Pedregon rides momentum into Fram/Autolite Nationals SONOMA, Calif. Cool weather or hot; humidity or not. Right now it simply doesn't seem to matter to Tony Pedregon, who returns this week (Aug. 2-4) to a reconfigured and re-christened...
Pedregon rides momentum into Fram/Autolite Nationals
SONOMA, Calif. Cool weather or hot; humidity or not. Right now it simply doesn't seem to matter to Tony Pedregon, who returns this week (Aug. 2-4) to a reconfigured and re-christened Infineon Raceway as THE hottest Funny Car driver on the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour.
Pedregon, who for most of the last seven seasons has raced in the shadow of boss, teammate and mentor John Force, has been almost unbeatable since debuting a brand new, Murf McKinney-built Castrol SYNTEC0x2122 Ford Mustang to start the "Western Swing," a critical combination of mid-season races that concludes Sunday with the 15th running of the Fram/Autolite Nationals.
Pedregon's high-tech Ford, a 7,000 horsepower, 325 mile-an-hour marvel, was dominant two weeks ago at mile-high Bandimere Speedway outside Denver, Colo., where it most certainly would have won but for an unanticipated engine misfire in the final round.
It dominated again last week at sea level elevation, where Pedregon won the rain-delayed Northwest Nationals at Seattle, Wash., in wire-to-wire fashion, posting both the quickest time and fastest speed of the event.
Not even the absence of veteran Crew Chief John Medlen, who missed the Seattle race while recuperating from a procedure to open a blocked artery, has slowed the 37-year-old Californian who, three times in the last six years (1996, 1997 and 1999) finished second in driver points behind Force, the same position he occupies entering this, the 15th of 23 races in the 2002 series.
Winner of more races the last seven seasons (16) than anyone other than Force, Pedregon is not concerned with the fact that the track on which he will race this week bears absolutely no resemblance to that on which he was runner-up in 1997 and 2000.
"Whatever the conditions, I know that we have a team that can adapt to them," said the inaugural winner (1996) of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award. "I think we've proved that we can handle whatever they throw at us."
This week's challenge will be an improved racing surface, one far different from that on which Pedregon set a Funny Car speed record of 310.84 mph last year. The tired, old asphalt has been replaced with a new, high-traction mix and the puny 100-foot concrete launch pad has given way to a new 600-footer.
"Our car should respond very well to that set-up," Pedregon said. "The short (concrete) pad always was a problem in the past. There's no doubt that we'll see new (track) records, maybe even national records."
As if he needed any more impetus, Pedregon will get his Crew Chief back this week. Medlen has been released to rejoin the tour although his duties will initially be curtailed to some extent while he continues to mend.
Medlen, who has been with Pedregon since the two joined the John Force Racing effort in 1996, actually helped "coach" acting Crew Chief Dickie Venables via telephone last week at Seattle.
However, "having him back in person will give us a big boost," Pedregon said. "Dickie did a great job. He proved beyond a doubt that he can handle the pressure and the situation. But Medlen is the anchor on this team and we need his experience down the stretch."
In addition to his success the last two weeks, Pedregon won earlier this year at Gainesville, Fla., and Topeka, Kan. He is one of three Funny Car drivers (along with Force and Del Worsham) to have won three times this year and one of just two (with Force) to have started three races from the No. 1 spot.