NHRA: Tony Pedregon hopes to keep momentum going in Norwalk

Leave a comment

The way his season had been going, two-time NHRA Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon was threatening to become a “Whatever Happened To?” question.

But with his season-best semifinal finish two weeks ago at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, Pedregon hopes he and his Toyota Camry are back on the right track.

Equally important, Pedregon is hoping to ride his new-found momentum and confidence back up the Funny Car rankings, starting with this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

“It’s important for us to pick up where we left off (after Bristol),” Pedregon said in a NHRA media release. “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 (next weekend) 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.”

Pedregon, who has 43 career wins and 76 final round appearances, is still looking for either a win or a final round showing in 2015.

“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.”

He knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him: he’s 14th in the standings with just seven races remaining – including this weekend – to be one of 10 drivers to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs in the Funny Car ranks.

“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.”

Pedregon has a good history at Norwalk, including a previous win at one of the more popular tracks on the NHRA circuit – a popularity that will have an added bonus with the race being run on a holiday weekend and with eye-popping fireworks exhibitions planned over the next few days.

“I’ve seen that facility evolve into the big facility it is,” said Pedregon, who has been racing at Norwalk for more than 20 years, dating back to a number of match races that he competed in back in the early-to-mid 1990s. “The Bader family (track owners 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.”

Qualifying sessions for both Friday and Saturday will be held at 5 and 7:45 pm ET. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).