Topeka: Tony Pedregon to defend hat trick

Pedregon Looking To Defend His Hat Trick of Victories at O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals TOPEKA, Kan. - Heartland Park Topeka played a special role in Tony Pedregon's NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship season in 2003. Not only did he claim the...

Pedregon Looking To Defend His Hat Trick of Victories at O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals

TOPEKA, Kan. - Heartland Park Topeka played a special role in Tony Pedregon's NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship season in 2003. Not only did he claim the event trophy, but it also was the third consecutive season that Pedregon won the Funny Car race in Topeka.

The hat trick of race victories was the first in Pedregon's career. The championship was a first too. Pedregon went a perfect 8-0 in final round appearances in 2003 en route to the championship.

The 2004 season, however, has been a different story for Pedregon and his new Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo team. Pedregon has yet to win a race so far this season and he would like nothing more than to win his fourth consecutive race in Kansas. Making a wish turn into reality won't be easy. In the first seven races of the season, there have been five different Funny Car drivers to claim an event win.

The race for top honors in Funny Car continues May 27-30 when the NHRA makes its Memorial Day weekend stop at Heartland Park Topeka for the 16th annual O'Reilly Summer NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol GTX. Larry Dixon and Greg Anderson join Pedregon as the defending winners in their respective categories for the $1.9 million race, the ninth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"I'm looking forward to four in a row," Pedregon said. "It's always been one of the better tracks that we race at throughout the year. We've had a lot of success there and we'd like to make it four in a row. The new challenge is to do that as the team owner and with our new Quaker State sponsor. It will also be the last race for us and the Shrek 2 car as a promotion and I would like nothing more than to put it in winner's circle."

If Pedregon can earn a win, it will be his first as a team owner. After spending eight seasons with the John Force Racing camp, Pedregon set out on his own this season. Pedregon and his brother, Cruz, have a two-car operation. Cruz Pedregon - the 1992 Funny Car champion - drives the Advance Auto Parts Monte Carlo.

"We're a young team and we're very motivated," Tony Pedregon said. "We feel there's a lot of potential and we're very capable of winning. I think it's just a matter of time before we're able to put a string of runs together.

"There's nothing I don't enjoy about being a team owner. My schedule is a lot more demanding and there's a lot more that I'm involved with now. It's not just demanding on race weekends anymore. It's demanding throughout the week as well. I think the part I enjoy most is being at the track and working with Cruz and interacting with the team."

Pedregon's best event so far was a runner-up finish at Phoenix during the second race of the season. He's proven that his car has great performance. He earned top qualifying honors at Las Vegas 1, Atlanta Dragway and last weekend at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. He recorded career-best performance numbers to lead the quick Chicago field, clocking a jaw-dropping 4.716 second run at 331.28 mph. He said the team makes improvements often.

"We've been able to set low E.T. at a few races and we made it to the finals at Phoenix," Pedregon said. "There have been a few races where I feel we're still going through the growing process, but over all I feel we're on track for a successful season.

"The performance is there, we just need to get the consistency with it and hopefully we can get a win. It's tougher now because the class is more competitive but the potential is there. We're hoping it's just a matter of time before we can put it all together. I believe this team can."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon