Tony Pedregon is not afraid to do his homework when it comes to undertaking an assignment. The two-time NHRA Funny Car champion turned FOX color commentator listened to every word Jeff Lane explained to him when it came to the inner workings of the Factory Stock/AA Cobra Jet he was about to drive down the quarter-mile at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
Even though Pedrgon has a fuel Funny Car license, he went through the process of completing the cross-over requirements to license for a special match race he’s scheduled to participate in on Friday against Bob Tasca III, who is driving an all-electric version of the Cobra Jet.
Pedregon drove Bo Butner’s Super Gas Corvette at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky, to complete the task.
“My approach, it’s always been the same,” Pedregon said. “It just reminded me that race cars are fast and they’re dangerous. I’ve always told people that that speed and acceleration is all relative. If you’re on a go-kart that’ll do 70 miles an hour, it’s pretty scary because you’re one inch off the ground. You’ve got no roll cage.
“In a funny car, which is the complete opposite extreme, you have this false sense of security. 330 is 330, either way you slice it. And at some point, you become a passenger, but the more car control that you have the better.”
Simply put, Pedregon respects race cars, regardless of whether they burn nitro or not.
“My approach to licensing was this car requires a lot of respect,” Pedregon said. “Mentally, I was trying to prepare myself a few days before. I was texting Bo asking him for what his routine was, because I knew a lot of the starting line procedures in one of these cars are so much different than what we’ve conditioned ourselves to do.”
Because the Cobra Jet Pedregon running is in competition this weekend, he is not afforded a time slip making the special match race a true no-time race. As many traditionalists see it, Pedregon cannot lose with a gas-powered car against an electric car.
“That’s the pressure right there,” Pedregon said. “I’ve always had a respect for a lot of the sportsman racers, in particular the ones that do it as a profession. And I’ve always kept an eye. A lot of the names sound so familiar because their careers were right there with mine since I was racing.
“I would say that there’s a little bit more respect for the ones that go from car to car, the drivers like Bo Butner, Shawn Langdon and Leah that run a nitro car, and then they get into sportsman car because mentally, really, you have to make a lot of adjustments. And if you do it a lot, you should get good at it. But to do it, we’re right in the middle of competition. It’s just one of those things that you can appreciate a little bit more once you’ve done it.
“I always, when I started doing the analysis on the show, I really wanted to get in a Pro Stock car, so I can speak to that class a little more. Should have. I still think about it. I even thought about getting on a Pro Stock Motorcycle, which yeah, to me that kind of cinched it for the Pro Stock car. I said, ‘I have no business getting on one of those things just to see what it’s like.”
“And again, that’s just the respect that I have for those machines.”