PEDREGON LOOKING FOR MORE CONSISTENCY AS NHRA POWERADE SERIES HEADS TO NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS AT BRISTOL DRAGWAY BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Tony Pedregon became a team owner last season, the veteran Funny Car racer knew that it would take...
PEDREGON LOOKING FOR MORE CONSISTENCY AS NHRA POWERADE SERIES HEADS TO NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS AT BRISTOL DRAGWAY
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Tony Pedregon became a team owner last season, the veteran Funny Car racer knew that it would take some time for his new team to jell.
With one final round appearance and three No. 1 qualifying positions in 2004, Pedregon entered the 2005 season determined to improve upon his eight place points finish from a year ago.
So far in the new season his Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo team has showed flashes of brilliance.
At the season-opening event at Pomona Raceway in Southern California, Pedregon posted one of the quickest runs ever for the 7,000 horsepower category to claim the No. 1 qualifying position. He followed that effort two weeks later in Phoenix with another No. 1 qualifying performance.
During both runs, Pedregon's Q-Racing machine showcased the team's ability of producing powerful performances.
The trick for the Q-Racing team has been to repeat those efforts.
"The car is good, we've proven it can perform well and now we're working on consistency; the burden to attain it is on us," said Pedregon, the 2003 NHRA POWERade Series world champion. "We have some team continuity. That was something we didn't have last year as a new team. We're still a young team, but we're so much farther ahead. We've been able to focus on some other areas and get better as a team."
Pedregon hopes to find that magic formula and put his car back in the NHRA winner's circle at the fifth annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, April 29-May 1. The $1.5 million race is the sixth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Defending event winners include Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel, John Force in Funny Car and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock.
"We have one more race under our belts and more experience," Pedregon said. "When you put things in perspective, this is just our second year as a team. But we plan to keep raising the bar. I'm looking forward to Bristol. It should be a good weekend for the Q-Racing team."
Like Pedregon, crew chief Dickie Venables is a product of John Force Racing. Venables joined Pedregon when he left Force to start his own team. While at Force Racing, the two combined with then crew chief John Medlen to win 27 races and earn 25 No. 1 qualifying positions. Pedregon knows that it is only a matter of time before Venables comes into his own as a tuner.
"We have the kind of performance very few teams have," Pedregon said. "Not too many cars can sit as No. 1 qualifier for two races in a row. We're on the brink of knowing where we need to be on Sunday. The conditions constantly change and we try to get a good read on them. I think that's the biggest challenge we face right now."
And the competition. There are as many as 15 high-quality Funny Car teams trying to secure one of the 10 coveted points positions in the NHRA POWERade Series standings. Last season those outside the top 10 included Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Gilbertson and Tony Bartone. All four of those drivers have already posted final round appearances this season.
"The competition has really gotten to a point where we are going to have some tough races every Sunday," Pedregon said. "We are prepared to step on it when we have to. We now have the confidence that we can run with anyone out there.
"There are a lot of races left in the season and we're in a good position to improve upon. We really want to prove what we're capable of. I feel that once we start winning, nothing can stop us."
Other Funny Car drivers to watch include current points leader Whit Bazemore, a two-time winner this season behind the wheel of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus, and Force, who won his 115th career race at Phoenix. Rookie of the year candidate Robert Hight also is a pre-race favorite. He earned his first victory three weeks ago in Houston and has posted top qualifying performances at Gainesville, Fla. and Houston.
Defending event winner Schumacher leads the charge in Top Fuel, having posted two victories this season in his U.S. Army dragster. He is being challenged by a trio of Kalitta Motorsports dragsters piloted by Doug Kalitta, Scott Kalitta and Dave Grubnic. Two-time series champion Larry Dixon is the category's most recent winner, as he posted his 36th career win, and the 100th for his team owner Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme, two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Hometown favorites Cory McClenathan, who drives the FRAM Airhog dragster for the Carrier Boyz Racing team, and Doug Herbert, from Cornelius, N.C., also are running extremely well.
In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly is the season's only repeat winner. He will be unveiling a new Chevy Cobalt during the weekend and hopes to continue his winning ways and keep his spot atop the point standings. Six-time series champion Warren Johnson is making his final run as a driver in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac and hopes to add his second victory of the season. Two-time defending series champion Greg Anderson is still looking for his first victory of the season in his Summit Racing Pontiac. Last year's top rookie, Lason Line, has won one race in two final round appearances and will likely be in the mix at Bristol Dragway.