It’s been a wild season thus far in the NHRA Funny Car ranks — wildly expensive, that is — as a rash of body-shredding explosions have wreaked havoc over the class, leaving tuners and the NHRA scratching their heads for a solution to the high costs, the danger, and the downtime it’s created.
While John Force leads the way with his three-in-a-row trifecta of explosions that reduced his Chevrolet Camaro bodies to splintered fragments of carbon fiber, he’s been joined by Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca, Tommy Johnson, Jr., and teammate Robert Hight with bigtime boomers in the season’s first ten events. And last weekend, Cruz Pedregon joined this highly undesirable club with one of the wildest of them all.
Pedregon, a two-time world champion who broke a 92-race winless streak in April with his victory in Charlotte, rode out a grand explosion during qualifying on Saturday at the NHRA Virginia Nationals in Dinwiddie, Virginia. Pedregon’s Snap-On Tools Toyota was on its march to a 4.15-second, 289 mph lick in the third session opposite of Tim Wilkerson when it let loose, shredding the body forward of the firewall and enveloping Pedregon as it made its nearly 300 mph exit from the chassis. The shards of body, rather than rise skyward, littered about the racing surface in Pedregon’s wake, forcing Wilkerson to take evasive action to avoid the parts and pieces strewn across his side of the racetrack.
Pedregon missed the final session later that afternoon, but in a backup car, did advance to the quarterfinals with an opening round defeat of Hight.