Pedregon Wins at Houston Firebird Sets National Record -- Again! HOUSTON (November 2, 1998) - After rain postponed the completion of the Matco Tools Supernationals yesterday at Houston Raceway Park, fans who were lucky enough to return to the ...
Pedregon Wins at Houston Firebird Sets National Record -- Again!
HOUSTON (November 2, 1998) - After rain postponed the completion of the Matco Tools Supernationals yesterday at Houston Raceway Park, fans who were lucky enough to return to the track today were witness to picture perfect sunny skies, mild temperatures and an outstanding day of record breaking drag racing action.
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon rocketed to his fourth national event victory of the year driving his Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird past Whit Bazemore in the final round of eliminations with an elapsed time of 4.849 seconds at a top speed of 317.90 mph. Bazemore's final numbers were 4..993ET/307.27MPH.
Pedregon's elapsed time in the final round fell within the one percent window needed to back up his qualifying run of 4.807 seconds, thereby setting the new national record and breaking the previous number he set here in March. It is the third time this season that Pedregon has set a new national record during NHRA competition.
"The win was what we were after, the record was just a bonus," exclaimed Pedregon. "That's icing on the cake. I can't tell you how ecstatic everyone is. I give all of the credit to Wes Cerny and the entire team. He said that we were just going to run the Interstate Batteries Firebird car and not even think about the record. We were just going for the win and it still ran a 4.84. That's a sign of a confident crew chief. He doesn't make changes on emotion.
"A lot of people, when they race someone like John Force, get caught up emotionally in the situation and end up beating themselves Wes sticks to his game plan and I think that, aside from his knowledge of running these cars, is his greatest attribute -- not getting emotional and worrying about who's in the other lane. I really wish there were more races left in the season because I think we can give Force a run for his money. We've left some races on the table this year, have to accept that and look towards next year."
The 35-year-old California native came into the race qualified No. 1, the 11th time this season that Pedregon has started eliminations from the pole position. He defeated Del Worsham in round one, Tom Hoover in round two and John Force in round three before squaring off against Bazemore in the finals. His performance numbers were 4.903ET/302.21MPH, 6.271ET/234.49MPH, 4.856 ET/315.01MPH, and 4.849ET/317.90MPH in the finals. In addition, Pedregon collected 138 points this weekend, the maximum number available at any one race during NHRA professional competition. He moves into third place in the Winston standings, catapulting past Chuck Etchells with just one race remaining on the 22-event Winston championship schedule.
"It was a big, big boost for the Interstate Batteries Pontiac team," said Pedregon. "And the way we won, we pretty much came back from the dead. We've even nicknamed our car Frankenstein because of the way it's bolted together, it looks like Frankenstein's neck. She's a wounded Firebird, but she can still fly.
"It was a parts gobbling day yesterday. In fact we had a blower explosion in our first round win at the finish line. What I'm excited about is that we had adversity and we fought back from it. I've seen Force's team do that time and time again and that shows that our team has the depth and the determination to never give up."
Randy Anderson, who ran his career best elapsed time and top speed during Friday night qualifying lost in round one to Jack Wyatt. Al Hofmann, Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson also lost in round one; Hofmann to Ron Capps, Worsham to Cruz Pedregon, and Wilkerson to John Force.
After 21 races, John Force leads the Funny Car standings with 1587 points, Ron Capps is second with 1496, Pedregon is third in a Pontiac Firebird with 1407, Chuck Etchells is fourth with 1317 and Whit Bazemore is fifth with 1246. Tim Wilkerson is tied for seventh place with Dean Skuza with1086 points, Al Hofmann is ninth in a Firebird with 1010 and Del Worsham is tenth in a Firebird with 895.
In Pro Stock, Tom Martino drove his Jesel Valve Train Pontiac Firebird to the final round before losing to Jeg Coughlin. Martino got to the final round by taking out three of the best drivers in the class beating Mike Thomas in round one, Warren Johnson in round two and Jim Yates in round three. His performance number in the final round was 7.129ET/170.42MPH to Coughlin's winning 6.985 ET/197.75MPH.
It was the third time this season that the 40-year-old Martino had advanced to a final round. In his third round win against Yates, Martino cut a .431 reaction time to Yates .438 and needed every bit of the advantage to take the win and advance to the finals against Coughlin.
"Jim (Yates) almost had us there," said Martino. "He wasn't late, that's for sure. I had a .431 to his .438. I looked over in third gear and let me tell you, it was close.
"I think the starting line was about even, but I think in the middle of the race track the right lane was better. I actually pulled away from Warren (Johnson) in the middle of the track. He was right there, and I thought he was having problems until he started coming back on. The only reason we lined up in the left lane was because the Jegs guys were confident that lane was the best. We figured we would wait and see what they did and when Coughlin went to the centerline, we knew that taking the right lane was the thing to do."
Warren Johnson, the 1998 Winston Pro Stock champion and No. 2 qualifier lost in round two to Tom Martino. Johnson posted the top speed of the meet at 199.73 mph, the 20th time this season he's accomplished the feat.
"We spun the tires hard in the middle of the track and I got loose," explained Johnson. "He got by me by a length and a half and I couldn't make it up on the end.
"We'll be ready for Pomona. We would like to go in there and run strong because that would be a nice boost and a momentum builder towards next year. We have an engine that's been in the GM Goodwrench Firebird for four races. It's getting pretty tired, so we'll ship it back and freshen it up for Pomona. We'll be all right."
Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird driver Mark Pawuk lost in round two to Jim Yates after posting five consecutive runs in the six-second range in one his best performances of the year.
"It wasn't a bad weekend," said Pawuk. "The Summit Racing Firebird ran well in the first round and I didn't drive very good. Then we came back in the second round, I drove real well, but the car didn't run too good. It's disappointing because every pass we made until the second round today was in the sixes. The weather just came in too quick on us and we weren't ready for that. That will come with experience.
"The crew did a great job and we're heading in the right direction. You can't expect things to happen over night, but things are starting to come together. We'll be ready for Pomona, and if we can win there, that would just be fine with me. But we definitely want to finish in the top-10."
George Marnell and Mike Thomas lost in round one; Marnell to Yates and Thomas to Tom Martino.
Warren Johnson is the 1998 Winston Pro Stock champion and is in first place with 1895 points. Jeg Coughlin is in second place with 1439, Kurt Johnson is third with 1360, Jim Yates is fourth in a Firebird with 1337, Mark Osborne is fifth in a Firebird with 1029, Mike Edwards is sixth in a Firebird with 943, Mike Thomas is seventh in a Firebird with 922, Tom Martino is eighth in a Firebird with 912, Richie Stevens is ninth in a Firebird with 803 and Mark Pawuk is tenth in a Firebird with 786.
McDonald's Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan lost in round three to Tony Schumacher, and Parts America Top Fuel pilot Shelly Anderson lost in round one to McClenathan. Gary Scelzi was the race winner.
"From what we can tell, I dropped a cylinder and when I tried to pedal and restart it, it split the motor right in half," said McClenathan. "It's the worst I've seen in a long time. It's probably a good thing though that I wasn't up to full speed. We'll be back, ready to go next year with a new sponsor and Pontiac will be in our corner once again. We're looking forward to that.
"Right now, even though Scelzi has the championship locked up, we would like nothing more than to win the Big Bud Shootout, get that seventh win in Pomona and make history by winning the most races in a season by a Top Fuel team. If we could go out winning that race, that would definitely end the season on a good note."
Scelzi leads the Winston standings with 1683 points, Cory McClenathan is second with 1568, Joe Amato is third with 1465, Mike Dunn is fourth with 1290 and Kenny Bernstein is fifth with 1273.
In Federal Mogul Funny Car, Pat Austin of Tacoma, Wash., drove his alcohol powered Pontiac Firebird to the winner's circle over Jackie Stidham. Austin's performance number in the final round was 5.717ET/251.18MPH. Stidham was a no show.
The next stop on the tour is the Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 12-15, at Pomona Raceway. It is the final race on the 22-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Same day television coverage of the Winston Finals can be seen on TNN on Sunday, November 15 beginning at 7p.m. Eastern. Final round coverage of the Big Bud Shootout for Top Fuel car can be seen on TNN on Saturday, November 14 beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.