Pedregon, Force, Densham focus on $100,000 payoff, double-up bonus INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 31) -- For the first time in 14 seasons, someone other than John Force will lead the field into the Budweiser Shootout, the Funny Car bonus race...
Pedregon, Force, Densham focus on $100,000 payoff, double-up bonus
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 31) -- For the first time in 14 seasons, someone other than John Force will lead the field into the Budweiser Shootout, the Funny Car bonus race contested this Sunday for the 22nd time as part of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Unfortunately for Force's long-suffering rivals, the crowning of a new "top gun" is a small source of comfort.
This year's No. 1 seed, the driver who consistently has been the quickest qualifier in events contested since last year's Shootout, is Force's Castrol teammate, Tony Pedregon.
Furthermore, while Force didn't lead the pack into this year's Shootout, he will launch his bid for a record sixth victory from the No. 2 qualifying spot.
To make matters worse for those outside the Force camp, the team's third driver, Gary Densham, finished fourth in qualifying points and, like Pedregon and Force, will choose his lane in Sunday's first round.
That suggests that Team Force could significantly add to the $1,052,500 in Budweiser bonuses its drivers have earned over the history of the program.
Biggest piece of the purse, of course, is the $100,000 earmarked for the event winner. As has been the case in such events, the reward is heavily weighted at the top. In fact, by comparison, the runner-up purse is a paltry $15,000.
Pedregon, for one, knows about the disparity between the winner's money and that earned by the runner-up.
Twice, the 38-year-old veteran has reached the final round and twice he's had to settle for the smaller check.
Easily the biggest disappointment was his loss in the 1999 final to Ron Capps, who, after blowing up his car in round one, won the final with a time of 5.266 seconds (his quickest of the day) after the clutch failed in Pedregon's Castrol SYNTEC Ford, which ran 4.964 and 4.984 in the first two rounds, the only car to break the 5.00 second barrier during the entire race.
Still, it would be difficult to bet against the Team Castrol trifecta in this year's race.
Force has won the Shootout a record five times and while Densham has yet to win a single round of Shootout competition, he rides a wave of momentum into the Labor Day weekend, thanks to a victory two week ago at Brainerd, Minn., and a strong testing effort at IRP just last week when he was clocked in 4.807 seconds at 320.43 miles per hour, the second best performance in the two-day test.
"You always get up (for the Shootout)," Force said. "It's the biggest money race of the year, it's got the best cars, the best drivers, the best crew chiefs. You want to prove yourself against the best and it's nice to get paid for it, too."
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