NHRA: Pedregon’s bold talk sounds convincing

The comment might have seemed brash, maybe even conceited, certainly bold in a world in which John Force still exists. But Tony Pedregon said it before the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio  five events ago.

“The road to the championship,” he said, “still goes through the Pedregons.”

Believe him.

Brothers Tony and Cruz Pedregon currently stand second and fourth in the championship with two events remaining until the Countdown to One begins. Cruz won a championship in 1992, the only man to win a title in the 1990s besides Force. Tony is much more relevant, which might explain why he did the talking. The second-leading winner all-time in funny car, he has two titles, in 2003 while driving for Team Force, the other last season as a team owner.  Clearly, Team Pedregon is a force of its own.

It’s usually blasphemous to make anyone besides John Force the favorite. Force has four Mustangs in his stable, all in the top 10, and it’s naive to think that all that information that’s being gathered isn’t going to pay dividends over the final six events of the season when a champion is crowned. As it stands, Force is seventh in the championship, his daughter Ashley is fifth, son-in-law Robert Hight is third, and Mike Neff is 10th. With two races remaining before the NHRA’s playoff system kicks in, all could be among the 10 contenders for the championship.

But Pedregon is the reigning champion. And after two-thirds of a season in which Tim Wilkerson seemingly deserved the championship — he is the points leader and has four victories — Pedregon’s way of thinking should be starting to take hold.

The day after he made his comment about all roads leading past his front door, he won. With his victory laslt week in Brainerd, Minn., Pedregon now has won 25% of the races this season, same as Wilkerson. Pedregon has won two of the five events since he threw down the gantlet and been to the semifinals twice.

The victory Sunday also proved that Pedregon could win at 1,000 feet, not just a quarter-mile. For the past four events, In the wake of Scott Kalitta’s death, the nitro classes have been racing 1,000 feet instead for the normal 1,320.

The NHRA’s  move to 1,000 feet has proven less destructive on equipment, and it appears that at the shorter distances, the Pedregons — whose father was nicknamed Flamin’ Frank Pedregon — have stopped blowing themselves up like amateur chemists.

Cruz seemed to be the worlds fastest bonfire the past couple of years. This season, Tony and crew chief Dickie Venables authored a couple of the sport’s greatest fireballs ever. At the shorter distance, that hasn’t been a problem, and Tony has a victory and two semifinal appearances at 1,000 feet.

It may prove out that Pedregon was right. As the sport reaches a transitional stage in its history, he may win another championship and prove that he is The Man in the class.

That’s what he should be striving for, what every driver should be striving for. But he will know, and everyone else will too, that the road to the championship goes through the Pedregons when someone other than a Pedregon says it.


One Response to “NHRA: Pedregon’s bold talk sounds convincing”

  1. […] in the season, Tony said the championship went through the Pedregons. Though his performance in succeeding weeks gave […]

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