Reading2: Tony Pedregon preview

Castrol SYNTEC Driver Returns to Maple Grove as No. 1 Qualifier READING, Pa. (Oct. 4-5) -- The "Tony and Whit Road Show," the only real points race remaining in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, resumes this week at Maple Grove Raceway where...

Castrol SYNTEC Driver Returns to Maple Grove as No. 1 Qualifier

READING, Pa. (Oct. 4-5) -- The "Tony and Whit Road Show," the only real points race remaining in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, resumes this week at Maple Grove Raceway where Tony Pedregon will try to extend a 69-point lead over Whit Bazemore in their battle to end John Force's reign as Funny Car Champion.

In addition to the momentum born of last week's victory at Joliet, Ill., his seventh of the season in the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang, Pedregon returns as the No. 1 qualifier in the 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals, the result of having posted a 4.803 second quarter mile before rain halted the race three weekends ago.

He also is the defending event champion on the strength of a final round victory over Bazemore last year in which the 38-year-old veteran used a .028 of a second starting line advantage to make a 4.829 second quarter mile a winner over a quicker 4.814.

As if that weren't sufficient motivation, Pedregon can make even more history by winning just one more race this year.

That would make him only the second driver in history to win as many as eight races in one campaign. The record, 13 by Force in 1996, is out of reach, but Pedregon could break a tie with Don Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein, the only other drivers to have won seven times in one season.

"That's pretty good company," Pedregon acknowledged, "but the only way that would be important was if it would get us closer to (winning the championship). The impressive thing, really, is that we've won four more races than anyone else (in the Funny Car division) and we still haven't been able to close Bazemore out."

In fact, the Dodge driver briefly snatched the points lead from Pedregon's grasp with his Sept. 21 victory at Memphis, Tenn.

"That was a wakeup call for us," Pedregon acknowledged. "That put some urgency into trying to get our race car back on track."

Winner of six of the season's first 12 races, Pedregon had been beaten in the first round four times in six events before getting a free pass to last week's title when the car driven by Phil Burkart Jr. was shut off before the final round because of an oil leak.

Pedregon's Mustang, the dominant Funny Car on the circuit for more than 12 months starting with his victory at the 2002 Northwest Nationals at Seattle, finally began to show flashes of that form last week. Pedregon was clocked in 4.769 seconds on his solo run in the final round in a right lane made especially challenging by a bump in the asphalt.

That's the quickest Pedregon had negotiated the standard quarter mile since May and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

"The national record suddenly has become a big issue," Pedregon said. "There's 20 bonus points to whoever sets it and we finish the season on four racetracks that will hold the horsepower, starting with Reading. If you look at it, the record could get broken the next four races. That could be 80 points," exactly the number Bazemore has been denied in four runner-up finishes this year, two of them to Pedregon (April 6 in Las Vegas and May 25 in Joliet).

The current record, by the way, is 4.721 seconds by Force, who has been the official NHRA national record-holder for 10 of the last 11 seasons.J Castrol is a global leader in marketing premium automotive product brands such as Castrol GTX, Castrol GTX High Mileage, Castrol SYNTEC, Castrol SYNTEC Blend and Castrol Super Clean. Castrol North America markets its lubricants and services to lube operators, automotive service providers and select retailers in North America. Castrol, the automotive marketing and technology leader with more than 100 years' experience, offers world-class retailer and installer support under one united global brand. Call 1-888-CASTROL or visit www.castrolusa.com.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Don Prudhomme , Phil Burkart