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Pedregon brothers to fire up Nitro

For many motorsports fans, there is nothing quite as breathtaking as witnessing an 8,000 horsepower Nitro Funny Car blasting off the starting line in what can only be described as a high powered display of horsepower, header flames and plenty of noise and speed.

Put two cars on the line against one another and the added rush might even make one yellout, "Oh, brother!"

How appropriate as it will be brothers, Cruz and Tony Pedregon who will be providing the nitro propelled thrills Friday night in a Nitro Funny Car match race that is the highlight of Dunn Tire Raceway Park's drag racing season.

Cruz Pedregon, 47, and his brother Tony, 45, are California natives as well as Nitro Funny Car veterans. They reside in Brownsburg, Ind. They are the sons of the late drag racer Frank Pedregon.

While many may consider a match race a pure exhibition because it is not an actual point paying race on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the idea is to give fans a strong flavor of what these cars can do.

For certain Tony is looking very seriously at the event and considers it vital to trying to correct what has been by his standards, a mediocre season to date. Tony has won two NHRA Nitro Funny Car championships (2003, 2007), but is currently mired this season in 13th in points after a first round loss last Sunday in Norwalk, Ohio.

Similar to NASCAR's Chase To The Cup, the NHRA's Countdown To The Championship, allows only the top 10 in Nitro Funny Car points after the first 16 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series of the season to make the final six event playoff. After Norwalk, the 10th race of the season, Tony has 372 markers with Johnny Gray residing in 10th with 441.

"I'm treating this match race very seriously," said Tony. "That's my approach. We're well into the NHRA season and we are not in the Countdown To The Championship yet. We've got to turn our season around and make a move right now."

Further proof that Tony has to basically try to make all out runs at Lancaster is due to the fact that he is investing an important test session date there in an attempt to find more positive car-related performance results.

Match races now have added significance compared to years gone by. In order to try to save the teams money, NHRA limits the amount of times that a team can test during a season to just four per year. That now includes any match races like Friday's.

So Tony will burn a precious test date in the hopes it will pay off. Unlike Cruz, who did run a match race at the strip a few seasons ago, Tony has never seen Dunn Tire Raceway Park.

"Even though Dunn Tire is an eighth-mile track and we normally run on longer tracks, what we learn from our event at Dunn Tire can translate to the longer tracks," said Tony. "I plan on getting to the track Thursday [today] and study the track and learn it's characteristics to see what I think the car can handle compared to track conditions.

"My approach is that we want to be cautious, but put on the best show we can and get some good solid runs to get the test results we want. This is not just a match race but a test session to try to find out more about our car.

"I've never raced in Buffalo before and I'm pretty excited. Cruz's car is running great, but I have to sort through some things with mine."

Cruz is having a much better season then his sibling having made it to the semi-finals at Norwalk. He currently is a solid fourth in the NHRA season standings. He lost in the final round twice in 2011, in the Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Fla., and the Super Nationals in Englishtown, N.J.

He won twice on the NHRA circuit last year and won the NHRA Nitro Funny Car championship in 1992 and 2008.

"I remember that the track at Dunn Tire had really good traction with a lot of grip and that it was part of an oval track," Cruz said. "The best thing I enjoy is going out to a place like that where fans don't get to see our type of cars very often and put on a show for them."

In the ever changing world of drag racing, both Pedregon brothers have been at the top of the sport at times, but have both also suffered through some struggles.

"We've had to overcome some adversity of our own, after I won the championship in 2008," said Cruz. "After that season I lost my team and sponsor and had to rebuild again. After a couple years of rebuilding, this has been a really fun year because we've been really fast everywhere we've gone from coast to coast.

"My goal for Dunn Tire is to make good runs and to challenge ourselves and the race track and see if we can get our car to master the track. We've been able to master the tracks so far this season.

"We learn something every time we do a match race and it's a lot better then sitting home on the couch and watching TV. That's how we get up on our competition," he said.

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e-mail: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com