Joliet: Tony Pedregon preview

Pedregon eyes Powerade title in return to Route 66 Raceway Castrol SYNTEC driver leads Funny Car point standings JOLIET, Ill. (May 30-June 1) 0x2022 Entering this week's sixth annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, the hottest Funny...

Pedregon eyes Powerade title in return to Route 66 Raceway

Castrol SYNTEC driver leads Funny Car point standings

JOLIET, Ill. (May 30-June 1) 0x2022 Entering this week's sixth annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, the hottest Funny Car driver on the NHRA POWERade tour is not John Force, the 12-time series champion, nor Whit Bazemore, the Route 66 Raceway record holder for quarter mile time (4.750 seconds) and speed (325.14 miles per hour)

While both of those drivers are expected to be a factor in this week's sixth annual Lucas Oil Nationals, neither would dispute Tony Pedregon's current status as "the Man."

After all, the youngest of the three racing Pedregon brothers has put the Castrol SYNTEC0x28a7 Ford Mustang in the winners' circle five times in the season's first nine races, a feat that is the more remarkable considering the fact that no other driver has won more than once.

Those five victories, the most recent a week ago at Topeka, Kan., have propelled the 38-year-old Latino driving star past older brother Cruz and into fourth place in career Funny Car victories behind only Force, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein.

That's pretty impressive company.

Nevertheless, at Pedregon family gatherings, Tony still yields to his big brother.

That's because while he now has two more tour victories (24) than his sibling, his resume lacks the series championship that Cruz won in 1992, the only time in the last 13 years that the title hasn't gone back home with Force.

"The fact that I've got more wins than Cruz, if you put us on a scale, he's going to tip the scale because he's got that championship (1992) and I respect that," Pedregon said.

In fact, Tony is the only driver among the top five without a series title although his early season run has put him in a position to address that single shortcoming. He comes in leading Whit Bazemore by 94 points which, in simple terms, means that he'll still be leading when the racing ends on Sunday night, regardless of what anyone else does.

Nevertheless, Pedregon is not yet ready to match championship hardware with Cruz.

"The fact is, there's a lot of work ahead. In all the years that I've been at John Force Racing, we've never been able to put together four good quarters.

"We're definitely off to a good start this year but we need to maintain what we have. That's our focus every week. That's what I learned watching John win all those championships."

Pedregon has demonstrated championship mettle all season long. After losing to Bazemore in a semifinal showdown at Bristol, Tenn., he came back the next week to win at Atlanta. Then, after fouling away his chances two weeks ago at Englishtown, N.J., he rallied at Topeka.

"My Crew Chiefs, John Medlen and Dickie Venables, have made all the right decisions this year," Pedregon said. "I'm just along for the ride."

This time, it's a ride that won't be complete unless it ends in a championship.

BY THE NUMBERS.... 1 Current position in NHRA POWERade points. 2 Points position occupied four of the last seven seasons (1996, 1997, 1999, 2002). 5 Victories this season. 8 Wins in the last 15 POWERade tour events. 20 Consecutive races without a first round loss, longest streak on the tour. 24 Career victories.

PREVIOUSLY AT ROUTE 66 RACEWAY.... Best time.............4.765 seconds, Sept. 27, 2002 Best speed..........322.88 mph, Sept. 30, 2001 Victories..............1 (2002 fall race) Last year..............After qualifying sixth, lost to Scotty Cannon in the semifinals.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Scotty Cannon , John Medlen