Indianapolis: Tony Pedregon U.S. Nationals preview

Pedregon aims to join brothers as Mac U.S. Nationals Champion CLERMONT, Ind. Being known as the only Pedregon brother who never won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's oldest, richest and most prestigious drag race, isn't a legacy to which...

Pedregon aims to join brothers as Mac U.S. Nationals Champion

CLERMONT, Ind. Being known as the only Pedregon brother who never won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's oldest, richest and most prestigious drag race, isn't a legacy to which Tony Pedregon aspires.

Nevertheless, the youngest member of the most successful brother act in NHRA history is beginning to wonder just what it takes to win a race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, site this week (Aug. 30-Sept. 2) not only of the 48th U.S. Nationals, but also of the Budweiser Shootout, a limited participation Funny Car event that pays $100,000 to the winner of just three rounds of racing.

Winner of more NHRA POWERade tour events the last seven years (16) than anyone but boss and teammate John Force, Pedregon has yet to win at IRP, the track on which older brother Cruz prevailed in the 1992, 1994 and 1995 U.S. Nationals and on which oldest brother Frankie won the same race in 1999.

It's not that Tony hasn't been competitive. He just hasn't been able to close the deal.

He and his Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Ford Mustang lost in the final round of the Budweiser Shootout in 1997 and 1999 as well as in the final round of last year's U.S. Nationals. On each occasion, the 37-year-old Californian rolled to the starting line with an apparent performance advantage and the choice of lanes. Each time he came up short.

The Shootout setbacks were tough enough, especially the 1999 loss to Ron Capps, who won the 100 grand even though his best time of the event was 5.266 seconds. Pedregon, who in the first two rounds posted the only sub-5.00 second performances of the day (4.964 and 4.984), was victimized by a loss of traction in the final just as he was two years earlier in a final round meeting with Japanese driver Kenji Okazaki.

Nevertheless, last year's Labor Day loss to Whit Bazemore was, by far, the most bitter pill he has had to swallow in his eight trips to Indy, much tougher than his qualifying failure at the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster in 1993. It was, Pedregon said, the most disappointing final round loss of his entire professional career.

No wonder. In the first three rounds, he and his SYNTEC Ford were virtually untouchable. His first round 4.825 against Scotty Cannon was the quickest time posted in eliminations. His 4.903 was the quickest in round two and his 4.944, which took out brother Frankie in the semifinals, gave him lane choice over Bazemore (5.099).

However, the dream came apart in the final when Pedregon's Ford experienced problems at the hit of the throttle, slowing to 5.123 seconds as Bazemore drove away to win in 4.971 seconds.

"You can't dwell on it," Pedregon said, "because you can't do anything about it. Fortunately, with this team, I feel confident that we'll have another chance to win (the U.S. Nationals) hopefully this week."

In fact, this has been Pedregon's most productive year with Team Castrol. He's won three times already (at Gainesville, Fla., Topeka, Kan., and Seattle, Wash.), has put his Ford on the "pole" three times and has emerged as the primary challenger to his boss for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

After finishing second behind Force in 1996, 1997 and 1999, he is hoping that the fourth time's a charm. He presently trails the sport's biggest winner by 140 points with just seven races remaining in the series.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Scotty Cannon