Reading: Cruz Pedregon preview

'Mexican Revolution' reborn in youngest of racing Pedregons Victory in $100,000 Budweiser Shootout latest coup for Castrol Driver READING, Pa. (Sept. 12-14) Cruz Pedregon may have started drag racing's Mexican Revolution by snatching the...

'Mexican Revolution' reborn in youngest of racing Pedregons
Victory in $100,000 Budweiser Shootout latest coup for Castrol Driver

READING, Pa. (Sept. 12-14) Cruz Pedregon may have started drag racing's Mexican Revolution by snatching the 1992 NHRA Funny Car Championship away from John Force, but it's brother Tony who has taken the campaign to a new plateau.

With his $100,000 victory in last week's 22nd annual Budweiser Shootout at Indianapolis, Ind., the youngest of the racing Pedregons added yet another chapter to his already compelling autobiography.

The 38-year-old resident of Chino Hills, Calif., has moved past Cruz and oldest brother Frankie in career victories (25-22-4) and, with a quarter mile best speed of 325.69 miles per hour at the wheel of the Castrol SYNTEC0x28a7 Ford Mustang, has assumed the mantle once worn by his father, the late Frank Pedregon Sr.

The elder Pedregon, who was killed in a private plane crash before seeing his sons win a single race, touted himself as "The World's Fastest Mexican" in a brief career in Top Fuel dragsters back when the engine sat in front of the driver.

This year, after racing for seven seasons in the shadow of Force, his car owner and Castrol teammate, Pedregon has emerged as the man most likely to end his boss's 10-year reign of terror atop the Funny Car division.

Nevertheless, despite all his success, The Tony Pedregon Story remains a work in progress, one that could take another unexpected turn this week when the NHRA POWERade tour moves to Maple Grove Raceway for the 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals.

The category leader in victories this year with six, Pedregon nonetheless is in the midst of an intense battle for the championship with Dodge driver Whit Bazemore.

The two move to Maple Grove and the season's 18th event separated by a just 57 points in a struggle that ultimately will reward one or the other with a $400,000 bonus. Basically, the margin is three rounds of racing, meaning that, in a worst case scenario, Pedregon could lose the advantage he has held for all but two races this year.

The Latino driving star admittedly has struggled the last six weeks, winning just two rounds of racing in five events. Nevertheless, he is surprisingly upbeat as the tour moves east for the final time in the 2003 campaign.

"(The last two months) have been disappointing. I can't deny that," Pedregon said. "But as many problems as we've had, we've still managed to hang onto the lead.

"The reality of drag racing is that you're going to have down periods every season. You just have to work through them.

"The good thing is that we're back at Reading and that's where we started our run last year (winning three straight races and, at one point, trimming Force's lead to just 11 points before ultimately finishing second for the fourth time in seven years)."

Eliminated in the first round of last week's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Pedregon got a little help from brother Cruz, who sent Bazemore home in the same round, thereby protecting Tony's lead.

"Cruz's win (over Bazemore) was a big one," Pedregon said. "But we don't want to have to rely on somebody else to win the championship. The reality is that we have to improve our performance and we will."

DID YOU KNOW?

In 1996, Tony was the first winner of the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award....when he's not driving the SYNTEC Ford, making appearances on behalf of sponsors or spending time with his three-year-old daughter, Cecily, Tony designs and paints custom helmets including those worn by John Force, brother Cruz Pedregon and Funny Car rival Tommy Johnson Jr....among Funny Car drivers, Tony has the second longest active qualifying streak at 58 straight races, second only to boss and teammate John Force, who has made the starting lineup a record 317 times....in a pre-season poll conducted by Louis Brewster of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.), Tony was named the favorite to win the 2003 POWERade title.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Tommy Johnson Jr.