FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 TONY PEDREGON WILL TRY TO TAKE PERFORMANCE LEAP AT HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas -- Like most NHRA Funny Car drivers, Tony Pedregon has looked at John Force's recent hot streak with a healthy measure of respect and awe. But Pedregon also knows that it could be only a matter of time until his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang runs just as quick and fast. Pedregon is Force's teammate, and both cars use the same equipment and engine setup. All it may take is a subtle tweak here and a twist of a knob there. "Knowing he is running good makes me think our car is just as capable," Pedregon said. "I think we had a chance to beat John at Topeka and Memphis." Force won those races as part of a hot streak that put him in command of the NHRA Winston point standings. But Pedregon could emerge at the inaugural, $1,417,000 Matco Tools SuperNationals, Oct. 23-26 at Houston Raceway Park. The race is the 21st event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997. Pedregon, from Gardena, Calif., outperformed Force at the Slick 50 Nationals in March at Houston Raceway Park. He qualified one spot higher than Force and earned his only victory this season, beating his older brother Cruz Pedregon in a thrilling final. Tony Pedregon's car drifted and missed scraping the retaining wall by inches, an instant disqualification. Since that victory, Pedregon was runner-up at the Autolite Nationals and the Northwest Nationals. He is fourth in the NHRA Winston point standings and is emerging from many of the same teething problems suffered by Force this summer as the team developed a new tuneup. Pedregon recorded a season-best run of 4.944 seconds, 310.13 mph last month at Topeka, Kan. "The last time I tasted victory was in Houston," Pedregon said. "That's an awful big dry spell. Talk about motivation."