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Tony Pedregon found it
hard to hold back the emotions Sunday when Robert Hight was eliminated from
championship contention. The moment of a lifetime had arrived and he couldn’t
fathom the reality that he was a champion.

One would have thought Pedregon might
have been accustomed to this experience considering he'd won a title in
2003. That was then, in 2003 while racing for John Force Racing. This
was now, racing out of his own wallet.

“The money isn’t the
reason I started doing this,” Pedregon said, as he stood on the championship
stage. “I wanted to do what my dad did and I wanted to go fast. But, it’s
become a lot more about that.


Jeg Coughlin, Jr. discusses winning his 2007 NHRA Auto Club Finals championship in Pomona, Ca.


Ron Capps said he isn’t the only driver that has taken notes on the championship
format for next year.

"This season was a
learning experience,” Capps said. “I know you learn every year, but being the
first year of the Countdown to the Championship points system, I felt like we
really, really showed a lot of brilliance in the beginning of the year.
Obviously, we learned that we're not going to back off and try to test. We had
such a great points lead (by as much as 154) that we decided to test, and I
think that affected our mindset in a lot of ways.


Larsen has tuned for some of the top teams in nitro racing. Some of his more
memorable years were in working with Clay Millican and the Werner Enterprises
Top Fuel team. Next year he’ll be reunited with Millican as a tuner for the
second dragster on Evan Knoll’s expanding Top Fuel operation.

“I’m really looking
forward to it,” Larsen said. “Clay and I are good personal friends and I get
along well with the guys that work there and live in the area.  It’s really just a no-brainer and working on
an Evan Knoll-owned car is another exciting thing too.  He’s quite the philanthropist and is really
great guy.”


 Todd Veney has reportedly informed NHRA’s National Dragster that he
will not seek to renew his annual contract with the house organ
publication.  He will instead opt for a position on the new Funny Car
team being formed by Mike Ashley.  Veney, who’s campaigned his own Top
Alcohol Funny Car on a limited basis when he’s had the funding to do
so, will reportedly sell his pristine operation.  Ken Veney-built
alcohol motors are an excellent investment, and Todd is unlikely to
need them again.


get-attachment.aspx.jpgFunny Car racer Tim Wilkerson won the $25,000 Motel 6 Who Got the Light? Award
for the 2007 season with his .0013-second margin of victory over Tony Pedregon
during the second round of Funny Car eliminations at the Torco Racing Fuels
NHRA Nationals, Oct. 7 at Virginia Motorsports Park
near Richmond, Va. Wilkerson and Gary Scelzi tied for recording
the overall narrowest margin of victory for the season, both with a
.0013-second MOV. Wilkerson’s victory for the season-long title was
determined via tie-breaker, which awards the title to the driver with the lowest
average MOV for all elimination rounds during the 2007 season.  Wilkerson,
from Springfield, Ill., who drives the Levi Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala, is the
second Funny Car driver to win the season award. Cruz Pedregon claimed it in 2005.
All other season winners have come from Pro Stock, including Richie Stevens,
Steve Johns, Scott Geoffrion, Larry Morgan and Jim Yates.   


The look on his face on Thursday at the NHRA Auto Club Finals said a lot about the season Del Worsham has had.


Worsham used to get all of the breaks at Pomona, but the last two times haven’t been
kind to the hometown favorite from nearby Chino Hills.

The first day of
qualifying at the NHRA Auto Club Finals was indicative of the season he’s
experienced. When Worsham’s car failed to fire for the first qualifying session
and nearly failed in the second, it seemed like a continuation of the fate he
experienced last year when a parachute failure sent him careening into the
shutdown area.

“It’s been a crazy
season,” Worsham said. “You know when I look back on the season at all the runs
and all the races, from June on we had a pretty good running car.  We didn’t win any of the races but we made
some nice runs and got dropped from those races.  We get to the Pomona and it’s a home race and all the
problems are back.” 

This kind of fate is what
had Worsham puzzled, because he’s had usually good fortunes at Pomona. At least the plusses have outnumbered
the minuses.


David Baca
did an admirable job of filling the Whit Bazemore vacancy at David Powers
Motorsports [DPM] for two races and if he has his way, he’ll be back to drive
the third car for them possibly in 2008.

Baca said the experience
greatly differed from the days when he ran his own independent team.

"I’ve been out here
doing this for quite a few years and I finally made it to the elite class,”
Baca said. “Did it a little on my own, finally got a corporate sponsor for a
year or two and then finally had to pull the plug on it because things didn’t
work out in the 2006 season as we had hoped.”

Baca said he was at his Brentwood, Ca. home when he got the call from Powers
asking if he’d be interested in filling the seat.


big mike.jpgLast year’s NHRA Auto Club Finals marked the final national event that
“Big” Mike Aiello ever attended. Yesterday a group of friends honored
the spirit of his life.

Aiello was injured in 1999 while working as a deliveryman for Federal
Express and eventually lost the feeling in his lower extremities
becoming wheelchair bound. He was always a source of inspiration and
because of that 1320tv.com created an award in his honor.

John Medlen was named the first-ever Mike Aiello Award winner for his
positive outlook throughout the death of his son. Medlen, through John
Force Racing, has labored tirelessly to bring safety to a new level for
Funny Cars. He also served as a pillar of strength for the team and
members of the racing community.

“Big” Mike would have been proud. His longtime friend and Funny Car racer Jack Beckman presented the award in a small ceremony.

“The shame about most people is you don’t know how people felt about
you until you are gone,” Beckman said. “I hope Mike had an inkling what
everyone’s opinion was of him before he left. He’s a guy that gave most
of his life to the sport; the people involved in it and also helped
Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com along the way since he wasn’t going to be
able to drive a car in his condition. Here’s a guy that gave up his
health because of an accident on the job.


How can a driver light up the motor in flames several times in the
lights and lose his 13th career final round and still smile. It's
really not that hard if you have something brighter down the road.
There’s a part of Bob
Vandergriff that hears the song by Timbuk3 playing in the back of his mind. Now
that band might not be a household name, but their song “The Future’s So Bright
I Gotta Wear Shades” is commonly known.
Vandergriff’s optimism is
fueled by the progress his team has made with a new engine combination comprised
mainly of internal components fabricated in his Alpharetta, Georgia-based racing
Today’s 333 mile per hour top speed during Saturday qualifying
in Pomona only confirms that he’s on to something.
“We just felt they would be
better,” Vandergriff said. “We started testing them the last five races and of
the [initial phase] Countdown deal and that kind of put us in a bad spot.  I
mean we knew that we had better parts but we didn’t have enough information to
race it so we kind of threw them in there once in a while trying to get data on
it but we didn’t feel comfortable enough racing it.