Pedregon wins, takes points lead
Tony Pedregon had twice the reason to celebrate at the United Association NHRA SuperNationals, wheeling his special-edition Nitro Fish entry to a second straight Funny Car victory and taking the points lead in the process. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock), and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious.
In a rematch of the Chicago final one week ago, Pedregon once again defeated Ashley Force Hood to claim the win. The pair entered the final tied for first in points at the time, meaning the winner would take sole possession of the top spot. The Pro Stock final was also a repeat of Chicago, and like Funny Car, it was a repeat with Coughlin beating Mike Edwards. Dixon continued his success in Englishtown with a fifth win in nine final-round showings at the track, and Treble picked up his second win at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
“There’s never a bad win,” said Dixon. “I’ve had a lot of great losses, so you hope they just balance out. I really don’t know what happened with Antron, but as a driver, you’re human. That stuff happens. You do it. I’ve done it, this year even. I thought I hit the Tree good, but I already heard him leave. So at that point, you’re trying to look at the Tree as you drive by and see if he went red, but it went by too fast. Then, I looked down at the scoreboard and saw our win light on, and it was a relief that I wasn’t dead late. I was going to run it out just to see what it would do, and then it got out there probably 300 feet and pulled the tires loose. We were fortunate with what happened, but at the same time, you don’t know what his car would have done.
“We’ve had a lot of success at this race. The race used to be Father’s Day at Columbus, and we won out until they moved the Father’s Day to here. I was like, ‘Wow, I haven’t won Englishtown in a long time. It would be cool to do that,’ nonchalantly saying that at the beginning of the season. And then all of a sudden, you get to go to a bunch of finals and win here. This is a great track, and there’s so much history here. Racing on the same track as ‘Jungle’ and Garlits and Shirley and all my heroes that I grew up watching race is a great deal.”
Dixon definitely had one of the cars to beat all day, running consistently in the 3.8s on the way to his 86th career final. He opened with a 3.823, the second quickest time of round one, to defeat Rit Pustari, then followed it up with a 3.85 and 3.88 to get around Brandon Bernstein and Shawn Langdon and advance to final round No. 3 on the season; he is perfect in all three of those money-round showings.
On the other side of the ladder, Brown put together a solid showing on the way to his fifth final of the year and 43rd overall final and 10th in Top Fuel. He began with a 3.85 defeat of Joe Hartley, then survived a pedalfest with Morgan Lucas in round two. Brown then advanced to the final when he ran a 3.878, which earned him final-round lane choice, to defeat Tony Schumacher in an important race that determined who would leave Englishtown with the points lead.
“I never thought I’d be afraid of a girl,” said Pedregon. “Fear of losing was in the back of my head. I knew we had a good race car. It ran good in the heat, and it ran good with cloud cover. Before the final, I just knew that Dickie [Venebles, crew chief] was making a lot of adjustments and I had a feeling it would be a close race. I heard her for a while. My car was revving up, spinning the tires. We got after it because we had to. I could feel the Gs falling off, and I was worried. If the track was 1,320 feet, I’d be in big trouble. I didn’t get off throttle. I just hung on. It was just enough. You don’t know how relieved I was to see that win light.
“Ashley is more than just a pretty girl. I’ve said before that she gets a lot of media just because she’s a female, but she deserves it. We spent a little bit of time together last week in New York on Wall Street, and it reminded me of the relationship I have with the Force family. We’re competitive, but they’re not the enemy."
As he did in Chicago, Pedregon put together a flawless performance on race day. He opened things with a 4.07 on a single run after Cory Lee’s car broke and couldn’t make the call. He then ran duplicate 4.132s as he dispatched Del Worsham and Tim Wilkerson to advance to his 71st overall final and fourth of the season.
Force Hood earned a third straight trip to the final round on the strength of 4.0 and 4.1 runs. Starting from the No. 1 position, Force Hood clocked the second-quickest time of the opening stanza, a 4.067, to defeat Jack Beckman; it was the second straight week she defeated him in round one. Force Hood then got the better of Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca III with respective 4.14 and 4.15 passes to advance to her fifth final of 2009 and 10th overall.
“It’s taken some craftiness on our part,” said Coughlin, of his two wins over Edwards, who had the better performing car in both instances. “In the pits, the guys have been doing a fantastic job. We qualified eighth, which was not where we wanted to be, but when the weather mixed up Saturday, we just wanted to make sure that we got down the racetrack. Ideally, we wanted to be in the top eight for lane choice first round, and we finished eighth. We knew we had a lot to work with. We figured we could get within a hundredth and a half or two-hundredths of Mike Edwards and could probably pace with anybody else out there, and as it turned out, that’s about the way it turned out.
“This was a huge, huge win for us to beat Mike on a holeshot there in the final. We both had good lights, and I just stayed in front of him by two little one-thousandths of a second. It was huge for us. I felt confident we could run every bit of a low .59 based on what we just did in the semi’s. We’ve kind of been sneaking around like that all weekend, and I knew we just needed to get a hundredth and a half or two-hundredths jump on Mike, which isn’t easy to do because he’s a world champion Sportsman driver and as good as they come. We were fortunate to get the hundredth and a half on him and stay in front of him by two-thousandths.”
As has been the case through most of the season, Coughlin didn’t have the quickest car on the property, but it was fairly consistent with high-6.5 and low-6.6 runs. He posted his best time of the day, a 6.588, to get past Jason Line. Coughlin then ran a 6.60 to defeat low qualifier Ron Krisher and a 6.626 to get around Allen Johnson. All three of Coughlin’s opponents leading up to his 75th Pro Stock and 93rd overall final had troubles on their run and ran 6.77 seconds or slower.
Edwards was once again the class of the field, running low e.t. of every round. He began the day with the quickest time of the weekend, a 6.555, to trailer Rodger Brogdon and followed it up with a pair of 6.57s en route to victories over Greg Anderson and Greg Stanfield. This was Edwards' third straight final, his sixth of the year, and the 35th Pro Stock money round of his career.
“This track loves me, and I love it,” said Treble, who now has two wins in five final rounds in Englishtown. “I don’t know what it is but I really like it here. The guys like Matt Smith and Eddie [Krawiec] that went 6.90 were out of my league. I did not have a .90 in my bike. Of course, I don’t feel bad about the final because Eddie whipped my butt the last time we raced. I owed that to him. I was doing okay on the starting line, but I just let it fly in the final and went .007. I should have done that other three rounds, but it worked. I’m looking forward to the west coast swing now. I’ve got a major engine overhaul coming up after Norwalk, and I can afford it now.
“Normally my brother, Don Banaski, and Scott Williams are my crew guys, but neither one of them could make it this weekend. I recruited Johnny Thompson, then he broke his leg Friday night, so Michael Phillips and his crew helped us out. Michael is one of my best friends, and I wouldn’t be out here without him."
The final was the second straight round Treble won on a holeshot; he defeated Matt Smith in the same fashion in the semi’s, pairing a .033 reaction with a 6.96 to better Smith’s 6.904, the quickest time of the weekend. Leading up to those rounds, Treble ran a 6.93 and a 6.97 to get past Mike Berry and Karen Stoffer.
Krawiec stretched out his points lead when he advanced to his fourth straight final and the 15th of his career. Krawiec was consistently quick all day with 6.92, 6.99, and 6.95 clockings as he rode around Wes Wells, Harley teammate Andrew Hines, and surprise semifinalist Bailey Whitaker.
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