Phoenix Funny Car notebook (FUNNY CAR)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 ATSCO NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Fantastic Ford: One of the reasons Tony Pedregon switched from a Pontiac Firebird to a Ford Mustang was to create his own...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

ATSCO NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK

*Fantastic Ford: One of the reasons Tony Pedregon switched from a Pontiac Firebird to a Ford Mustang was to create his own identity. He and his car owner, six-time NHRA Winston champion John Force, drove identical Castrol GTX Pontiac Firebirds last season.

But the major reason Pedregon switched to Ford was pure economics. He unveiled his new Castrol GTX Ford Mustang body during the second qualifying session at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals earlier this month at Pomona, Calif.

"Ford came along and made us a good offer," Pedregon said. "We've been assured now that we have the budget to compete at all the races. That is really exciting, knowing that.

"Plus I like the way the body looks. It's very stable, too."

There's a good chance that Ford engineers, which also work extensively in NASCAR and CART racing, will help Pedregon and crew chief John Medlen refine the Mustang body for even better performance.

"The Ford guys bring so much energy to this program," Pedregon said. "It's in the early stages, but it sure looks promising."

Force will stay in a Pontiac Firebird.

*Making progress: The last time rookie Funny Car driver Randy Anderson left Firebird International Raceway, he had a crumpled race car and a big headache.

But if the results of his NHRA pro debut are any indication, he should have a much better outing this time at Firebird.

Anderson crashed his Parts America Pontiac Firebird last month at Firebird during a licensing attempt. The car was heavily damaged, and Anderson scrambled to get his Funny Car license just two days before the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.

But at Pomona, Anderson qualified No. 9 with a strong run of 5.077 seconds, 282.84 mph. He lost in the first round to Chuck Etchells.

That performance provided some vindication for Anderson, a two- time NHRA Winston Top Alcohol Funny Car champion.

"The last two weeks were the worst of my life," Anderson said at Pomona. "Some of the things that were said about me were dead wrong. For example, one of the things I heard was that I took too long taking my foot off the throttle at Firebird. They should've asked me if they wanted to know what happened.

"The major part of the problem was the throttle pedal. I have a tendency to let my foot slide into the back of the heel cage as with my Federal-Mogul car. Basically, with this new throttle, my foot slid in such a way that I didn't have the leverage to get off it completely. I could only lift it so high, and that wasn't high enough.

Anderson's father, Brad Anderson, and Larry Meyer, crew chief for his sister, Top Fuel driver Shelly Anderson, built a bar that provides more leverage.

*Performance predictions: Performance at the ATSCO Nationals should be comparable to the numbers produced at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals if the weather cooperates, Tony Pedregon said.

"If the conditions are right, there's no reason why our car and John's (Force) car can't run fours at over 300," Pedregon said. "I think we can expect big numbers. It may take one or two sessions to get it figured out, but I think Saturday we can expect some really quick times."

Al Hofmann recorded the low elapsed time and top speed for Funny Car at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, 4.907 seconds at 311.85 mph in the Hofmann Racing Pontiac Firebird.

*Shake, shake, shake: Funny Car rookie Ron Capps looked like a strong contender for victory entering the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals after making a testing pass of 5.03 seconds in the Copenhagen Camaro last month at Firebird International Raceway.

So it surprised many observers when Capps failed to qualify at Pomona, with a best run of just 5.515 seconds, 241.74 mph in the car owned by Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. But the car has been plagued by severe tire shake throughout testing and at Pomona, Capps said.

"We've been murdered by tire shake," Capps said. "I have made 24 runs, and 23 of them have been hobbled by tire shake. We tried our best to eliminate it here, but it wasn't to be."

Capps and the new team were scheduled to test at Texas Motorplex between the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals and this event.

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 and continues at 6 p.m. that date with the first night qualifying session of the season. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 22. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Feb. 23. Federal-Mogul sportsman competition starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 20.

*Tickets: Tickets are available for the ATSCO Nationals. Call Firebird International Raceway at (800) DRAG-INFO or (602) 268-0200 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Dillard's. To order through Dillard's, call (800) 638-4253.

*On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day, final-round competition from the ATSCO Nationals at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 23. ESPN2 also will televise Friday-night qualifying for the first time with a two-hour, same-day show starting at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 21.

*On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Ron Capps , John Force , John Medlen , Shelly Anderson