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An Interview with Tony Pedregon
- Posted May 18, 2011 -
Q. Who is the real Tony Pedregon off the track?

A. I categorize myself as very average. When I'm at the racetrack I'm very intense and trying to pay attention to all the little details. I have a lot of responsibility as a team owner and driver. But off the track, I have a four-year-old daughter and I enjoy spending as much time with her as possible. One of my hobbies is designing and occasionally painting helmets, but I don't get to do as many as I use to. But mostly, when I am away from the track I like being with my daughter and family, it's like my way of closing myself off from the racing. I think for me in life I have to have a balance; so really I enjoy doing things that probably your everyday person enjoys doing.

Q. Do you have any other hobbies besides painting helmets?

A. No not really. I'm not much of a golfer, in fact I've never been that good. When I got involved in racing I had to play golf with some executives, the occasional CEO or vice president of my sponsor companies. So one day I took a lesson and it really ruined my game, and I had no game to begin with. I really enjoy riding mountain bikes and just doing things that keep me physically active. I've been able to find a lot of those things to do with my daughter, she loves soccer, and I take her to dance classes and Pre School. In between racing and my family I try to cram in some paper work. Right now I think I'm in a phase of my life where I've taken on a new challenge. I think for any sort of business that's going to involve more time and focus and hopefully that work will lighten up a little bit and I can get back to my hobbies.

Q. Tell us about your family life.

A. I have my daughter and I'm engaged to her mother Andrea, they come to a lot of races with me. She already had a background in racing. Her Dad has a performance shop and a growing mail order business so she really understands the schedule and the lifestyle. My daughter loves coming to the races and that's important to me. She likes the motorhome; she knows she's got a stash of toys in there. So for me that's a good thing that they are as involved as I am. That kind of support is important because at this level it helps keeps our sanity.

Q. Who were some of the people you looked up to when you started in the sport?

A. I always looked up to Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme and John Force, even before I started driving for him, and even Cruz back when he was driving the McDonalds car. I always observed them, especially when I first started driving. I would try to put myself in the seat mentally. I always tried to focus on the guys I felt made a difference in the cars.

Q. Are you and your brother's close?

A. We are close, but at the same time a lot different. We have completely different personalities. I had actually forgot how much different we are until we started working together. I think thatís going to create a good balance for our team. I think I've already gone to Cruz for advice; he's been a team owner for several years. I think I bring a different aspect and approach to it. I think that we will compliment one another, but were in the early stages and it will continue to get better.

Q. How did you get started in the sport?

A. Well my dad raced Top Fuel cars in the 60s. I think once you get a smell of nitro and you get to feel the horsepower that a nitro-burning car generates its pretty impressive. I think my dad tried to discourage it as much as any parent could, but I think the excitement of it was just too appealing. There was no guarantee that I could ever do it financially, but with talent you prove yourself. Opportunity comes along once in a while and like anything else what you do with that opportunity is what's important. I was fortunate to have good timing and certain car owners like Larry Minor, Don Mitchell and John Force, gave me the opportunity. If I wasn't driving I'd be in the stands watching, sometimes I wish I were in the stands, at times it's a very demanding sport. I'm hooked, just like anybody else who is going to read this or hear about it.

Q. What's your Moms thoughts on the racing?

A. I'm sure she could do with out it, but at the same time I think she understands that maybe the writing was on the wall at an early age. She supports it but she doesn't come to the races very much. I don't think her nerves can really take it. It's nice to hear some of the old stories she tells us about Dad. He died when I was 16 at a pretty early age. I wish he were here to enjoy what Frankie, Cruz and I have done and the way we have carried on the legacy, I think he would be proud of that.

Q. Do you think it's very stressful for her to watch her sons behind the wheel?

A. Yeah for my mom I'm sure it is, but she seems to handle it well. I'm sure my Dad conditioned her well enough; she went through a lot of it with him. He did it in an era probably not as safe as it is today. The cars didn't run as fast then but they really didn't have all the safety features that we have. I think NHRA pays attention to that, and it gives her some kind of comfort zone.

Q. Would you encourage the Jr. dragster kids?

A. I do encourage them, but they need to continue to pursue their education. I think it's a very good program when the kids can actually do something with their parents and find something at such an early age that they enjoy doing. It really does teach you the discipline to mentally deal with being a good sport, but I stress its not only what happens on the track, but what happens off the track. It's important to have some kind of business degree, Knowing numbers and knowing a budget. I support it as much as I can.

Q. Where is your favorite place to race?

A. Chicago Route 66 of all the events its probably the premier facility. Given dry conditions its one of the fastest tracks and we always enjoy the fact that we can race at night. I also like St Louis and Vegas. I like Gainesville because it's a huge event. I would probably like Indy more if I could win that race. But I would have to say Route 66, it's a nice facility and I'm impressed with what they have done. It's a good place to race and a good place for the family to come and watch a race.

Q. How did you pick the members on your crew?

A. 2 or 3 of them I chose on experience and the relationship I had with them, the others we interviewed them just like you would for any job. I look at motivation, attitude and personality; if they lack experience but have some of the other qualities I feel we can teach them our way. This is a lot like the Marines you get up early and stay late. But its something people enjoy doing. I think we did a good job of hiring.

Q. What would you say is the biggest mistake you've made in your career?

A. Probably not pursuing it at an earlier age. I really started driving professionally at 29. If I could do it over I probably would start about 5 years earlier, otherwise no major regrets.

Q. What advice would you give a person starting in the sport?

A. Hard work, dedication and acting on what you really want to do.

Q. What class did you start running in?

A. Alcohol Dragster, I think I gained a lot of experience and I think that helped me when I made the transition to the Funny Car.

Q. Did you help your brother on his crew?

A. Yeah, going back 15 years I probably at one time or another worked on every part of a race car, from bottom end to clutch to working on the motor itself. I think it makes a better driver when you know all the components.

Thanks Tony we will see you at the World Series at Cordova this year.

Thank you and I look forward to racing at Cordova. I can't wait!

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