Las Vegas: Tony Pedregon preview

Pedregon 'Lightens Up' in bid for Summitracing.com FC title. LAS VEGAS, Nev. When he drove his Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang into the winners' circle last month at Gainesville, Fla., Tony Pedregon was a heavyweight When he rolls to the starting...

Pedregon 'Lightens Up' in bid for Summitracing.com FC title.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. When he drove his Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang into the winners' circle last month at Gainesville, Fla., Tony Pedregon was a heavyweight

When he rolls to the starting line at this week's (April 5-7) third annual Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he'll do so as a lightweight.

The designations have absolutely nothing to do with Pedregon's driving skills and everything to do with the relative weight of his hybrid Funny Car which, since its March 17th victory, has shed more than 30 pounds all of it without benefit of special diets or exercise.

In fact, the 7,000 horsepower Ford is so light that Crew Chief John Medlen will have to add weight just to make the 2,375 pound Funny Car minimum.

You could say it's just a shell of its former self because a new carbon fiber Mustang shell is responsible for every lost pound.

"The body is lighter, but it's also stronger," Pedregon said. "We've been waiting for one since the first of the season. John (teammate and boss John Force) got the first two out of the mold. Now we've got one."

The bodies are the first fabricated for the team by Metal Crafters, Inc., which got the business (1) because of its proximity to the Force Racing shops in Yorba Linda, Calif., and (2) because it builds bodies for no one else in the sport.

The question, of course, is why build a lighter body if it's too light to make weight?

"The advantage is that now we can put the weight where we want it," Medlen said. "Before, we didn't have that option."

The new body represents the second major change in as many races for Pedregon, the 37-year-old resident of Chino Hills, Calif., who won at Gainesville the first time out with a new supercharger in place.

The "setback blower," which Force and Gary Densham have used all year, was developed in the off-season by Medlen and the other Force Racing Crew Chiefs Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly and Jimmy Prock.

Essentially, it sits further back on the engine block (thus the designation), a location that required a new manifold and modification of all the drive components.

In theory, it was designed to provide a more uniform distribution of the air the supercharger delivers to the cylinders. In practice, it has exceeded expectations with three No. 1 qualifiers, three final rounds, three top speeds of the meet and two victories.

The performance of the setback blower and the promise of the new body have infused Pedregon with a renewed enthusiasm.

"After the first two races (losses in the first round and second round at Pomona, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz.), I'll admit I was a little disappointed," said the 14-time tour winner, "because our team goal this year was to avoid the bad start that took us out of the championship race so early last year (when he went six races without winning a single round).

"Now, I think we're going to be hard for everybody to overlook."

"Everybody" includes Force, the 11-time reigning NHRA series champion who Pedregon has beaten the last three times he has opposed him in a final round at Houston in 2000, Englishtown N.J., and Topeka, Kan., in 2001.

TONY at Summitracing.com Nationals...

*Runner-up in his first appearance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2000 summitracing.com Nationals)

*Lost to Dean Skuza in the first round last spring. TONY Highlights....

*Since 1995, has won more races (14) than any Funny Car driver other than John Force.

*Has beaten Force in three straight final rounds (2000 at Houston, 2001 at Englishtown, N.J., and Topeka, Kan.)

*Has won at least one NHRA POWERade tour event in each of the last seven seasons.

DID YOU KNOW?

The fuel pump used by Tony Pedregon and the other Team Castrol drivers pumps nitromethane at the rate of more than 84 gallons a minute. At that speed, it could empty a 55 gallon drum in less than 39 seconds....in 1996, Tony was the first winner of the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award which identifies drag racing's rising stars ....crewman Chris Boudreau will miss this week's race as a result of surgery to repair a ruptured appendix. Until he's able to return, his job will be filled by Robert Hight, formerly the clutch specialist on the Castrol GTX Mustang....when he's not driving the SYNTEC Ford, making appearances on behalf of sponsors or spending time with his two-year-old daughter, Cecily, Tony designs and paints custom helmets including those worn by John Force, Gary Densham, brother Cruz Pedregon, reigning Top Fuel champion Kenny Bernstein and former Pro Stock Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.

HISTORIC NOTE:
Most Funny Car Wins (1996-2002)

John Force - 51
Tony Pedregon - 14
Ron Capps - 11
Whit Bazemore - 10
Cruz Pedregon - 7
Del Worsham - 6

- www.johnforceracing.com

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Robert Hight , Austin Coil