Virginia NHRA Nationals
Big win puts Pedregon back in the championship mix
Racing with his title hopes in the balance, the 1992 world champ delivered like a professional, claiming the No. 1 qualifying position with the quickest 1,000-foot run in drag racing history and converting it into his 24th career win Sunday to zoom to within 69 points of leader Tim Wilkerson, whom Pedregon beat in the semifinals.
"I don't think I'm gonna be able to sleep tonight because I want to enjoy this moment so much," said Pedregon, whose last win came two and a half years ago. "I told the guys this morning that no matter what happened today I wanted everyone to have fun. It was so cool to see them celebrating with me down there when they came to pick me up. A lot of the crew guys hadn't won before and they sure earned the right to celebrate today.
"You know, I'm in awe of my crew chief, Rahn Tobler. Until he joined us last September he had never tuned a Funny Car. Look how far he's come in such a short amount of time. He had so much success with Shirley Muldowney and I promised him I'd do my best if he came over here. He could probably have any job he wants out here but we work really well together and I'm glad to have him."
The 1992 world champion collected his 24th career win with a wire-to-wire job on "Fast" Jack Beckman that began with a .016-second headstart and ended with a 4.113-second clocking at 296.44 mph. Beckman's car lost traction 100 feet into the run, forcing him to surrender.
Pedregon's win over Wilkerson in Round 3 was arguably the biggest of the race as it effectively represented a 40-point swing in the points. Pedregon's car was perfect, running a 4.134 at 296.76 mph in the win, while Wilkerson encountered mechanical problems and slowed to a 4.438 at 250.78 mph.
In all four of Sunday's races, Pedregon managed to leave the starting line ahead of his opponents.
"I feel like my driving has been solid and if I can gain any advantage at all from inside the cockpit than all the better for our team," Pedregon said. "Tim Wilkerson had a big lead coming in here and if he had run the table it would have been near impossible to catch him. By beating him today we kept our hopes alive. We still need something special to happen in the last two races but we're a lot closer now than we were three days ago.
"It was also a big-time thrill to do so well in
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