Houston John Force, Tony Pedregon Qualifying

JOHN FORCE, 50, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, is the nine-time and reigning Winston Funny Car Champion. This is the ninth time this year and the 89th time in his career that he has qualified No. 1. ...

JOHN FORCE, 50, of Yorba Linda, Calif., driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, is the nine-time and reigning Winston Funny Car Champion. This is the ninth time this year and the 89th time in his career that he has qualified No. 1. Thirty-nine (39) of John's 80 career victories have come from the No. 1 starting spot including four this season, the most recent being last week's O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas. John qualified first at 4.811 seconds, a time he ran in both the left lane and the right lane. That gave him a .123 of a second advantage over his nearest rival.

JOHN SAID: "We were going for the record tonight (Saturday) but we just missed it. If the conditions are good, we'll go for it again tomorrow. This is one of the best tracks in the country and you don't get the chance (to set the national record) that many times."

SEASON-TO-DATE: John has won 10 of 20 races completed thus far this year, marking the fourth time in his career that he has won as many as 10 races in a season. Only one other driver, Darrell Alderman, has ever earned double digit victories in a season and he did so only one time in Pro Stock.

WINSTON SHOWDOWN: In addition to his 10 regular season victories, John also won the Winston Showdown at Bristol, Tenn., a $200,000-to-win event which matched Funny Cars against Top Fuel dragsters.

CHASING THE RECORD: John presently is within striking distance of two of drag racing's most imposing records: 10 series championships and 85 event victories, both set by retired Ford Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden. After winning last week at the Texas Motorplex, John has 80 career wins and nine series titles. He's won 6.1 races per year for each of the last 13 seasons.

PREVIOUSLY AT HOUSTON: Of John's 80 career victories, five have come at Houston Raceway Park -- all of them in the spring race, the O'Reilly Nationals. At the most recent spring event, John set the current NHRA national record of 4.788 seconds after qualifying at 4.798 seconds. He beat teammate Tony Pedregon in the final. HRP is the only racetrack on which any driver has broken the 4.80 barrier two times.

VERSUS SCOTT WEISS: This is John's third meeting with Funny Car rookie Scott Weiss, all in the first round. John won the two previous all-Mustang confrontations, beating Weiss at St. Louis and Chicago.

NATIONAL RECORDS: In addition to the NHRA quarter mile time record he set last spring at Houston, John also holds the record for Funny Car speed at 324.05 mph.

DID YOU KNOW: John has qualified for 229 consecutive races. The last time he failed to qualify for an NHRA national event was Nov. 1, 1987 when he didn't make the 16-car lineup for the season-ending Winston Finals at Pomona, Calif.....John is the only drag racer to have won the Driver of the Year Award for all of American motor racing (1996)

TONY PEDREGON, 34, Chino Hills, Calif., driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, qualified eighth and will face Gary Densham in the first round. During qualifying, Tony never ran faster than 234.25 mph in a Castrol SYNTEC Ford that ran 322.81 mph last spring at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. Tony needs to win one round to realistically end Whit Bazemore's bid to catch him for second place in the Winston point standings.

SEASON TO DATE: Tony has reached the finals seven times in 20 races this year, winning at Pomona, Calif., Dallas, Texas, where he claimed a $100,000 No Bull bonus at the Castrol Nationals, and Denver, Colo. That has propelled him into position to secure a 1-2 finish for Team Castrol for the third time in four years. Tony has set personal single season records for poles (4), top speed of the meet performances (6) and victories this year while tying his personal record for final rounds ine one season.

CAREER RECORD: Tony has eight victories in 21 career final round appearances. He has gone to the finals 21 times in 83 starts for Team Castrol and John Force Racing.

VERSUS GARY DENSHAM: This is the 13th career meeting between Tony and Gary Densham, the seventh meeting between the two this year alone. Tony has won all six meetings this year including four in the first round. He also beat Densham in the final round of the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. Tony owns a 9-3 advantage overall.

QUICKEST MAN ON THE PLANET: Tony owns the quickest quarter mile in Funny Car history at 4.779 seconds, a mark he set last March in the first round of the MAC Tools Gatornationals.

DID YOU KNOW? Tony was the initial winner (1996) of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award (and the $10,000 cash bonus that accompanies it)....Tony is the only Funny Car driver other than John Force to have broken 4.80 seconds and one of only three to have exceeded 320 mph.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Scott Weis , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham , Bob Glidden