Dallas: Tony Pedregon preview

Pedregon after 4th straight win as tour moves to Texas Motorplex. ENNIS, Texas All year long, John Force cautioned that, despite appearances, the race for the 2002 NHRA Funny Car Championship wasn't over. Even when drag racing's biggest...

Pedregon after 4th straight win as tour moves to Texas Motorplex.

ENNIS, Texas All year long, John Force cautioned that, despite appearances, the race for the 2002 NHRA Funny Car Championship wasn't over.

Even when drag racing's biggest winner went on a three-in-a-row run that concluded with a victory in the sport's most prestigious event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, he refused to acknowledge that a 12th series championship was all but assured.

"Too many good teams out there," Force said, predicting instead that the 2002 title chase might go right down to the wire.

Apparently, the 104-time tour winner had some inside information because the threat to his continued reign in the POWERade Series is very real even if it does come from within his own camp.

Tony Pedregon, driver of the second of the three Team Castrol Fords, suddenly is the hottest property in the sport and the biggest threat to Force in the last 10 seasons.

Just 18 points separate the two teammates as the tour moves this week (Oct. 11-13) to the Texas Motorplex for the 17th O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC0x2122.

Pedregon's late-season charge, in which he has trimmed Force's lead by 181 points in just three races, is eerily reminiscent of the one his brother, Cruz, put together 10 years ago.

With three races remaining in that 1992 season, Cruz Pedregon had won three consecutive races and led Force by 43 points. With three races remaining in the current campaign, Tony Pedregon has won three straight races and trails his boss by just one competitive round.

The last time a driver other than Force won three Funny Car races in-an-row? Cruz Pedregon, 1992. The last time a driver was this close at this point in the season? Cruz Pedregon, 1992.

The similarities are not lost on the younger Pedregon, who is much closer to Cruz than to oldest brother Frank. Nevertheless, despite the momentum he brings into the Motorplex, he is trying not to lose his focus.

"We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing," Pedregon said, "and not worry about John. Really, I'm not obsessed with the points. I know that people find that hard to believe, but I'm not. I'm just enjoying the roll we're on right now. This SYNTEC Ford obviously is the best car I've had since I've been here.

"(Crew Chief) John Medlen and Dickie Venables are making all the right calls. I don't even worry about the conditions because I know they're going to make decisions that will give me a car that can win. What's been so exciting is seeing this team come together.

"I think that now we have the kind of chemistry that John has had all these years with his Castrol GTX0x00ae team."

Despite his record run, which has included a personal record six wins and six Budweiser No. 1 qualifying awards, Pedregon chooses his words carefully when he talks about the race for the championship.

"The last thing I want to do is put pressure on John," he said, "because he is the kind of driver who is better under pressure. He thrives on it."

It's a quality that he apparently has passed on to his protege.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , John Medlen