Sonoma: Cruz Pedregon preview

Points leader winless in upcoming events in POWERade Series SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) "Despite appearances to the contrary, the wheels haven't come off the Castrol SYNTEC juggernaut that once threatened to make Tony Pedregon a runaway champion...

Points leader winless in upcoming events in POWERade Series

SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) "Despite appearances to the contrary, the wheels haven't come off the Castrol SYNTEC juggernaut that once threatened to make Tony Pedregon a runaway champion in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series."

According to the 38-year-old Pedregon, first round losses in the two most recent events in the 23-race series are just part of the normal ebb and flow.

"Everyone goes through these things," said the 25-time tour winner and Funny Car points leader. "The difference lies in how each individual or each team responds to the challenge.

"I'm disappointed by what happened the last two races, but I'm not at all discouraged," Pedregon said. "I think I learned from what happened last year (when he pulled to within 14 points of teammate John Force before ultimately losing the championship by a scant 78 points), I think this team will respond in a very positive way."

Indeed, before being ousted in the first round at Denver, Colo., and Seattle, Wash., both times as a result of a glitch in the clutch controller, Pedregon and company had advanced to the second round or beyond in 23 straight races.

Nevertheless, there is some cause for concern this week as the tour moves to Infineon Raceway for the 16th annual Fram/Autolite Nationals.

That's because, while Pedregon had won previously at both Denver and Seattle, the tracks on which he stumbled, he has not done so at either of the next three venues on the circuit Sonoma, Brainerd, Minn., or Indianapolis.

The upshot is that he knows that If he is to shed the bridesmaid tag he owes to four second place finishes in driver points in the last seven seasons, he most certainly will have to win at least one of the three.

Not that hasn't had his chances, especially at Infineon where he was runner-up in both 1997 and 2000. Furthermore, he's the only Funny Car driver to have broken the 310 mile-an-hour barrier (a track record 310.84 mph) at the former Sears Point Raceway.

Twice he's been runner-up at Infineon (1997, 2000), the former Sears Point Raceway. Moreover, he is the track record holder for speed at 310.84 miles per hour, a record he believes won't survive through qualifying on Friday.

"If we have reasonable weather, there are a dozen cars that may go faster including ours. This used to be one of the worst tracks on the tour as far as the racing surface was concerned, but they re-did the whole thing before last year's race and, now that they've had an additional year to put some rubber down, I think you could see record-setting performances across the board.

"I don't think (not having won before at Sonoma, Brainerd, Minn., or Indianapolis) is a problem," Pedregon said. "I think the important thing is that we've performed well enough to win. We certainly won't change our approach."

Winner of six of the 14 races this season, Pedregon appeared unstoppable in his bid to become the first driver in 11 seasons to supplant Force as Funny Car champion.

Nevertheless, he remains unfazed by the problems of the last two weekends.

"Sometimes, if things come to easy, you get complacent," Pedregon said. "The problems of the last two weeks have forced us to re-focus and I think ultimately we'll be better because of it."

DID YOU KNOW?

Tony took batting practice on Wednesday with the Oakland A's before throwing out the first pitch for Wednesday evening's game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians....Tony's Mustang has a new Castrol SYNTEC paint scheme this weekend, reflecting the brand's new "everything else is just motor oil" advertising and marketing campaign....in 1996, Tony was the first winner of the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award....among Funny Car drivers, Tony has the second longest active qualifying streak at 55 straight races, second only to boss and teammate John Force, who has made the starting lineup at record 314 times....in a pre-season poll conducted in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.), Tony was named the favorite to win the 2003 POWERade title....between them, Tony and his brothers, Cruz and Frank, have won 51 NHRA national events in the Funny Car division.

-jfr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Cruz Pedregon