St Louis: Tony Pedregon at St. Louis

MADISON, Ill. - Tony Pedregon, one of the Funny Car favorites in this week's (June 22-24) fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, credits the discipline he developed as a boxer for much of the success he has...

MADISON, Ill. - Tony Pedregon, one of the Funny Car favorites in this week's (June 22-24) fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, credits the discipline he developed as a boxer for much of the success he has enjoyed in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"After work, when I was growing up, I didn't like just going home and putting my feet up," Pedregon said. "(So) I took up boxing because it really kept me active and taught me a lot of discipline. The mentality of a boxer is really a lot like the mentality of a drag racer.

"I learned a lot about controlling your fears and your emotions and turning that adrenaline rush into something positive. We all have fear. We all get emotional. We all have these things that we need to control and boxing taught me to do that."

Those lessons came rushing back to the 35-year-old Californian last Sunday as he prepared to send his Castrol SYNTEC Mustang against points leader Jerry Toliver's Firebird in the final round of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Kirkersville, Ohio.

"It was really special to me because it was Father's Day," Pedregon said, "and because of how I would have liked it if my dad (the late Frank Pedregon, a 1960s' era Top Fuel Dragster driver) could have been there. Plus, I knew my brothers were with me. Cruz was watching at home (on television) and Frankie was on the starting line. But those are some of the things you really have to block out when you're in the car.

    "You get people coming up to you and saying, 'good job.'  I know  
how to take a compliment, but you have to understand that if you start  
believing everything you hear, you start thinking, 'hey, I really am  
that good,' and you forget about being in the fight.                    

"That's something I've really learned because of (Castrol teammate) John (Force). He's made me realize that mentally you have to let all those things roll right off, the good things and the bad. In this game, you can't afford to get too high or too low."

Right now, having beaten Toliver for his first victory of the new millennium and the ninth of his career, Pedregon's emotions are running toward the high side.

That's why he's so anxious to get back into competition.

    "The fun's over now and I really want to be brought back to         
reality," he said.  "I'm not going to rest on my laurels.  We're at the 
start of a six-or-seven week stretch where we're busy every weekend.    

"Last week was Columbus. This week we're in St. Louis. Then we match race in Norwalk (Ohio) and from there we go straight to Bristol (Tenn., for the Winston Showdown, a bonus race that pays a $200,000 winner's purse). I like that. It keeps the team in sync and it keeps the driver in sync because, even today, every time down that track is a learning experience."

    A finalist in every fourth start for Team Castrol, Pedregon was     
runner-up to Force in last year's Sears Craftsman Nationals.            

Tony Pedregon at...... Gateway Int'l Raceway Madison, Illinois Starts: 3 Times No. 1: 0 Finals: 1 Wins: 0 Won-Lost Record: 3-3 Best Performances: 4.918 seconds, June 26, 1999 309.98 mph, June 26, 1999 LAST YEAR " After qualifying fifth, Tony beat Del Worsham, Dean Skuza and Tommy Johnson Jr., before losing to boss and teammate John Force in the final.

DID YOU KNOW: Tony is the Hispanic spokesperson for AAA of Texas ....in 1996, Tony earned the AAA of Southern California Road to the Future Award, which identifies the sport's future stars ....although he's in only his fifth full season on the pro tour, Tony already has raced in 25 finals rounds. That's more than anyone in the current Top 10 except for teammate John Force....Tony owns the quickest quarter mile ever posted by a Funny Car at 4.779 seconds....Tony is the only driver other than teammate John Force to have broken the 4.80 second barrier. He is one of only three drivers to have accelerated beyond 320 mph in a full-bodied race car....Tony has faced teammate John Force in 12 final rounds, winning three times. Tony has finished second in Winston points two of the last three seasons (1996, 1997, 1999).....Tony never has won NHRA national events back-to-back.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying at 4:45 pm and 8:45 pm (ET) on Thursday and Friday; Finals at 5 pm (ET) Saturday.

THE RACE ON TV: Two hour qualifying highlights at 8 pm (ET) Saturday and two hour race highlights at 10 pm (ET) Sunday on ESPN2. "NHRA Heat" at 6:30 pm (ET) on Thursday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , John Force , Jerry Toliver , Tommy Johnson Jr.