Gateway: Finals summary

MADISON, Ill. - Tony Pedregon scored his 13th career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, the 12th race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season. Doug Kalitta, Warren Johnson, GT...

MADISON, Ill. - Tony Pedregon scored his 13th career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, the 12th race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season.

Doug Kalitta, Warren Johnson, GT Tonglet and Taylor Lastor also won their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 12th of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Pedregon's third victory of the season came when he gained the starting line advantage and blasted down the track in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang in 5.006 seconds at 296.31 mph as final round opponent Tommy Johnson's Skoal Racing Chevrolet Camaro couldn't catch Pedregon, finishing at 4.989 at 293.54.

"I didn't realize I had won on a hole shot," Pedregon said. "The important thing is that we are back in the points chase. Someone told me that we are up to third. Now we go to Pomona (Calif.) 20 minutes away from my house. It's tough to enjoy the wins when you have a race the upcoming weekend but maybe I can enjoy this one a little bit longer."

Pedregon had better reaction times in all four of his wins starting with Jim Epler, Tim Wilkerson, Del Worsham and finally a hole-shot win against Johnson. Pedregon has moved up to third in the NHRA Winston Funny Car points standings after sliding to 11th following the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals in early May. Despite losing in the semi-finals, John Force held his NHRA Winston Funny Car points lead with 1033 points, 271 ahead of second place Worsham.

Kalitta won his eighth career national event as his Mac Tools dragster covered the quarter-mile in 4.772 at 302.82 to defeat Kenny Bernstein who was late on the starting line despite running a quicker 4.756 at 309.13.

"Anytime you go up against Kenny (Bernstein), you have to be on your game," Kalitta said. "It's always nice to get by those guys for sure."

Kalitta picked up his third victory of the season and the first of his career at Gateway International Raceway. The win moved Kalitta ahead of Mike Dunn for the third spot in the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points race. Bernstein still leads the NHRA Winston Top Fuel points, 80 points in front of second place Larry Dixon.

Johnson earned his 85th career Pro Stock victory with a pass of 6.908 at 200.74, edging out fellow Pontiac Grand Am driver Jim Yates and his pass of 6.930 at 200.62. Johnson's win now ties him with NHRA legend Bob Glidden for the most NHRA national event wins by a Pro Stock competitor. Johnson was surprisingly subdued after matching Glidden's record that was once considered almost unreachable.

"People from the media make more of it than I do," said Johnson, a five-time NHRA Winston champion. "We're are after the championship. Number of wins, so be it. Rob Bruins won the championship in Top Fuel in 1979 without winning a race. It is possible to win a championship without winning races, but that is not the way we want to do it."

Johnson beat John Nobile, Mike Edwards, Brad Jeter and finally Jim Yates en route to his fourth win in four finals this season. Johnson maintains his strangle hold on the NHRA Winston Pro Stock points standings with 884, 76 ahead of Yates.

Tonglet, a rookie, picked up his first win of his career in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Tonglet's motorcycle was quicker than Shawn Gann's, running a 7.324 at 187.29 to a 7.336 at 178.17 in an all Suzuki final.

Tonglet credits his first career win to the increased horsepower he has received from Freedom Motorsports. "I have to thank Byron Hines, Matt Hines, Andrew Hines and everyone who has helped us at Freedom Motorsports," said Tonglet. "Vance and Hines, Trac Dynamics especially. That chassis is top of the line because it goes straight down the track."

Tonglet has advanced to one final prior to his victory outside of St. Louis and used wins over Geno Scali, Steve Johnson, Ron Ayers and Gann to earn it. Tonglet entered the Sears Craftsman Nationals in ninth place in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings, but leaves tied for sixth with Geno Scali. Antron Brown's first round loss opened the door for Angelle Savoie to move into first place with 615 NHRA Winston points, 33 points in front of Brown.

Lastor won his first career Pro Stock Truck title holding off fellow Chevy S-10 driver Randy Daniels for the victory. Lastor covered the distance in 7.520 at 179.95, edging Daniels, who posted a run of 7.524 at 180.48.

Lastor qualified 12th and had to work his way to the winners circle the hard way. "We didn't have lane choice for one round," said Lastor, a former Pro Stock competitor in 1998. "We managed to get a hole shot. The truck ran awesome and the guys had a really good handle on everything they were doing. We outran Randy Daniels in the final, which was nice."

Lastor failed to qualify for the first four NHRA Winston Drag Racing events of the season. The win at Gateway International Raceway pushed him from 12th to eighth in the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Truck points. Bob Panella still leads the NHRA Winston points standings with 773.

The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the Inaugural Pep Boys 50th Anniversary Nationals, July 5-7 at Pomona Raceway in Pomona, Calif.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , John Nobile , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Ron Ayers , Shawn Gann , Randy Daniels , Geno Scali , Tim Wilkerson , Andrew Hines , Steve Johnson , GT Tonglet , Mike Edwards