Englishtown: Tony Pedregon preview

Pick Pedregon to set the pace in SuperNationals qualifying Castrol SYNTEC Ford has started from no. 1 four times ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 16-18) -- The fact that he is considered a virtual lock to claim the $4,000 Budweiser qualifying bonus at...

Pick Pedregon to set the pace in SuperNationals qualifying
Castrol SYNTEC Ford has started from no. 1 four times

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 16-18) -- The fact that he is considered a virtual lock to claim the $4,000 Budweiser qualifying bonus at this week's 34th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is of little consequence to POWERade Funny Car points leader Tony Pedregon.

"It's good for your ego," Pedregon said of qualifying No. 1, "but all it does is make you a target. What I remember is that while we've always run well at Englishtown, we haven't always done well."

Indeed, while he has set the qualifying pace at Raceway Park three times in the last four years (and four times in his career), he has driven the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang to victory just once -- in 2001.

"Two of the biggest lessons you learn in drag racing," said the 23-time tour winner, "are that (1) you have to qualify before you can win, and (2) you can't let what you do in qualifying effect what you do on race day.

"Our first goal every week is to put our car in the show. Once we've done that, then we can focus on winning. If you don't qualify, it doesn't matter who you are, you can't win."

Pedregon has first hand knowledge of that seemingly basic premise. The only time in the last four years that he hasn't started the SuperNationals from No. 1 was 2000 when the combination of rain, cold and tire compounds left him outside the 16-car lineup for one of the few times in his career.

"There were some decisions made that we didn't necessarily agree with," Pedregon said of the 2000 race, "but the truth of the matter is that we didn't do what we needed to do. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position and when we didn't get to make all four (qualifying) runs (because of weather), it burned us.

"That's why, even if the conditions aren't that good, it's the driver's job to get the car from Point A to Point B the first time down the track.

"John (car owner and teammate John Force) and I talk every week about the importance of salvaging something on that first run.

"So, even if it's up in smoke (a loss of traction situation), you'll see a lot of drivers pedaling it (feathering the throttle to regain a measure of control)," he explained.

Winner of four of the season's first seven races including the most recent (the May 4 Summit Racing Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga.), Pedregon has won seven of 13 tour events dating back to last September when a three-wins-in-a-row streak put him in position to end his boss's reign of terror in the Funny Car class.

Although he ultimately finished second (for the fourth time in seven seasons), the lessons learned during that stretch run have served him well this season.

"The difference (between this year and last), I think, is that we've proved that we can win even when he don't have the fastest car," Pedregon said. "That's the secret to John's success. With Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly, he's been able to win rounds even when his car has struggled.

"Now, I think we have the same situation on our team with John Medlen and Dickie Venables. I think, that they've developed the same kind of relationship as Austin and Bernie. Look around the pits. Everybody has budget; everybody has big financing. So what is it that makes the difference? It's people and right now I think I have the best people backing me up."

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Austin Coil , John Medlen