- Bill Stephens
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SONOMA, Calif. -- Cruz, Tony and Frank Pedregon are all second-generation drag racers whose father, "Flamin' Frank Pedregon," was one of the true pioneers of fuel racing throughout Southern California almost 40 years ago.
Tony, the current NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion, and Cruz embarked on a joint venture this year, fulfilling a childhood vision they shared by forming a two-car Funny Car operation.
But the oldest Pedregon brother, Frank, entered 2004 without a ride after leaving Jim Dunn's K&N team at the end of the 2003 season. This weekend, at the 17th Fram-Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Frank announced he would soon be returning with a new team to the Funny Car category as soon as the 50th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend.
"Underdog Racing will be debuting at the U.S. Nationals," said Frank, who won the sport's most prestigious event in 1999 driving for Dunn. "This is the first time in my career I'm involved in the actual formation of a racing team. I've always been a hired gun and this situation is completely different. It's very exciting and having won the Nationals five years ago makes this all seem the ideal situation.
"Anyone who knows racing knows that the hardest thing to obtain is sponsorship, and I felt that Underdog Racing has a competitive edge, the know-how, and above all, the desire to take this to the level that I've always expected. Underdog Racing's vision for the upcoming season was refreshing, unique, and exciting."
Frank's racing resume is one which reflects extensive experience both as a mechanic and a driver. When racing with Dunn, it was a common sight to see Frank toiling on his racecar between rounds while drivers on other high-profile racing teams relaxed in their transporters or signed autographs. That scenario changed four years ago when Frank was hired to drive the second Funny Car added to Del Worsham's CSK team and relinquish the maintenance responsibilities to his crew.
Now, with his new three-year contract with Underdog Racing and sponsorship from World Vision Marketing and Redline Oil, Frank hopes to assemble a winning operation that can run with the sport's most successful teams.
Jeff Flasco, co-founder of Underdog Racing added, "I'm looking forward to all the golden opportunities that this new venture will bring to our team. We couldn't be more honored to have Frank Pedregon leading the charge to a potential championship season in 2005 and being a spoiler in the final six races of the 2004 NHRA POWERade points chase."
And so, all three Pedregon brothers will soon be simultaneously carrying on their father's legacy that has spanned the last four decades of drag racing history.
Bill Stephens covers the NHRA for ESPN and ESPN.com.
1dLaurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders