2015 NHRA: Two-Time NHRA Funny Car World Champion Tony Pedregon Wants To Keep Momentum Going Heading To Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals
NORWALK, Ohio — Tony Pedregon found out what his car and team are capable of with a semifinal performance at the most recent NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Bristol.
Instead of being satisfied, the two-time Funny Car world champion wants his best finish in a year to signal the start of a strong summer in his 10,000-horsepower Pedregon Racing Toyota Camry.
Pedregon has a chance to continue that momentum at this weekend’s ninth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, a venue where he hopes to pick up his second event victory.
"It’s important for us to pick up where we left off," Pedregon said. "We want to be able to qualify well and really get past that first round again. That’s really our biggest goal. True progress for us is going to Norwalk and Chicago and doing that. We’re trying to be consistent and that starts in qualifying. We want to qualify in the top half and continue that into eliminations. The key for us is to just get some solid races in."
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the popular Ohio event just west of Cleveland that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. It is the 12th NHRA Mello Yello Series event of the season and marks the circuit’s halfway point.
After struggling with consistency all year, Pedregon found his rhythm in Bristol, knocking off Alexis DeJoria and Del Worsham to reach his first semifinal of the season. He put together a number of solid runs, qualifying 12th and running well in warm conditions.
Pedregon, who has 43 career wins and 76 final round appearances, ran well against DeJoria in the first round before a rod broke near the finish line, and followed up with another consistent run against Worsham. Getting multiple satisfactory runs in one weekend was hugely beneficial for Pedregon, who is currently 14th in points, and gives him a major building point heading into a key stretch of the regular season.
"We had a good race in Bristol but we can continue to get better," Pedregon said. "Bristol was the first race where we put together a string of some good runs. In terms of performance, it was a good weekend. The end result was good for us.
"We’ve been qualifying OK and we’ve made some good runs but we really have struggled to do it consecutively. It was encouraging to see us do that in Bristol. We adjusted for the conditions and just didn’t back into the semis. We got to the semis by performance and the car did what we were trying to do."
That’s been the goal all along, but it’s also been a struggle trying to get that to happen in a loaded Funny Car field. Pedregon’s Camry has performed well at the starting line but has repeatedly come across difficulty at half-track. It’s happened multiple times during eliminations, a matter Pedregon hopes he solved in Bristol. But he must also walk a fine line in being efficient with the parts he has.
"The key to what we’re trying to do is to run good without hurting parts," Pedregon said. "We’ve made quite a bit of progress and that’s important for us."
Gaining traction in a star-studded class isn’t easy and Pedregon will face off against all of the category’s top challengers in Norwalk. The 16-time Funny Car world champion Force raced to his second victory of the season last year at Norwalk while points leader and defending world champion Matt Hagan is after his first victory at the track. Jack Beckman and Tim Wilkerson are the only other active Funny Car drivers with Norwalk victories, but other class standouts who are primed to turn on win lights include Ron Capps, Courtney Force, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Tommy Johnson Jr., Robert Hight, and Tony’s brother Cruz Pedregon, also a two-time world champ.
Norwalk has been a favorite track for Tony Pedregon since he competed in some match-races there in the 1990s. Since then, he’s watched it evolve into a state-of-the-art facility and blossom as a key stop on the Mello Yello Series tour. But Pedregon admires what the Bader family has done to continue to cater to the fans, making it a thrilling weekend for everyone involved.
"I’ve seen that facility evolve into the big facility it is," Pedregon said. "The Bader family really pays attention to every detail and they really take care of the facility, and there’s great fans up there. It’s a really big event but they really accommodate all the fans and take care of them, and that means a lot."
Las Vegas Post Race Report
(Las Vegas, NV) April 14, 2015–Tony Pedregon and his American Racing Funny Car Race Team qualified 12th this past weekend at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, but lost another close first round match-up.
A great race! In the first round of competition Tony Pedregon faced Del Worsham. Pedregon is 38-23 against Worsham in prior events. Pedregon was out of the gate first and led at 60 feet, but lost in another close race with the slightest of margins –MOV 0.0598 seconds (approximately 26 feet).
"We haven't seen the on track results we have been working towards but I am confident that things will come together in the next race or two. This team can still do more for less and will be able to compete with the higher funded teams"
Tony Pedregon who won the NHRA World Championship in 2003 and 2007, is 2nd on the list of all-time NHRA Funny Car wins with 43.
LAS VEGAS RACE RESULTS:
QUALIFIED: 12th, 4.129 303.98 mph
ROUND 1: Pedregon 4.211/291.95 mph vs. Worsham 4.110/312.71 mph
NEXT RACE: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues April 24-26 with the O’Reillly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals in Houston.
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