TWO TONY'S WIN IN CHICAGO: PEDREGON, SCHUMACHER, KURT JOHNSON AND RIVAS RACE TO WINNER'S CIRCLE AT ROUTE 66 JOLIET, Ill. - One day after his second explosion fit for the highlight reels this season, Tony Pedregon powered his Q Horsepower Chevy...
TWO TONY'S WIN IN CHICAGO: PEDREGON, SCHUMACHER, KURT JOHNSON AND RIVAS RACE TO WINNER'S CIRCLE AT ROUTE 66
JOLIET, Ill. - One day after his second explosion fit for the highlight reels this season, Tony Pedregon powered his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS to a trip to the winner's circle at the 11th annual Torco Racing Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Another Tony - Chicago's own Tony Schumacher - took center stage in Top Fuel with an event-best time and speed in the final round, while Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock) and Chris Rivas (Pro Stock Motorcycle) drove away with event titles as well.
Pedregon was uninjured in an accident during qualifying Saturday. This win was his third at Route 66 Raceway, his second of the year and the 38th of his career. He turned in a 4.818-second run at 319.75 mph to deny Scott Kalitta his first Funny Car win since 1989.
"Someone reminded me about 24 hours ago I was on fire," Pedregon said. "This is a very competitive business, and that little incident last night, it just took me back to the beginning of the year (to the season-opener in Pomona, Calif.). And it really started out to just be a run that everything was going good. We jumped on it to try to get low E.T. and it just pushed a head gasket out. We'd had a lot of them...I thought it would go out. As soon as the black smoke started coming in, I've been in enough of these things that I hit the (fire) bottles. At least in Pomona I knew I had my hands full right away. This just started, it seemed like kind of a routine, and then it just gradually got worse."
Kalitta last made a final round appearance when he was still behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster, at this track in 2005 - his most current win.
"I just felt good (today)," Pedregon said. "I didn't feel concerned. We had a new chassis. There's always a little question mark if it's going to drive like the other one. We had zero runs on it. It was brand new. Fortunately my guys had it ready and after that first round, I kind of had that confidence that I haven't had in a while.
"I just feel, when I look at that roll cage and I look at what I'm surrounded by, and I actually feel some sense of security in the car...I know what's at stake and I know the risks, but we do take a lot of precautions. Hey, I'm competitive. This is what I do. I'm no different from any athlete that takes a hit or falls on the turf and twists his knee. We get back up, and this is what we do."
Schumacher earned his fourth win of the year in his fourth final-round appearance in five races. He now has third career victories in front of his hometown crowd. Sunday he piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a 4.499 at 329.83 against Rod Fuller's 5.259 at 223.14 in his Caterpillar dragster.
"I think five years ago (crew chief) Alan Johnson flew into this track, and the last time we had met we raced each other, so it was kind of cool that we go out and qualify No. 1, win the race, and since then we've won four championships, I think today is 38 wins together," Schumacher said. "It's just an outstanding team. The coolest part is I think we have five or six of the guys on the team from the first day. That's a lot of guys. A lot of great people that stayed together. Not through the 38 wins, but through the 356 points back we were a couple of years ago. All of those things. That's what makes a great team. Guys that can not fire, not point fingers, not blame, don't yell."
Kurt Johnson jumped into the points lead with second win of the year and the 38th of his career when he drove his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt to a 6.733 at 205.22, while Jeg Coughlin settled for a runner-up finish at 19.755 at 72.78 when his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt suffered issues shortly after launch. It was Johnson's third win at Route 66 Raceway.
"It's such a highly-competitive class," Johnson said. "We thought we should have run better in qualifying and we didn't. We kind of stepped up and made a decent run yesterday afternoon, but we were still off from where we've been with the ACDelco Cobalt. I just call that thing 'Big Blue' today because that thing was just...it saved me a couple of times, running Greg (Anderson) second round and dad (Warren Johnson, in the semifinals).
"This place is just awesome. It's kind of a tuners' facility. You know you're going to go A to B and learn from this place."
Chris Rivas earned his first win at his 49th career race with a 7.051 at 185.43 on his G-Squared/S&S Racing Buell, while Craig Treble earned a second-place finish at 7.134 at 185.38 on his Team Tigue Suzuki.
"I've been waiting for this for such a long time," Rivas said. "I felt like I was so past due to getting it. I really just felt like I had the skills in my riding ability to do it. It just felt like we needed to get a bike under me that had the potential to do what I had the potential to do as a rider, and it finally just all came together."