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Pedley: The Big Go Was An Incredible Go Sunday In Indy

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 8 2009
Tony Schumacher winning his record-tying eighth Wally with Tony Stewart at his side was not the biggest moment at the U.S. Nationals on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Tony Schumacher winning his record-tying eighth Wally with Tony Stewart at his side was not the biggest moment at the U.S. Nationals on Monday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Who would have thought that sitting in front of a television set for five straight hours on a beautiful autumn holiday would ever be considered a wise investment of one’s time? Well, for sure, those who watched the final eliminations at the Mac Tools NHRA U.S. Nationals on Monday.

It was an insane drama-a-thon capped by a fairly serious, this-close-to-fistacuffs imbroglio between John Force and Tony Pedregon.

It was everything which big events like the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 all to often are not – up to the hype.

The winners were Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood in Funny Car, Jeg Coughlin in Pro Stock and Hector Arana in Pro Stock Motorcycles which is cool unto itself.

But the beauty of this year’s Big Go was in the details.

Let us count the thrills:

First, the Force vs. Pedregon near-brawl.

Force was in the semifinal against one of the drivers who works for him, Robert Hight. Hight was 11th in points and needed to beat Force in the semi to get into the Countdown to 1 playoff. In 10th place and needing Hight to lose against Force, was Cruz Pedregon, last year’s season champion and Tony Pedregon’s brother.

Both Pedregon brothers predicted in advance that Force would tank his semi so that Hight would get the final Countdown berth.

When Force smoked his tires and Hight did indeed win to knock Cruz out of the Countdown, things turned ugly.

At the far end of the track, Tony, who had just lost to Force’s daughter, got out of his car and started berating the 14-time Funny Car champion.

Force, threw his cap and glasses to the ground, returned fire and the two went grill to grill screaming at each other. For several minutes without letup.

Pedregon called Force a cheater and Force said that Pedregon was just mad because Ashley Force Hood had just kicked his butt.

They had to be separated several times by team members and NHRA officials.

In separate TV interviews afterward they continued ripping each other’s integrity. Tony Pedregon, who had driven for Force for eight years and won a championship at John Force Racing, said he knows that Force issues team orders. Force said he gave Pedregon a job and taught him how to drive and should know better.

Pedregon: Force cheats and he should be ashamed of himself.

Force: I’m not going to play that game.

Perhaps the seamiest part of it all was former driver and current TV analyst Mike Dunn lining up with the Pedregons and accusing Force of cheating. For like 20 minutes. Dude.

The NHRA reviewed tape, data and the setup of Force’s car and cleared Force, saying there was no evidence to support the contention that the outcome was manipulated.

Did Force tank? Only one person knows for sure.

Second, the Top Fuel run-up to the Wally was could not have been scripted better.

In the first round, Antron Brown, the points leader lined up against wonderful rookie Spencer Massey. Massey, who will apparently have no sophomore season because his sponsor suddenly pulled the plug on his Don Prudhomme-owned team for 2010, stuns Brown.

Meanwhile, Schumacher and Larry Dixon are making their way up through opposing brackets and seem destined for an emotional showdown in the finals – emotional because Dixon’s team is co-owned by long-time Schumacher tuner, Alan Johnson. Schumacher has said he opted to stay in Top Fuel this year because he wanted to beat Johnson.

Also producing emotion is the fact that Schumacher could join Don “Big Daddy” Garlits as the only eight-time winner of the Big Go. In the fold and wearing Schumacher gear is Indiana native and Sprint Cup champion, Tony Stewart.

And yep, the final is the matchup all of drag racing was waiting for at the Nationals. Schumacher wins when Dixon smokes his tires. Positive emotion this time at the far end of the track.

Also in Top Fuel, Brandon Bernstein advances to the semis two days after signing new sponsor Copart.

In Pro Stock, heavy favorite and point leader Coughlin wins, but needs a break in the second round. Coughlin gets sideways off the starting line but Rodger Brogdon red lights to keep the point leader alive.

In bikes, Karen Stoffer needs to win her first round match and have Steve Johnson lose to keep her in the Chase. She gets what she needs.

The Force-Pedregon controversy in the semifinal of Funny Car is what the 55th U.S. Nationals will be remembered for. But the victory over Hight which gave Force Hood the Wally was huge. It marked the third time a female has won a pro championship at the Nationals.

Lost in it all was an announcement by NHRA officials that it will recognize records at the 1,000 distance which was implemented after the death last year of Scott Kalitta.

Also, the NHRA will adopt a new points structure beginning at Charlotte in two weeks.

The team in each category with the quickest elapsed time during each qualifying session will receive three bonus points. In all, a team that records the lowest E.T. in all four sessions could receive a total of 12 bonus points during qualifying. Teams with the second and third quickest elapsed times during each qualifying session will receive 2 and 1 bonus points, respectively.

Got to love the NHRA.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 8 2009
14 Comments

14 Comments »

  • Mike says:

    Force is a corporate whore.
    He has 1/4 of the funny car field and then has to cheat to get his fourth car into the Countdown. BTW: The Countdown is stupid and why NHRA copied NASCAR just says that the marketing guys at NHRA can’t think up an original idea.

    Force is a cheat. He better fix the Championship for Ashley to win it like he’s been scheming all season to do. If Hight backs into the Championship it was pure theft and will ruin the sport forever.

    Mike Dunn called it like it is. I’m now a fan of the Pedegon boys. BTW They raced heads up at Brainerd after Tony had the Countdown to Ten locked up and he could have fixed it to have Cruz win. There’s honor there.

    Force you suck. You suck, You suck. Corporate whore.

  • Big Rob says:

    Jim, the other thing that was missed was Jeg won by two thousandths of a second. Wow what a race!

  • RS says:

    Mike Dunn should stick to anouncing. Tony Pedregon lost my support after his racist comment following a 2007 win, “Quote this is for the brown people” WTF? Go Force

  • jc says:

    i was a john force fan and to today .he mlet his team mate win and that is not right. if he want some one to tell him to his face nent time he comes to mi. i will be glage to tell him. you cheated and that is how it is.

  • Bryan Schulz says:

    where were all you critics last year when hines threw the race so krewick could have the title?
    and i guess you don’t remember the last two years of the true funny car champion getting robbed by the pedregons blocking and laying down.
    if force manipulates the races, why hasn’t a force car won the title in several years?

  • Tim says:

    If it was the other way around and cruz’s fate hung on a run against Tony, what would he do??

    He wwould have lost period. Cruz put himself in that position, not John Force!!

  • clark says:

    cruzer was robbed of his 10th place spot

  • Charlie says:

    Force should get off his self righteous kick and leave GOD out of his interviews. He interviews like a rodeo clown. He’s a CHEATER no ands or buts about it. That display today should remove all doubt that he is a has been that can’t handle the truth. Maybe Tony & Cruruz were a little out of line, maybe thats what it took to expose him. If I did’nt know better it maybe the begining of the end for the big guy. Like what they say the bigger they are, the harder they fall!

  • THNDRRR says:

    It did look too suspicious. I am a huge JFR fan, but a .209 and straight out of the grove is out of character for him. I just wonder if the sponsors had any say in this……”AAA” ? What a show though !!

  • Jim says:

    This was a great live telecast. My wife even sat thru it, though I DVRed it and fast forwarded through the slow parts. I think it should be called the John Force Soap Opera Drama. I loved it!!! Lets have some followup on the Pedregon fracas.

    • Mike says:

      The ESPN coverage was NOT live. Anyone who watched the pre-race and also tuned their computers to the streaming live PA knew the that when the telecast started at 1PM eastern, it was an full round including the Lucas Oil sportsman runs.

  • Ashley Force says:

    [...] Reading, Pa., Ashley Force Hood was testing and preparing for the National Hot Rod Assn. … Pedley: The Big Go Was An Incredible Go Sunday In IndyThe winners were Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood in Funny Car, Jeg Coughlin in Pro [...]

  • datakyar says:

    Force tanked it. Who wouldn’t? But to sit there and say in prerace that God knows he doesn’t do that was lame.

  • Dan says:

    I always the John Force was a stand up guy. It was obvious he let his team member win. For Tony he is a true proffesional race car driver he plays to win.