Pedregon would have no idea what he was up against when he faced Robert Hight.
While Hight had issues of his own as he smoked the tires at the starting line, Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools car inexplicably decided to become airborne.
At about 300 feet, the car turned into a motorcycle and popped its entire front end into a “wheelie” position. Somehow, the back tires held on to the ground until after Pedregon crossed the finish line to earn the round win.
Pedregon was OK afterwards, but there were moments where his life certainly flashed before his eyes as the front end of his car lifted toward the Las Vegas sky.
“I was thinking two thoughts,” Pedregon said. “Maybe this is what it’s like to go to the other side … it’s quiet, it’s blue, it’s pretty, silent, peaceful, then I thought I might be doing a wheel stand right now.
“Then I was thinking I hope I don’t land pointed in the wrong direction.”
Fortunately, he didn’t. Pedregon landed straight and safely, but the wheelie bar broke on the car and he couldn’t continue in spite of winning the round.
NHRA rules don’t allow drivers to use backup cars if the primary one wrecks.
“I’m just happy I didn’t get into Robert’s lane and I’m sitting here talking about it,” Pedregon said. “As much as I love these cars and I love racing, they go fast and things can happen in a hurry.”
The total run in a Funny Car is four seconds and less. That’s lightning-quick time to react when things happen.
Afterwards, Pedregon walked along the return road to salute the fans and let him know he came out of the moment in one piece and still standing. They responded with a standing ovation.
“These cars are built right, but I wanted the fans to know I was OK,” Pedregon said. “The car stood longer than the Wright brothers first flew in the air. I had to think about what might happen for 600, 700 feet. Even though it was a few seconds, I was thinking ‘please, land right.’”
For those of us who witnessed it at the track, the moment was a thrill we’ll never forget.
Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or @Tomzsports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.