Seattle: Tony Pedregon preview

New chassis breathes new life into Pedregon's championship bid. KENT, Wash. After playing "off the rack" for the first seven years of his career, Tony Pedregon finally has the drag racing equivalent of a "custom cue." The 37-year-old ...

New chassis breathes new life into Pedregon's championship bid.

KENT, Wash. After playing "off the rack" for the first seven years of his career, Tony Pedregon finally has the drag racing equivalent of a "custom cue."

The 37-year-old Californian, one third of the most successful brother act in NHRA drag racing history, is among the Funny Car favorites at this week's (July 26-28) 15th annual Lucas Oil Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways due in large part to the fact that, for the first time in his seven seasons with Team Castrol, he is driving a car built to his own personal specifications.

The newest Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Ford Mustang is the first car in the John Force Racing stable fabricated by anyone other than Steve Pleuger.

Built at Murf McKinney's chassis works in Otterbein, Ind., the latest Mustang "drives like a Lincoln Town Car," Pedregon said.

Indeed, it was the dominant Funny Car at last week's 23rd annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver, Colo., where it posted the quickest quarter mile time in three of four qualifying rounds and in two of three elimination rounds.

The only thing it didn't do was deliver Pedregon to the winners' circle.

The 15-time tour winner had to settle for runner-up honors when the engine developed a misfire two seconds into a final round shootout with Del Worsham. The final margin of victory was a minuscule .01 of a second.

Pedregon hopes to go one step further this week in a race in which he was runner-up in 1996 and 1997, but in which he has won only four rounds in the last four years.

"We came away (from Denver) with a lot of confidence," Pedregon said. "Even though we didn't win, I think we made a statement and that is that with this new car, we're going to be a factor in the POWERade championship."

Runner-up for the NHRA Funny Car championship in three of the last six seasons (each time to boss and mentor John Force) and winner during that time of more races than anyone but Force, Pedregon isn't suggesting that the cars he drove previously were sleds.

"I believe a good driver should be able to climb into a good race car and be competitive," he said.

"Steve Pleuger builds a quality race car," Pedegon acknowledged. "They've won 120 total races for us, I think, so there's not much to complain about. It's just that they all were built for John and he likes his cars set up a little differently than I do and his arms are longer than mine. Those are things we addressed with the McKinney car.

"Plus, you never want to get complacent. It never hurts to know what else is out there because this is a 'what have you done for me lately' kind of sport."

Winner earlier this year of the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., and repeat winner of the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan., Pedregon presently is fourth in POWERade points behind Force, Gary Densham and Worsham.

"Del passed us for third place (at Denver)," Pedregon said, "but there's still a lot of racing left. What happens this week and next week (at Sonoma, Calif.) is going to have a lot to say about who's in the hunt for the $400,000 (champion's) bonus.

"Right now, I like our chances. I think (Crew Chief) John Medlen and Dickie Venables have a pretty good handle on the tune-up and we're all anxious to see what the new chassis can do now that we're off the mountain and back down at sea level."

-www.johnforceracing.com b

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , John Medlen