BRAINERD, Minn. -- The new 2000 Ford Mustang body that played such a prominent role in propelling John Force back into the NHRA points lead, hasn't been quite as kind to Tony Pedregon, Force's teammate and the only Funny Car driver ever to have ...
BRAINERD, Minn. -- The new 2000 Ford Mustang body that played such a prominent role in propelling John Force back into the NHRA points lead, hasn't been quite as kind to Tony Pedregon, Force's teammate and the only Funny Car driver ever to have negotiated the standard quarter mile in fewer than 4.780 seconds.
Pedregon, heir apparent to the Funny Car kingdom over which Force has reigned for more than a decade, has yet to win with the new Tim Gibson-designed shell although, on the eve of this week's (Aug. 18-20) 19th annual Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, there is no denying that he has had some spectacular results.
The most recent of Pedregon's wild rides came just two weeks ago in the semifinals of the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
Racing against Dean Skuza, Pedregon was en route to a routine victory when a rear tire blew at 250 miles per hour, shattering the carbon fiber body and sending the 35-year-old Californian and what was left of his Castrol SYNTECâ„¢ Ford spinning across the track and into the guardwall.
Fortunately for Pedregon, the incident came AFTER he had crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, the body was irreparable. Fortunately, the crew was able to mount a Castrol GTXÂ® body borrowed from Force in time to make the final. Unfortunately, in the scramble to complete repairs to the engine, chassis and rear end assembly, a brake problem went undetected.
As a result, when Pedregon positioned his 7,000 horsepower hybrid at the starting line for the 26th time in his career, the brakes failed, allowing the 320 mile-an-hour Mustang to roll out of the light beams .023 of a second before the green light signaled a legal start. The resultant disqualification made no one happy even though it gave Force a free ride to his 88th career victory.
"It wasn't what we wanted," Pedregon said. "We wanted to race and we thought we had a car that could give John a run for his money. For whatever reason, it just didn't happen. Physically, I felt bad after the semifinals, but not as bad as I felt after the final."
Although he suffered no serious injuries in the tire incident, Pedregon did wind up with a headache not unlike the one through which he suffered two months before when, during initial shakedown runs for the new high tech body, his car literally flew, launching three of four wheels off the asphalt before narrowly missing the guardwall on descent at National Trail Raceway, the track on which, one day before, he had earned his first victory of the season (in the Pontiac Excitement Nationals).
Despite those adventures, the nine-time tour winner still believes in both his team and in the new Ford body built by Roush Racing after extensive wind tunnel testing. Moreover, he doesn't think a run for the championship is yet out of the question.
"It may be a long shot," he said, "but we took the first step by getting to the finals at Sonoma. If we can maintain that momentum (at Brainerd) and string a couple of wins, I think we can be right back in the race."
A second generation pro whose brothers (Cruz and Frankie) also drive Funny Cars, Pedregon has finished second in Winston points three of the last four years. A five-time finalist already this year, he enters the Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals in third place, 151 points behind second place Jerry Toliver.