Pedley: The Big Go Was An Incredible Go Sunday In Indy
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
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 firstname.lastname@example.org Comments