Englishtown: Tony Pedregon preview

Pedregon bidding to repeat as SuperNationals Champion. ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Drag racing's most intense sibling rivalry resumes this week (May 17-19) at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park where the Pedregon brothers hope to make it three ...

Pedregon bidding to repeat as SuperNationals Champion.

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Drag racing's most intense sibling rivalry resumes this week (May 17-19) at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park where the Pedregon brothers hope to make it three wins-in-a-row at the Matco Tools SuperNationals, eighth event in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Tony Pedregon, 37, the defending Funny Car champion at Raceway Park, has started his Castrol SYNTEC Ford from the No. 1 qualifying position three times in the last six years at the SuperNationals. Cruz Pedregon, 38, was the Funny Car winner in 1995 and 2000; the runner-up in 1992 and 1999.

Frank Pedregon, 39, the 2000 U.S. Nationals champion, could make history by becoming the third different brother to win in as many years.

"We've always been pretty competitive," acknowledged Tony Pedregon, "even when we were kids. We're just in a bigger arena now. We used to race on foot; now we're racing 320 mile-an-hour Funny Cars."

The battle of the brothers took a major turn in 1996 when Tony was hired by John Force to drive a second Castrol-backed Funny Car.

That was a direct challenge to Cruz, who, as a tour rookie, won five of the season's last six races and the 1992 Winston Championship. Force, who last month earned an unprecedented 100th tour victory, has claimed every title since.

Beaten by brother Frank two weeks ago at Atlanta, Ga., Tony is hoping to drive his way solidly into the 2002 championship chase at Raceway Park. He comes in in fifth place.

Except for two years ago, when he failed to qualify for a rain-shortened event, Tony has been a contender in every appearance at the SuperNationals for which he qualified No. 1 in 1996, 1999 and 2001. Last year's wire-to-wire victory was his first and, as Cruz did the previous year, he beat Force in the final.

In fact, the Pedregons have beaten the 11-time Champion more often that anyone, especially in final rounds.

Of Force's 57 final round losses, 14 have been administered by the Pedregon brothers eight by Cruz and six by Tony, who has beaten his boss the last three times he's faced him.

His back-to-back wins last year at Englishtown and Topeka, Kan., followed a final round victory over Force in the 2000 SuperNationals at Houston, Texas.

In fact, the only driver to have beaten the sport's most prolific winner in more consecutive finals is Kenny Bernstein, who bested him in the money round five straight times before Force finally turned the tables at the 1988 World Finals at Pomona, Calif.

Although he has been the most successful of the brothers over the last seven seasons (14 tour victories and 19 runner-up finishes including a triumph at this year's Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.) Tony still laments the fact that Cruz has won a series championship and Frank has won the sport's most prestigious single event -- the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.

"This is the greatest sport in the world," Pedregon said of drag racing, "and if you're in the sport, the ultimate goal is to win the championship and win the U.S. Nationals. That's my goal again this year to win Indy and to win the POWERade championship."

First, though, the world's fastest Latino wants to repeat at Raceway Park, the unofficial "East Coast Home" for him and his racing brothers.

"Last year's win really turned the season around for us," Tony said, "because, coming in, we hadn't won a single round of racing in six events. Plus, it was good to be able to follow my brother to the winners' circle (Cruz beat Force in the 2000 final). Who knows, maybe we can keep it going."

TONY at Matco SuperNationals....

*Defending champion at Raceway Park where he earned the first wire-to-wire victory of his career last season, culminating in a final round conquest of boss and teammate John Force.

*Has qualified No. 1 more often for the SuperNationals than for any other event in the POWERade series. He's started from the No. 1 spot three times (1996, 1999, 2001), just as many times as Force.

TONY Highlights....

*Since 1995, has won more races (14) than any Funny Car driver other than boss and teammate John Force.

*Has won the last three final round meetings with Force -- two last year (at Englishtown and Topeka, Kan.) and one in 2000 (fall at Houston). *Has won at least one NHRA tour event in each of the last seven seasons, the second longest active streak among Funny Car drivers.

*Has been runner-up for the NHRA Funny Car Championship three times in the last seven years (1996, 1997, 1999).

In 1996, Tony was the first winner of the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award which identifies drag racing's rising stars ....when he's not driving the SYNTEC Ford, making appearances on behalf of sponsors or spending time with his two-year-old daughter, Cecily, Tony designs and paints custom helmets including those worn by John Force, Gary Densham, brothers Cruz and Frankie Pedregon, reigning Top Fuel champion Kenny Bernstein and former Pro Stock Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr....there has been only one final round meeting between the Pedregon brothers. That came on March 23, 1997 when Tony beat Cruz in the final round at Houston, Texas. The victory was double significant in that it was the first for John Force Racing with the Ford Mustang.

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon