KENT, Wash. -- The key to success for Tony Pedregon in this week's (July 28-30) 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals probably won't be whether he leaves the starting line at Seattle International Raceway ahead of his ...
KENT, Wash. -- The key to success for Tony Pedregon in this week's (July 28-30) 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals probably won't be whether he leaves the starting line at Seattle International Raceway ahead of his opponent.
He's done that with uncanny consistency all year long. In fact, the second generation pro has the best record of any driver in the fuel categories. The Castrol SYNTEC™ Ford Mustang has been first off the starting line in 70.9 per cent of the heats in which Pedregon has been involved this year.
The thing that has kept the 35-year-old Californian from seriously challenging Jerry Toliver and Castrol GTX™ teammate John Force for the points lead is what has happened mechanically downtrack.
"There's no secret that we've had some mechanical problems," Pedregon said, "but I think we're making progress. Mainly, it's been a case of bad timing and inconsistency. The numbers our car has put up are as good as anyone's. We've just had trouble repeating our performances.
"After we won Columbus (the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at Kirkersville, Ohio), we thought we had turned the corner. But we've gone out in the first round the last two races because the car didn't run on eight cylinders. When the other guy is running on eight and you've only got seven, the result is predictable."
Despite those nagging mechanical problems, Pedregon has been to the final round four times and comes into SIR in third place in the battle for a Winston Championship for which he has been runner-up three times in the last four seasons.
A nine-time tour winner, all as a member of Team Castrol, Pedregon has been a contender every year he's raced at SIR. The Funny Car runner-up in his first two trips (1996 and 1997), he reached the semifinals in 1998 and was well positioned last year before a still unsolved mystery took him out in the first round.
The No. 4 qualifier, Pedregon never fired a shot last year when the 7,000 horsepower engine in his Castrol Ford refused to fire in advance of a first round duel with veteran Al Hofmann. The supposition was that a foreign liquid found its way into the squirt bottle used to prime the injector.
Regardless, Pedregon said the team feels compelled to redeem itself starting with Friday's two qualifying sessions. "I'm very, very motivated," Pedregon said. "We're back at sea level where we can get these Fords to really run like they should. My crew and John's, they did a lot of work on these new Mustang bodies to get them right and, mentally, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes (to win).
"I told John (after both were eliminated in the first round two weeks ago at Denver), â€˜let's not worry about it. It was a tough weekend for us, but we'll just work a little harder.' It's hard to imagine that we could, but we will. We'll come out swinging this week."
Tony Pedregon at......
Seattle Int'l Raceway Kent, Washington
Starts: 4 Times No. 1 qualifier: 0 Final rounds: 2 (1996, 1997) Wins: 0 Won-Lost Record: 8-4 Best Performances: 5.028 seconds, July 31, 1998 and Aug. 4, 1996 303.23 mph, Aug. 3, 1997 LAST YEAR -- After qualifying 4th, Tony was on the sidelines after round one when his car wouldn't fire, giving Al Hofmann a free ride into the second round.
DID YOU KNOW: Tony is responsible for painting one-of-a-kind driving helmets not only for himself and Force but also for Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., Top Fuel drivers Cory McClenathan and Kenny Bernstein and his racing brothers, Cruz and Frank ....Tony is the Hispanic spokesperson for AAA of Texas ....in 1996, his first year with Team Castrol, 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 the1999 Top 10 except for teammate John Force....Tony has won at least one NHRA national event in every season with Team Castrol....Tony owns the quickest quarter mile time ever posted in a drag racing Funny Car at 4.779 seconds, a mark he set two years ago at Gainesville, Fla....Tony is one of only three FC drivers to have broken the 320 mph barrier.
The Race on TV: Two hours qualifying coverage, 10:30 pm (ET), Saturday, July 29; Two hours race coverage, 7 pm (ET), Sunday, July 30; NHRA Heat pre-race show, 6:30 pm (ET), Thursday. All ESPN2.
Schedule: Pro qualifying, 5:30 and 9:30 pm (ET), Friday, July 28; 2:30 and 7 pm (ET), Saturday, July 29. Finals starting at 1 pm (ET), Sunday. July 30. k