco, and Dallas, home of major associate Green Stuff. "Everybody wants to win the championship, and we do too, but when you're running Frank every weekend, it can be tough," says Ferro, who wound up his 2011 campaign with a win at the Division 2 event in Reynolds, Ga. "Our goal this year is to get back in the top three."
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