NHRA: Tony Pedregon set for new chapter of racing career as TV analyst

(Photo courtesy Fox Sports)
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While he was racing Funny Cars for 20 years, when it came to racing opponents and the strategy he’d implement, Tony Pedregon was wily like a fox.

That made Pedregon a natural selection when Fox Sports hired him as analyst for its telecasts of the 2016 NHRA season.

Pedregon is savvy, witty, and intelligent and knows drag racing as well as any driver out there. He should bring a great deal of insight to the telecasts with his unbridled opinions of the sport, its competitors and won’t be afraid to voice his opinion – even if it might be contrary to others.

The two-time NHRA Funny Car champion spoke recently at length in a Fox Sports media release about his new role, as the new NHRA season gets ready to kick off in two weeks.

“The timing seemed to be right,” the southern California native said in the Fox release. “I’ve been a hired driver and team owner, winning championships in both roles. But as much as I enjoy driving, I never imagined myself being in the seat for another five to 10 years, maybe as a team owner, and I always had in the back of my mind that there are safer things in life than sitting behind a 10,000-horsepower motor.

“When the thought of being a part of the new Fox Sports broadcast team became a consideration, everything about it pointed to something very appealing and more and more like the next chapter of my career.”

Like many of his fellow drivers, Pedregon and older brother Cruz, a former champion himself, have both been longtime students of the sport and its history – and that now includes the broadcasting side of things.

He’s following in a long line of noted broadcasters that have covered the sport over the years including the late Steve Evans, legendary Dave McClelland, Chris Economaki and most recently, Mike Dunn, who had been a fixture on ESPN telecasts of NHRA races for more than a decade.

“My first memories of drag racing were on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, which was unreal for us to be able to watch racing when we knew we couldn’t attend,” he said. “The announcers used to wear pale yellow sport coats and it seemed like a great time in drag racing to watch Big Daddy (Don Garlits) race Shirley (Muldowney), and the Snake (Don Prudhomme) take on the Blue Max (Raymond Beadle). Drivers gave real interviews and did not lose the viewers’ interest with redundant sponsor mentions.”

So in the same way he used to study fellow Funny Car drivers, Pedregon has been studying old tapes of some of his drag racing TV broadcast booth predecessors to further hone and refine his own announcing style. He’s also studying tape of other sports telecasts such as the NFL and boxing to pick up additional pointers.

Pedregon knows that a lot of attention will be focused upon him and his new role, but that’s just part of an overall switch to Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 from the often-criticized coverage from NHRA’s previous TV partner, ESPN.

“We have a great high-energy product with interesting personalities and stories, and like anything else, the only thing the sport has lacked is the ability to share the experience, particularly with new audiences,” Pedregon said. “Our current fans are the best and they want some consistency in being able to find the show, but the live factor is something that would help any sport grow.

“I’m sure we share the same expectations and that is to better expose and present the quickest and fastest show on wheels to viewers. When we do that, growth will follow.”

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Supercross: Talon Hawkins to debut in Houston in relief of Jalek Swoll

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Talon Hawkins, 19, will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut on a 250 this week in Houston, Texas as a fill-in rider for Jalek Swoll.

During the Anaheim 2 weekend, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team announced Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken arm suffered in a practice crash.

That same weekend, Hawkins made some noise. He took the lead from teammate Casey Cohran on Lap 2 of the 250 SX Futures Main and led for three laps before he was overtaken by eventual winner Daxton Bennick. Cochran also got around him to push Hawkins to third.

This will not be Hawkins SuperMotocross professional debut, however; he made three Lucas Oil Pro Motocross starts last year with results of 19th at Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota, 27th at Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana and a best finish of 17th in the season finale at Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

Hawkins also has a top-10 finish in the 125 All-Star division at Pala in 2019 riding a Husqvarna.

Speaking with RacerXOnline.com before the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals, Hawkins predicted his future with Husqvarna would come down to how he performed in that race.

“It all just comes down to how I perform at Loretta’s,” Hawkins said. “Say I do really well, I get a top three in both classes and do a pretty solid job, I would like to go pro and just kind of finish out the rest of the series. But there’s also the option of waiting a little bit longer, going back out to [Aldon] Baker’s [Factory] or going anywhere and training, and just being prepared. I’m also open to that too. Honestly, it’s whatever the team wants. Whatever we think is the best option is what we’re going to go with. So, I don’t really have a plan right now, just looking into the future.”

Hawkins finished third overall in the 125 B/C and Schoolboy divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Nationals.