Chases Force to the finish. POMONA, Calif. - Although he rolls into the Los Angeles County Fairplex for this week's (Nov. 7-10) season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals trailing teammate John Force by 31 points, Tony Pedregon...
Chases Force to the finish.
POMONA, Calif. - Although he rolls into the Los Angeles County Fairplex for this week's (Nov. 7-10) season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals trailing teammate John Force by 31 points, Tony Pedregon is not yet ready to concede the 2002 NHRA POWERade championship to the man who has won it 11 times in the last 12 years.
Foiled in his bid to grab the lead in a one-on-one final round showdown with his boss just two weeks ago (at Las Vegas), Pedregon figures he's just one cold front away from getting a rematch this week.
That's because, given the right weather and track conditions, Pedregon is confident his Castrol SYNTEC0x28a2 Ford can cover the standard quarter mile in fewer than 4.731 seconds, which is the existing NHRA national record.
If he can pull it off, he could pick up 20 points and put his fate back in his own hands.
In point of fact, a national record would negate whatever Force gained at Las Vegas and put Pedregon in a position in which he could win the championship by going four rounds on Sunday.
The scenario is not as big a stretch as one might imagine.
Consider first that Pedregon has had the best Funny Car on the tour the last two months. Consider also that he has won a career high six races this year, claimed seven Budweiser No. 1 qualifying bonuses and broken the 4.80 second barrier at six different racetracks including the three which most recently hosted tour events Chicago (Joliet, Ill.), Dallas and Las Vegas.
Then remember that Whit Bazemore ran 4.736 at Pomona during last year's Auto Club Finals and that Force was clocked in 4.749 seconds last February en route to victory in the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals.
"We know the track can hold it," Pedregon said, "so, If the conditions are there, we definitely will go for (the record). We tried that earlier in Chicago but overpowered the track. To run 4.70s, much less 4.71 or 4.72, everything has to be perfect."
Regardless of what occurs on Sunday, Pedregon's run for the championship has opened a lot of eyes. Although he finished second to Force in 1996, 1997 and 1999, he really wasn't a threat to knock the 105-time tour winner from the position he has occupied for the last nine seasons.
He came into the season finale 618 points behind his boss in 1996, the year Force was named the Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing after winning 13 of 19 races. The following year, he trailed Force by 419 points going into the last race and, in 1999, the margin was 426.
This year, though, just two competitive rounds separate the Castrol teammates in the race for a $400,000 POWERade bonus.
Pedregon's late season charge, which included consecutive victories at Reading, Pa., Memphis, Tenn., and Chicago, has totally re-energized the Funny Car division.
That's because the 37-year-old Chino Hills, Calif., resident isn't only in a position to end Force's remarkable reign, he also can become only the second Latino champion in professional drag racing history after older brother, Cruz, who chased Force down to win as a rookie exactly 10 years ago.
"John is at his best when the pressure's on," Pedregon said. "He fired a shot at Vegas. We need to fire back at Pomona."