POMONA, Calif. -- Tony Pedregon is not the blood-sucking vampire pictured on the Castrol SYNTECÃ¢â€žÂ¢ Ford Mustang he'll drive this week (Nov. 9-12) in the season-ending 36th annual AAA of Southern California Finals at the Los Angeles County...
POMONA, Calif. -- Tony Pedregon is not the blood-sucking vampire pictured on the Castrol SYNTECâ„¢ Ford Mustang he'll drive this week (Nov. 9-12) in the season-ending 36th annual AAA of Southern California Finals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex.
But if the Dracula image gives him an edge, any edge, the second generation pro gladly will play the role.
Trying to close the gap in the 2000 Winston driver standings, Pedregon is hoping for a supernatural performance from a "Dracula" Mustang that was to have debuted at Halloween as part of a "Monsters of the Midway" promotion engineered by Action Performance Companies, Inc., and Universal Studios Consumer Products Group.
A rainout of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas, on Oct. 22 and display commitments in the weeks thereafter postponed the theme car's competitive debut. Now, although too late for Halloween, Pedregon hopes to fly to victory in a SYNTEC Mustang with a very big bite.
A two-time winner at the Fairplex and runner-up last February in the AutoZone Winternationals, Pedregon is the track record holder at 4.830 seconds. Significantly, he also owns the quickest time EVER recorded by a Funny Car at 4.779 seconds, quicker by .009 of a second even than teammate John Force's official NHRA record.
"We had some mechanical problems in the middle of the season," Pedregon said, "but we've run well the past several races and we're looking forward to Pomona. We â€˜ve been in four final rounds (at the Fairplex), won the 1997 Winston Finals and the 1999 Winternationals and when you've had success like that, it creates a certain comfort level where you expect to do well."
Pedregon's expectations are not unrealistic. The 35-year-old Chino Hills resident flexed his muscles in back-to-back races in Texas, winning at Houston before losing to Force in the semifinals of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals completed last Saturday.
A 10-time winner since being hired to drive Force's second Castrol Funny Car in 1996, Pedregon is the only Funny Car driver other than Force to have broken the 4.80 second barrier and, with Force and Tommy Johnson Jr., one of only three to have accelerated a Funny Car beyond 320 mph.
That's heady stuff for a kid who wasn't exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth. One of five children and youngest of three brothers, Pedregon learned life lessons from his late father, 1960s Top Fuel driver Frank Pedregon.
"If you look at me and John," Pedregon said, "our personalities are totally opposite. But, it you look at the roads we came down, there are a lot of similarities. John talks about growing up in a trailer park. Well, that sounds a little fancy to me, actually, because we lived in an old ranch house in Texas (outside San Antonio) that didn't have window (glass).
"It may have been a little bit of a struggle. Maybe we didn't have all the things other kids had (but) looking back on those times, it gives me a great appreciation of what I do -- every day. I don't take anything for granted. I remember very well what it was like trying to get into the sport and how difficult it was and I think because of that I'm very humble."
Don't let him fool you, though. He's still got fangs.