POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6-9) -- He may already have clinched the NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship, ending the 10-year reign of boss and teammate John Force, but Tony Pedregon is not without incentives this week as the 2003 season races to a close...
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6-9) -- He may already have clinched the NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship, ending the 10-year reign of boss and teammate John Force, but Tony Pedregon is not without incentives this week as the 2003 season races to a close in the 39th annual Automobile Club of Southern California World Finals at Pomona Raceway.
Racing just miles from his Chino Hills home, Pedregon is in a position to further enhance his performance resume at the wheel of a Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Ford Mustang in which he has won a career high eight times already this year.
A Sunday victory would make him just the 17th pro driver in history to win both the season-opening and season-ending events and just the 11th to sweep those races since the Finals was moved to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds track in 1984.
Moreover, it would make the 38-year-old one of only 14 drivers to win the season finale to complete his or her championship season.
Finally, coming off a victory two weeks ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Pedregon also is poised to join another exclusive fraternity, one whose current roster includes a single member -- the late Dave Schultz, the 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1996 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Champion who, en route to the '94 title, won nine times in nine final round appearances.
Pedregon is eight for eight in final rounds this year and is returning to a track on which he was in a class by himself at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals.
Already the only Funny Car driver other than Force to have won as many as eight races in a season, he is trying to become just the 12th pro driver, regardless of classification, to win as many as nine times in one year.
That would slap an exclamation point on already remarkable season.
Second to Force in the NHRA Funny Car standings four times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2002), Pedregon won six of the season's first 11 races, something that largely was forgotten in a mid-season swoon. Fortunately, the team was able to rally, putting Pedregon in the winners' circle in two of the last four events.
"We didn't want to win the championship because of what somebody else didn't do," Pedregon said of his recent resurgence. "We wanted to win it because of something positive that we did as a team."
"There's no question; we struggled in July and August, even into September, but the fact that we were able to do what we did at Las Vegas says everything about the character of this team."
"Winning the Finals would just be icing on the cake. We're coming in with a lot of confidence," acknowledged the man who's won 27 tour events in his eight seasons with Team Castrol and John Force Racing.
"I'm racing at home. My mom's going to be there; all my family. My daughter Cecily. It would be great to close it out with one more win."
"The credit goes to my Crew Chiefs, John Medlen and Dickie Venables, to the crew that's worked so hard on the SYNTEC Funny Car and, especially, to John Force, who eight years ago took a chance on driver with limited experience and then showed him what it takes to be a champion."