Las Vegas II: Final summary

Bernstein, Pedregon, Anderson and Savoie win at Las Vegas LAS VEGAS - Tony Pedregon doubled up Saturday as he clinched his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship and won the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor...

Bernstein, Pedregon, Anderson and Savoie win at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Tony Pedregon doubled up Saturday as he clinched his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship and won the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kenny Bernstein, Greg Anderson and Craig Treble also won in their respective categories at the $1.6 million race, the 22nd of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Pedregon secured the championship when he beat Whit Bazemore, the No. 2 driver in the standings, in the Funny Car final round. Pedregon used a 5.135-second pass at 273.39 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to beat Bazemore's 5.183 at 266.64 in his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T. Pedregon broke his team owners streak with the championship win. Pedregon's boss, John Force, has won 12 Funny Car championships, including the last 10 consecutively.

"We have been under so much pressure trying to win this championship," Pedregon said. "You get beat up mentally by the fear of losing and it makes you wonder if it is all worth it. After today I know that it's all worth it. We needed a little luck today, but you always do when you're in Vegas."

Pedregon smoked the tires in the last half of the pass, but Bazemore's car smoked the tires as well, and Pedregon pedaled the car back to the victory.

"I thought if we made a run in the 4.70s that would do it and that would get us the win," Pedregon said. "But nope, no dice. Nothing is ever that simple. They really challenged us. That makes it better because we were challenged by a good team."

In the first 11 events of the season, Pedregon won six races, prompting championship talk early. That was when the team went on a slide. They lost in the first round in three of the next four races.

"This is such an important part of my life that when I needed to be tough, I was tough," Pedregon said. "There has been so much drama surrounding us, especially since we started off so well. Then we had the low point of the season and I knew the team could get the car back into the performance mode that we were running in at the start of the season.

"I knew I was going to have to get a grip and really fight for the championship today."

Bernstein beat Tony Schumacher in the final round, earning his third win this season and 68th of his career. Bernstein went 4.545 at 326.87 in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster to beat Schumacher's 5.436 at 174.68 in the U.S. Army dragster.

"They were the car to beat," Bernstein said of the top qualifying Army car. "They have been running so well. (Crew chief) Tim Richards has got his hand on the tuneup and when he does, we can string wins together."

Bernstein retired at the end of the 2002 season, but had to come back to driving once his son, Brandon, was injured during a race in Englishtown, N.J. in May. The six-time champion, however, said even if the team is winning with him in the seat, he will be ready to retire again in two weeks following the season finale at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

"I am anxious for Brandon to get back in the car," Bernstein said. "I think I will be able to handle being on the sidelines better this time. I feel very comfortable in the car and it is fun to race this Budweiser car, but I am ready to watch him race."

Anderson clinched the Pro Stock championship two weeks ago and added his record-tying 11th win of the season. Anderson remained undefeated against Kurt Johnson in the final round. He went 6.837 at 201.73 in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am to Johnson's 6.878 at 200.56 in his ACDelco Chevy Cavalier.

"This team just keeps getting better and better," Anderson said. "The guys working under the hood are just amazing. I wonder all the time if I deserve this much fortune."

Treble earned his first win of the season and sixth of his career, beating Angelle Savoie in the Pro Stock Bike final. Treble used a 7.178 pass at 185.33 to beat Savoie's 7.230 at 188.78. Savoie trails Geno Scali by 117 points in the POWERade standings, so the championship will be decided at the 2003 season finale, the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals, Nov. 6-9 at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

-nhra-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Craig Treble , Geno Scali , Tim Richards