ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- But for teammates and siblings, Tony Pedregon might be returning to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park this week (May 19-21) as a two-time champion of the Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals. Instead, he's just another...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- But for teammates and siblings, Tony Pedregon might be returning to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park this week (May 19-21) as a two-time champion of the Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals.
Instead, he's just another of the legion of Funny Car drivers looking for a breakthrough victory.
Two times, more often than at any other track, the second generation pro has put his Castrol SYNTEC™ Funny Car on the pole at Raceway Park. Twice he has reached the semifinals. Unfortunately, he ran up against Castrol GTX® teammate and mentor John Force in the 1996 semis and against older brother Cruz in the same round in '99.
"We had a car good enough to win here both years (1996 and 1999)," Pedregon said, "but we couldn't get past the semifinals. This year, I think we have a Mustang capable of getting us over that last big hurdle."
An eight-time tour winner, Pedregon has finished second in the Funny Car driver standings three of the last four years, each time behind Force.
This season, Pedregon has been on a roller coaster ride. Twice he has put his SYNTEC Ford in the finals -- at the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., and the inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas, Nevada -- and twice he has come up short.
After reaching the semifinals of the CSK Nationals at Phoenix, his car wouldn't start, a freak situation compounded by new rules which limit preparation time to 75 minutes between each round. Two weeks ago at the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Ga., the Chino Hills, Calif., driver had an early lead against points leader Jerry Toliver when the engine malfunctioned.
"These things definitely run better on eight cylinders," Pedregon said of his Atlanta misfortune. "(The engine) put a cylinder out, but it was still motoring okay on seven. I just thought, 'please let him (Toliver) smoke the tires.' But it didn't happen. He stuck a nose on me and there was nothing flying out of his (exhaust) pipes so I said, 'well, you might as well save the motor.'"
That's an attitude that has endeared the 35-year-old to both his boss and his Crew Chief, John Medlen, whose responsibility it is to put the engines back together once they've come apart.
"I think he's the second best driver out there," Medlen said of Pedregon. "And that's after John (Force), which is really saying something. Since he was on the crew before he started driving, he can give you a lot of insight. He's going to be a champion some day. I hope we get there together."
First, though, the SYNTEC tandem has to conquer current problems relating to consistency.
"We've had a competitive car at every race this year," Pedregon acknowledged. "We just haven't been able to put four good runs together. That'll be our goal at Englishtown."
TB} Tony Pedregon at......
Old Bridge Raceway Park Englishtown, New Jersey
Starts: 4 Times No. 1 qualifier: 2 (1996, 1999) Final round appearances: 0 Wins: 0 Won-Lost Record: 5-4 Best Performances: 4.904 seconds, May 21, 1999 316.08 mph, May 21, 1999 LAST YEAR -- After qualifying on the pole, Tony beat Gary Densham and Al Hofmann before losing to his brother, Cruz, in the semifinals.
DID YOU KNOW: Tony has qualified for 103 consecutive Winston Series races....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 23 finals rounds. That's more than anyone in the1999 Top 10 except for teammate John Force....Tony owns the quickest time in Funny Car history at 4.779 seconds (Gainesville, Fla., 1999). The Race on TV: ESPN2 will provide two hours of qualifying highlights (7 pm, ET, Saturday) and two hours of race coverage (7:30 pm, ET, Sunday).
SCHEDULE -- Nitro qualifying at 4 pm and 8 pm Friday; 12:15 pm and 4 pm Saturday. Finals starting at 11 am Sunday.