Denver: Tony Pedregon preview

MORRISON, Colo. - Tony Pedregon goes mountain climbing again this week (July 14-16) in the hope of putting his Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang in the Funny Car winners' circle for the third consecutive year at Bandimere Speedway Park. ...

MORRISON, Colo. - Tony Pedregon goes mountain climbing again this week (July 14-16) in the hope of putting his Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang in the Funny Car winners' circle for the third consecutive year at Bandimere Speedway Park.

Pedregon's success story in the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, contested this week for the 22nd time, is an unlikely one.

Of the 60 Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock winners crowned at Bandimere since 1979, only three have won from a starting position outside the top eight. Count Pedregon as two of those three.

The 35-year-old California qualified 10th before rallying to win in 1998. He qualified 11th on the way to repeating in 1999. The only other driver to have won from a double digit starting sport was Larry Minor, the Top Fuel Champion as the No. 12 qualifier in 1986.

However, unlike Minor, who caught a big break when final round foe Eddie Hill's dragster broke on the burnout, Pedregon has had very few gimmees.

The Chino Hills, Calif., resident used a hole shot to beat Ron Capps in the 1998 final (5.417 to a losing 5.399) and needed the event's best race day time (5.041) to get past Castrol GTX teammate John Force in the semifinals before beating a tire-smoking Whit Bazemore in last year's final.

Ironically, of Pedregon's nine career victories in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, none has come from the No. 1 starting spot. He's won from the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh spots. And he's won twice from No. 11.

Go figure.

"We've got a really good race team that never thinks it's out of the hunt," Pedregon explained. "(Crew Chief) John Medlen is a great problem solver, especially when he has Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly (Force's Co-Crew Chiefs) to back him up.

"So when we struggle in qualifying, it doesn't necessarily mean we're going to be designated victims (on race day). I always think we'll find a way to win and we've done so often enough to keep me motivated."

Pedregon carries some momentum into his fifth appearance in the Mile-High Nationals. Last month, he won the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Kirkersville, Ohio, extending to five the number of consecutive years in which he has won at least one NHRA national event.

That's the second longest streak among active Funny Car drivers behind only Force, who's won a race in 14 straight seasons.

In addition to feeding off his most recent victory, Pedregon also will benefit this week from refinements to the new Ford Mustang body designed by Tim Gibson and built by fabricators at Roush Racing.

The new car, while heavier than its predecessor, incorporates aerodynamic technology designed to address traction problems that occur in the heat and in the last half of the quarter mile.

www.johnforceracing.com

Tony Pedregon at......

Bandimere Speedway Park, Morrison, Colo.

Starts: 4
No. 1 qualifier: 0
Finals: 2
Wins: 2 (1998, 1999)
W-L Record: 10-2
Best Performances:
5.041 seconds, July 18, 1999
291.70 mph, July 18, 1999

LAST YEAR - After qualifying 11th, Tony beat Gary Densham, Al Hofmann, John Force and Whit Bazemore to win his second straight race at Bandimere Speedway.

DID YOU KNOW:

Tony is the Hispanic spokesperson for AAA of Texas ....in 1996, his first year with Team Castrol, Tony earned the AAA of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which identifies the sport's future stars ....one or the other of the Castrol Ford Mustangs has won the Mile-High Nationals five of the last six years....Tony has finished second to Force in Winston points three of the last four years....Tony enters the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in fourth place behind Jerry Toliver, Force and Ron Capps....as the No. 1 qualifier, Tony has lost in the final round three times, the semifinals three times and the second round three times....Tony is the youngest of three Funny Car racing brothers, the sons of Frank Pedregon, who drove Top Fuel dragsters in the 1960s.

The Race on TV:

Qualifying highlights at 10 pm (ET) on Saturday and 4:30 am (ET) on Sunday;

Race coverage at 4:30 pm (ET) Sunday; Finals at 11:30 pm (ET) Sunday.

Schedule:

Nitro qualifying, 6pm and 10 pm (ET) Friday, 2 pm and 6 pm (ET) Saturday.

Finals at 1 pm (ET) Sunday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Tim Gibson , Jerry Toliver , Austin Coil , John Medlen