Highlights: Tony Pedregon beat teammate and mentor John Force in a bizarre all-Castrol final round to win the 39th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway and extend his lead in the race for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car...
Highlights: Tony Pedregon beat teammate and mentor John Force in a bizarre all-Castrol final round to win the 39th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway and extend his lead in the race for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.
Pedregon's Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang lost traction early in the run and appeared out of contention. However, Force, too, lost traction in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and, before he could regain control, his 7,000 horsepower hybrid slid across the center line, resulting in automatic disqualification.
The win was the sixth of the year for Pedregon, who extended his lead over second place Whit Bazemore to 101 points.
Force, the sport's biggest winner with 106 tour victories and 12 series championships, enjoyed his best outing of the season. He provided a big assist to Pedregon in round two when he used his starting line skills to beat Bazemore in a virtual dead-heat, 4.980 seconds to 4.980 seconds.
By reaching the finals for the 164th time in his career, Force moved up to sixth in season points. Gary Densham, driver of the third Team Castrol Ford, was beaten by Pedregon in round two but remained third in points.
JOHN FORCE, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car Qualifying position and performance: No. 2 at 4.791 seconds, 323.66 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Set track speed record of 323.66 mph in qualifying and went to the finals for the first time this season.
Quotable: "Hey, it may have been ugly, but it was a win for the team.JI'm just glad that I finally got in a position where I could beat somebody for Tony (Whit Bazemore). That made everything else just gravy."
TONY PEDREGON, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang Funny Car Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.780 seconds, 318.02 mph.
Race results: Beat Dale Creasy Jr., Gary Densham, Frank Pedregon and John Force.
Notable: Opened up a 101-point lead over second place Whit Bazemore in the race for the 2003 POWERade championship by winning for the sixth time this season.
Quotable: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw John's car cross over. You need some luck and that was definitely a lucky break for us. I felt bad for John (because) of the kind of year they've had, but not too sorry. He'll be in some more finals this year, believe me."
GARY DENSHAM, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Funny Car: Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 4.891 seconds, 303.50 mph.
Race results: Beat Scotty Cannon; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Won his first racing round in 16 tries at National Trail Raceway; retained his hold on third place in POWERade points.
Quotable: "It was an ugly weekend. We didn't get our act together in qualifying and that put us against Tony in round two. We qualify better, we'll have a better chance at St. Louis." -- GARY DENSHAM.
Next events: Sears Craftsman Nationals, Madison, Ill., June 27-29; Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Denver, Colo., July 18-20; Carquest Nationals, Seattle, Wash., July 25-27; Fram/Autolite Nationals, Sonoma, Calif., Aug. 1-3; Rugged Liner Nationals, Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 15-17; Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, Ind., Aug. 29-Sept. 1.