Topeka Tony Pedregon Preview

PEDREGON HOPEFUL HEARTLAND PARK TRACTION, FIVE DISC CLUTCH WILL PROVIDE 4.779 SECOND PERFORMANCE REPLAY TOPEKA, Kan. -- Four + one = 4.77. That's the equation Tony Pedregon and Crew Chief John Medlen are trying to perfect this week (Oct....

PEDREGON HOPEFUL HEARTLAND PARK TRACTION, FIVE DISC CLUTCH WILL PROVIDE 4.779 SECOND PERFORMANCE REPLAY

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Four + one = 4.77.

That's the equation Tony Pedregon and Crew Chief John Medlen are trying to perfect this week (Oct. 1-3) as they prepare to send their Castrol SYNTEC Ford into the 11th annual NHRA Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park-Topeka.

After experimenting briefly with the proven four-disc clutch that has carried teammate John Force to eight victories this year, Pedregon and Medlen have opted to return to the experimental five-disc model which earlier this year at Gainesville, Fla., helped them to the quickest quarter mile time in Funny Car drag racing history: 4.779 seconds.

"The five-disc is much smoother during the transitions (as the various stages of the clutch are automatically activated)," Pedregon said. "That's something that doesn't show up in the data but it's something a driver can feel. On tracks like Gainesville and Topeka, where we can use a lot of power, it should give us an edge."

Indeed, before the NHRA Winston Series moved out of cool weather and off the high track supertracks, Pedregon and the five-disc were a dominating force, reaching the final round in four of the season's first six races and six of the first 12.

Since winning the Mopar Mile High Nationals at Denver, Colo., last July, though, Pedregon has not advanced beyond the semifinals in any event. That led to the installation of the four-disc clutch for the Labor Day U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

The results proved inconclusive for the eight-time tour winner from Chino Hills, Calif., who reached the final round of the Big Bud Shootout for the second time in three years but lost the title when the clutch failed against Ron Capps.

"The five-disc should give us an advantage now that we're back on performance racetracks like Topeka, Dallas and Houston and now that the weather has started cooling down," Pedregon said. "We've struggled the last two months, there's no question, but I still think we've got a team capable of winning a couple more races."

With wins this year at Pomona, Calif., Dallas and Denver, Colo., with a 322.81 mile per hour speed that made him only the second Funny Car driver to break the 320 barrier and with three poles, Pedregon is enjoying the most productive year of his short professional career.

If there has been a downside, it's been recent inconsistency. He and Medlen hope the combination of the five-disc clutch and a return to cool weather and maximum traction racing surfaces will provide the cure.

The inaugural winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award (1996), which identifies the sport's future stars, the 34-year-old Pedregon enters the Advance Auto Parts Nationals in second place in Winston points apparently destined to finish as the runner-up to his mentor for the third time in four years.

Advance Auto Parts Nationals Oct. 1-3, 1999 Heartland Park-Topeka Topeka, Kansas

Number starts: 4 Times No. 1 qualifier: 0 Final round appearances: 1 Event wins: 0 Won-Lost Record: 7-4 Best performances: 4.944 seconds, Sept. 28, 1997 314.46 mph, Oct. 3, 1998 (track record)

Noteworthy: Although he hasn't led the qualifying at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Tony does have one pole to his credit at Heartland Park -- in the last spring race contested at the track (1997).

DID YOU KNOW:

Tony was the fifth member of the Castrol 4-Second Funny Car Club....Tony is one of only seven drivers to have led the Winston Funny Car standings over the last seven seasons....Tony has qualified for 90 consecutive Winston Series races....Tony has lost to his boss in three final rounds this season -- at Houston, Richmond, Va., and St. Louis, Mo....Tony painted the custom helmets worn by his brothers, Frank and Cruz, by John Force, by Top Fuel drivers Cory McClenathan and Doug Kalitta and by Pro Stock title contender Jeg Couglin Jr....Tony is the only Funny Car driver other than John Force to have broken both the 4.80 second and 320 mile per hour barriers.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan , John Medlen