Phoenix Tony Pedregon (FUNNY CAR)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 FUNNY CAR STARDOM STARTING TO SINK IN WITH TONY PEDREGON CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Tony Pedregon finished second in the NHRA Winston Funny Car point standings and won one...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

FUNNY CAR STARDOM STARTING TO SINK IN WITH TONY PEDREGON

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Tony Pedregon finished second in the NHRA Winston Funny Car point standings and won one event in 1996, his first full season in the category.

He was besieged by autograph seekers at every race, becoming a fan favorite as teammate to six-time NHRA Winston champion John Force. He won the inaugural Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award, given to a competitor destined for stardom, and was showered with praise at the NHRA Winston Awards Ceremony.

Still, Pedregon didn't really feel like a star. He still felt like the same guy who struggled throughout this decade in underfunded, part-time roles in various cars before joining Force's team. All that started to change two weeks ago thanks to a small decal.

"Just recently, when we put the No. 2 on the car, I stepped back and looked at everything," Pedregon said. "It maybe took awhile for it to sink in because everything happened so fast last year that it really didn't unfold. I feel much better. I think we feel a little stronger here."

It shows. Pedregon, from Gardena, Calif., is in third place in the NHRA Winston point standings and will look to climb toward the top at the 13th annual, $1,392,050 ATSCO Nationals, Feb. 20-23 at Firebird International Raceway. The race is the second event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997.

Now that Pedregon is firmly established as a standout driver, he wants to take the next step and become an NHRA Winston champion. But it won't be easy, as only one driver has toppled Force this decade: Pedregon's older brother, Cruz Pedregon.

"Maybe I do daydream about the championship, and I do think about it," Pedregon said. "But on Sunday, that's what matters. We're going to give it everything we've got."

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 and continues at 6 p.m. that date with the first night qualifying session of the season. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 22. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Feb. 23. Federal-Mogul sportsman competition starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 20.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the ATSCO Nationals. Call Firebird International Raceway at (800) DRAG-INFO or (602) 268-0200 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Dillard's. To order through Dillard's, call (800) 638-4253.

*On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day, final-round competition from the ATSCO Nationals at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 23. ESPN2 also will televise Friday-night qualifying for the first time with a two-hour, same-day show starting at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 21.

*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-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Cruz Pedregon