The goal has not changed. The situation has for Tony Pedregon and his Quaker State Chevy Impala team.
While the rest of the Funny Car division looked up at the fast-starting Ron Capps, Pedregon focused on his team's goals.
"That's when we went on a little bit of a streak," said Pedregon. "We were consistently getting into the semifinals and not getting beat in the early rounds. We looked up after a few races and Ron had gotten beat early. It wasn't even a goal to try to chase him down until we got close.
"After we won our second consecutive race, we were only 80 points out of first so our goal changed a little bit after that."
Now Pedregon leads the Funny Car category by 11 points over Capps and 47 points over third-place Ashley Force Hood with three races remaining before the Countdown to the Championship.
In the competitive division, Pedregon will take it.
Tony Pedregon in his Quaker State Chevy Impala ignited off the starting line during his win in Chicago. Pedregon owns the Funny Car points lead heading into this weekend's event at BIR.
NHRA Submitted Photo
"I've been driving professionally for more than 13 years and this is as tough as it's been," he said. "I've been through a couple of different eras that were very competitive, but this is without question the most competitive. There are cars not even in the top 10 that in the past would have contended for a championship.
"There are a dozen to 14 teams that on any Sunday could be winning. I can't believe the competitive parity. I think overall it's good for the sport."
Pedregon is leading for a reason. He's been to five finals claiming two victories.
He picked up seconds in Gainesville, Fla., and Bristol, Tenn., before beating Hood to the line June 7 in Chicago and a week later over Hood in Englishtown, N.J.
It was the third time Pedregon and Hood had dueled in a final. Pedregon has won each time.
During the Western Swing, the Quaker State team fell victim to Tim Wilkerson's winning streak, finishing runner-up to him at Seattle and Sonoma.
Category: Funny Car
Residence: Indianapolis, Ind.
Sponsor/Car: Quaker State Chevy Impala
Crew Chief: Dickie Venables
Career wins: 42
2009 wins/final rounds: 2/5
Current points standing: First
Pedregon's team returns to Brainerd for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, site of one of their four victories last season and he's excited for two reasons.
"We're in the points lead, but we left a little on the table the last two races with two runners up," Pedregon said. "With today's competition that is a great achievement, but still it's really about winning races. That's going to help in the point system and the Countdown coming up.
"Now we have two goals - to maintain our position in the top three and win races. We're going back to a place that has good memories for me."
Pedregon finds himself in a difficult situation, however. He's a low-budget team competing against financially stable competition. He said momentum is key heading into the Countdown, but so are car parts.
"I may consider looking at our economic situation," he said. "I would like to be smart and pace ourselves. We may look at not doing as many qualifying runs. From a competitive standpoint we hate to do that, but the fact is the cars we're competing with, they're more funded than I am. That's a fact and I have to be smart. I can't just think as a racer. I have to look at everything."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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