Atlanta Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 FRAM NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Brother act: The final between Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto, March 20-23...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

FRAM NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK

*Brother act: The final between Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto, March 20-23 at Houston, was the first professional final round between brothers in NHRA history.

Tony Pedregon beat his older brother to take a 4-3 lead in their career matchups during eliminations.

"I've dreamed about meeting Cruz in a final, but when it finally happened, the only thing I was thinking about was staying focused on what I needed to do," Tony Pedregon said. "I'm sure we will meet again in a few other finals this year."

Said Cruz Pedregon: "I'm so happy for Tony and glad that we ran so well this week. We'll get him soon. Our mom, the family, they are the ones that won today."

*Speed racer: Whit Bazemore set an NHRA speed national record of 313.04 mph in the Team Winston Ford Mustang at the Slick 50 Nationals at Houston. Bazemore, from Indianapolis, broke the record of 311.20 set by Cruz Pedregon at the Western Auto Nationals presented by Slick 50 in July 1996 at Topeka, Kan.

*In the Ford stable: Six-time NHRA Winston champion John Force signed a multiyear agreement with Ford and debuted his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang at the Slick 50 Nationals at Houston.

Force had raced Pontiac Firebirds from the start of the 1995 season until the Mac Tools Gatornationals earlier this month, when Pontiac ended its association with Force. He won the last two NHRA Winston championships in a Firebird.

"I'd just like to say how happy we are to have John with us," said Bruce Cambern, worldwide head of Ford's racing program. "He's obviously the biggest name in drag racing today. And when the opportunity presented itself, of course we jumped right on it."

Said Force: "I didn't know I was the number-one guy. I wish I'd known that in negotiations. I'm excited. After the announcement in Gainesville, I was kind of a guy without a country. I'm just really tickled to have the opportunity to drive a Mustang."

The first drag racing car Force owned and tested was a Ford Mustang.

*Another switch: John Force wasn't the only Funny Car driver to unveil a new body style at Houston.

Tim Wilkerson debuted his NAPA Auto Parts Pontiac Firebird body at the Slick 50 Nationals, switching from a Dodge Avenger.

"John Force has done fairly well with the Pontiac body style, but let me make it perfectly clear that my switching had nothing to do with Pontiac leaving John," Wilkerson said, laughing.

*Whit Bazemore became the eighth member of the Castrol 4-Second Club for Funny Cars with a time of 4.994 seconds in the Team Winston Ford Mustang. Bazemore earned $1,000 from Castrol.

*Pinch hitter: Jeff Arend substituted for the injured Al Hofmann in the Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird at the Slick 50 Nationals, qualifying eighth and losing in the first round to Del Worsham.

Hofmann suffered a broken right arm and an injured left hand in a crash after winning the Mac Tools Gatornationals. He said he plans to return to racing in time for the Fram Nationals with a new chassis built by Murf McKinney.

*Beating the heat: The Fram Nationals sometimes puzzles NHRA crew chiefs because of high heat and humidity, but Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon thinks the days of teams being completely baffled by the heat are over.

"I don't know if it's because of better clutches, better tires or better racetracks, but the last two years I've not seen a big decrease in elapsed times despite the heat," Pedregon said. "I think guys can stay aggressive. That's good, because when a lot of guys are running 5.20's, were still running 5.0's. I think it will play more into our hands, really."

*Performance prediction: A Funny Car should make a four-second pass at Atlanta Dragway for the first time at this event, but a driver probably won't need that kind of performance to win the race, Cruz Pedregon said.

"That track can yield 4.90's," Pedregon said. "We're definitely going to push it. It seems like our car, whenever we want it to, will jump into the fours. It's just a matter of being consistent.

"The cars on race day that will run consistently in the 5.0's will win. It's the same story."

The Funny Car elapsed-time track record is 5.022 seconds, set by John Force in 1996. Pedregon set the speed record of 303.33 mph last year, but he said it won't last.

"Guys can run 310 and 312 or even faster on any given day," Pedregon said.

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. April 11 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 12. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. April 13. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. April 10.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the Fram Nationals. Call NHRA Ticket Information at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information.

*On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of live, final-round competition from the Fram Nationals at 4 p.m. (EDT) April 13. ESPN2 also will show two hours of live, Friday-night qualifying at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) April 11.

*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- 3/31/97-AG3-050

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Jeff Arend