PEDREGON SHINES IN FORCE'S SHADOW AS CASTROL FUNNY CARS BID FOR THIRD 1-2 FUNNY CAR FINISH IN FOUR YEARS MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Not since the days of Mickey Thompson's Mach 1 Mustangs, when drivers Danny Ongais and Pat ...
PEDREGON SHINES IN FORCE'S SHADOW AS CASTROL FUNNY CARS BID FOR THIRD 1-2 FUNNY CAR FINISH IN FOUR YEARS MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Not since the days of Mickey Thompson's Mach 1 Mustangs, when drivers Danny Ongais and Pat Foster were terrorizing drag racing's Funny Car division, has there been as formidable a two-car team as that fronted by soon-to-be-nine-time Winston Champion John Force. Because of Force's larger-than-life personae (and the fact that the veteran from Yorba Linda, Calif., has won 79 races in 13 years, an average of six a season), the accomplishments of Tony Pedregon, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang, often are overlooked. Rest assured, though, that no one competing against him in this week's (Oct. 8-10) 11th annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park is likely to overlook the youngest of the racing Pedregon brothers or the fact that his Ford, not Force's, is the quickest ever to have negotiated a drag racing quarter mile (4.779 seconds) His 1996 acceptance of the Automobile Club of California's Road to the Future award, which identifies future stars of the sport, was prophetic. In only three-plus seasons as driver of the second of the Castrol Fords, Pedregon has stamped himself as the heir apparent to the winningest Funny Car driver of all time. A three-time winner already this year, the 34-year-old resident of Chino Hills, Calif., is on his way to finishing second in Funny Car driver points for the third time in four years. With eight career victories and another 12 runner-up finishes to his credit, plus two final round appearances in the sport's premier bonus event, the Big Bud Shootout at Indianapolis, Pedregon has demonstrated the kind of abilities that carried older brother Cruz to the championship in 1992, the only title in the 90s to escape Force's grasp. "John and I complement each other very well," Pedregon said. "We're totally different personalities but we share a commitment to winning and to the team concept. We have great support. It's a perfect situation for me. I'm learning from the very best with the knowledge that one day it's going to be my turn."
Between them, Force and Pedregon have won 12 of the 18 races contested thus far this season. Force has won nine times, most recently at last week's race at Topeka, Kan., Tony three times and no other driver more than once.
Although Pedregon rarely has beaten the boss when they've gone head-to-head (he's 5-27 against Force), he is quick to point out that few have a glowing record against the man who has dominated drag racing for a decade.
Significantly, three of Pedregon's five victories against his mentor have come in final rounds and "one of the (eight final round) losses came at the 96 Winston Finals when our car wouldn't start. We race John like we race everyone else -- with the expectation that we'll win.
"I grew up in a very competitive environment with two older brothers (Frank and Cruz, both of them Funny Car rivals)," Pedregon said. "But I also understand the team concept and that when one of us wins, everybody wins. We all share in it."
AutoZone Nationals Oct. 8-10, 1999 Memphis Motorsports Park Millington, Tennessee
Number starts: 3 Times No. 1 qualifier: 0 Final round appearances: 1 Event wins: 0 Won-Lost Record: 6-3 Best performances: 4.947 seconds, Oct. 9, 1998 311.63 mph, Oct. 11, 1998 Noteworthy: Tony has qualified second, third and fourth in his three appearances at Memphis Motorsports Park.
DID YOU KNOW: Tony was the fifth member of the Castrol 4-Second Funny Car Club....Tony is one of only seven drivers to have led the Winston Funny Car standings over the last seven seasons....Tony has qualified for 91 consecutive Winston Series races....Tony has lost to his boss in three final rounds this season -- at Houston, Richmond, Va., and St. Louis, Mo....Tony painted the custom helmets worn by his brothers, Frank and Cruz, by John Force, by Top Fuel drivers Cory McClenathan and Doug Kalitta and by Pro Stock title contender Jeg Couglin Jr....Tony is the only Funny Car driver other than John Force to have broken the 4.80 second and 320 mph barriers.