Houston Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Speed demon: John Force set an NHRA speed national record of 314.35 mph in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at the Pennzoil ...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761

MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Speed demon: John Force set an NHRA speed national record of 314.35 mph in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone earlier this month at Memphis, Tenn. Force broke the record of 313.15 that he set one race earlier, the Sears Craftsman Nationals in late September at Topeka, Kan. His speed is the fastest by a Funny Car in NHRA history. Funny Car driver Chuck Etchells thinks Force or another Funny Car driver can reach even greater speeds before this season ends. "I think someone will go 315," Etchells said. Force could go even faster than that, said Tony Pedregon, his teammate. "You haven't seen him peak yet," Pedregon said. "I think 315 to 316. Everyone has established their baseline and combination. "We also want to be aggressive. We want to test to see what kind of performance we can get out of this car." *Scary stuff: One can only imagine the fear felt by Tony Pedregon as he stood on the starting line at the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone earlier this month and watched the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird driven by his older brother, Cruz Pedregon, burn to the ground during a final-round matchup against Tony's boss, John Force. Cruz Pedregon escaped with just a second-degree burn to his right index finger. "I wanted a fire hose," Tony Pedregon said. "I wanted to be at the finish line with a helmet on and pulling him out. It's an uneasy feeling. That was one of the worst fires I've ever seen. At those moments, it's tough to deal with. "One of the things that's special between Cruz and me, we're such a close family. I can feel that pain. I was living all of that through him. I wish it was my hand that was burned." *Quite the sportsman: There's a simple reason why John Force probably is the most popular drag racer on the planet these days: He wins, and wins with class, never forgetting his fellow competitors or legions of fans. Here's a recent example of Force's sportsmanship. He beat rival Cruz Pedregon in the final of the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone earlier this month at Memphis, Tenn., after Pedregon's McDonald's Pontiac Firebird was engulfed in flames halfway down the quarter-mile. Immediately after the race, Force jumped into the ambulance where medical officials attended to Pedregon and gave Pedregon his winner's medallion. "There weren't any cameras around, and he wasn't doing it for the show," Pedregon said. "I think he's a really sincere person when it comes to that. I just can't say enough about the guy. "He's a good guy and a great ambassador for the sport, and I would do the same for him." Said Tony Pedregon, Force's employee: "John has a big heart. I'm fortunate to have a brother who handles himself well in those situations and a boss who cares about more than winning." *Quickness counts: Quick reaction times to the starting light sometimes can deliver a victory to a driver, and no Funny Car driver has been better on the starting line this season than Tony Pedregon. Pedregon's average reaction time through 19 races this season was .477 seconds. A perfect reaction time is .400. Dean Skuza is No. 2 at .479. *The difference: No Funny Car driver has unseated John Force from the NHRA Winston championship throne since Cruz Pedregon in 1992, and Pedregon knows why he hasn't been able to achieve the tough task. "My biggest inconsistency has probably been in the crew chief area," Pedregon said. "Cruz Pedregon needs a crew chief that can take him under his wing kind of like Austin Coil does with John Force. If you were to listen to John when he talks about his crew chief, there's a relationship there that's second to none." Pedregon's crew chief this season, Dave Settles, was released from the team after the Sears Craftsman Nationals in late September. Pedregon and his crew tuned the car by committee to a runner-up finish at the Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone earlier this month at Memphis, Tenn. Mike Green, crew chief of the McDonald's Dragster driven by Cory McClenathan, also helped. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 24 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Oct. 25. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Oct. 26. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. Oct. 23. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Matco Tools SuperNationals. Call Houston Raceway Park at (281) 383-2666 or check the track's World Wide Web site at http://www.houstonraceway.com for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Ticketmaster by calling (713) 629-3700. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Matco Tools SuperNationals at 4:30 p.m. (CST) Oct. 26. TNN also will televise one hour of live, first-round competition at 10:30 a.m. (CST) that day. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30- 10/14/97-MS3-167

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