Pedregon-Bazemore Rematch In The Cards At Las Vegas? LAS VEGAS - Last season Tony Pedregon won the two NHRA national events held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, defeating rival Whit Bazemore in the Funny Car final round at both events.
Pedregon-Bazemore Rematch In The Cards At Las Vegas?
LAS VEGAS - Last season Tony Pedregon won the two NHRA national events held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, defeating rival Whit Bazemore in the Funny Car final round at both events. However, in the final season tally, Pedregon somewhat beat Bazemore three times at the state-of-the-art facility which is located a few miles north of the city that never closes.
Pedregon will be aiming for his third career victory at Las Vegas while Bazemore stills seeks that first win in the desert when they compete in the fifth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 1-4, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race is the fourth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Larry Dixon and Greg Anderson also are the defending winners in their respective categories.
Pedregon's victory last October, a smoke-filled finale that he won by a .0366-second margin, not only put him in the winner's circle for the eighth time in 2003, but clinched the NHRA POWERade championship for the Southern California native, locking Bazemore into the No. 2 spot of the final standings.
This season both drivers admit that last year is behind them and their focus now is the 2004 series title. But the fact that Bazemore has been the runner-up at Las Vegas on three occasions, then to lose the title to Pedregon there, still has the Indianapolis native craving that Las Vegas victory.
"The team did a tremendous job (in the final against Pedregon in October)," Bazemore said. "We left on Tony and it's all you can do. It would have been nice to have won the race, even though at that point the championship was a big long shot for us. It would have made him a little nervous for another two weeks, which would have been something I would have liked to have done. To win Vegas will be great, and I say 'will be,' because we are at some point going to win there. We have been the runner-up so many times at that track that it's impossible to never win that race."
Pedregon, who left john Force Racing following the 2003 season to start his own team in partnership with brother Cruz, could add another memorable moment in Las Vegas to his resume by putting the Quaker State Funny Car in the winner's circle for the first time ever.
"I've always enjoyed going to Vegas," Pedregon said. "It's a place I will forever remember as having that special moment when I clinched the championship last year. The irony for me is that Vegas was a very pivotal race for me in 2002, when I lost in the finals and I lost the championship (to then-teammate John Force). It was almost like everything came back around in a full circle last season. We had the same circumstances, but the big difference was that we won the race and clinched the championship.
"Right now the focus is trying to continue that trend with this Quaker State team, so I'm excited about going back. I think the Vegas facility is among the top two or three venues that we race at throughout the year. The fans are great, the track is great, and it's one of my favorite places to race."
If either Pedregon or Bazemore plan on holding up the championship trophy at the end of this season, they both need to improve on what they have done through the first three events of the season. Pedregon did score the runner-up finish at Phoenix, but has been eliminated in the first round at the two other events and qualified No. 10 twice and No. 8 once. Bazemore has one first round loss and has been defeated in the second round twice, leaving him in eight place in the POWERade standings, nine points behind the seventh place Pedregon.
"I'm very pleased with what we've been able to accomplish in a short amount of time," Pedregon said. "I still don't want to lose sight of the fact that we're a new team, yet we're a new team with a lot of personality and experience. It all seems to be coming together. I knew the chemistry would be there and it's just now starting to yield some results."
Current Funny Car points leader, Del Worsham, has won the last two events of the season, in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird and could be the driver who builds an early lead in the standings and has the rest of the field playing catch-up all year. Bazemore, who led the standings for the first time in his career following his victory at Memphis, Tenn. last season, knows that consistently winning rounds is the key to contending for the championship.
"We've got a great team and a great car so far this year and we're running the best we've ever run this early in the season," Bazemore said. "We have a good shot at (winning) Las Vegas. The way the team is working together, it's a championship caliber effort. As a driver, this is the only place I'd want to be, out here. We have all the potential in the world, we just have to make the most of it."