Pedregon running out of races in bid for POWERade Championship. READING, Pa. -- Tony Pedregon has won races this season with two different Crew Chiefs, two different chassis and two different Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang bodies. He's won from...
Pedregon running out of races in bid for POWERade Championship.
READING, Pa. -- Tony Pedregon has won races this season with two different Crew Chiefs, two different chassis and two different Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang bodies. He's won from No. 1 and he's won from the middle of the pack. He's won on his driving ability and he's won on raw horsepower and 325 mile-an-hour performance.
Yet, despite a season for which most of his rivals gladly would sacrifice an appendage, the 37-year-old still may come up short of his ultimate goal: an NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.
Entering this week's (Sept. 13-15) 18th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, the veteran from Chino Hills, Calif., is second in POWERade points behind boss and teammate John Force.
Nevertheless, to Pedregon's dismay, it is not really a close second. After pulling to within 34 points of the lead with his rain delayed victory at Seattle, Wash., on July 29, Pedregon subsequently has fallen 199 points off the pace.
That margin doesn't mathematically eliminate the 16-time tour winner from the championship chase, but it certainly leaves him facing long odds with only six of the original 23 races remaining.
Ten rounds down to the man to whom he has finished second three times in the last six seasons (1996, 1997 and 1999), Pedregon needs to string together at least a couple of victories to give himself any shot at joining older brother Cruz as an NHRA champion.
A second generation drag racer whose father, the late Frank Pedregon Sr., drove front motored Top Fuel dragsters in the 1960s, Pedregon takes solace in the fact that he has beaten his boss the last three times they have opposed one another in a tour final.
Unfortunately, none of those victories came during the current campaign, one in which Pedregon has won three times while becoming the only Funny Car driver other than Force to have won as many as two tour events in six straight seasons.
Still, there's the matter of the championship.
"When John hired me to drive in 1996, my goal, really, was to be competitive," Pedregon said. "I just wanted to compete at the top level.
"After that, you want to win a race and then you want to make the Top 10. Well, we won a race and were No. 2 my first year. So then, naturally, your expectations become elevated.
"We've done just about everything now except win the championship. I'm a competitive person. John knows that. He knows that my ultimate goal is to be where he is now."
Pedregon has made a case for himself this season. He won at Gainesville, Fla., and at Topeka, Kan., with John Medlen making the tuning decisions, with a Steve Plueger chassis beneath him and with a special edition SYNTEC body and paint scheme recognizing the rock band Kiss.
When he won at Seattle, however, it was with Dickie Venables as acting Crew Chief (subbing for Medlen, who was on a brief medical leave), with a Murf McKinney chassis beneath him and with the more traditional black-and-green SYNTEC body in place.
The new chassis has breathed new life into his latest title bid. However, Pedregon now wonders if he simply has run out of time. What he needs is a miracle like the one his brother conjured up in 1992 when, at this exact point in the season with six races remaining, he won five straight times to pass Force and win the title.
"Cruz did it, so I know it's not impossible," Pedregon said. "We'll just go out and try to win as many rounds as we can and, in the end, if John wins another title, well, we'll all go celebrate because that's the next best thing to winning myself."