JOLIET, Ill. - Tony Pedregon raced to his third consecutive NHRA Funny Car victory and sixth of the season Sunday at the second annual Craftsman 75th Anniversary Nationals presented by Racing Champions at Route 66 Raceway. Doug Kalitta and Jeg Coughlin also were winners in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series. Pedregon, who won in consecutive weeks at Reading, Pa. and Memphis, Tenn., clocked a run of 4.924 seconds at 310.84 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to take the victory over a tire-smoking Ron Capps. With the victory, Pedregon moved within 18 points of Funny Car points leader John Force, who is bidding for his 10th consecutive and 12th overall NHRA championship. "I think John (Force) understands that drag racing isn't just about one team," said Pedregon, who's sixth victory tied Force for the most Funny Car victories this season. "What makes this such a great sport is the quality of racing. He's not like other owners. He has to get in the car to compete. I'm sure he feels the heat, but I hope he doesn't feel too much because John's the type of guy that works better under the gun. "It's far from over, I understand that. I'm not going to make the same mistake that I've seen a lot of other drivers make when they've had a little success. We're going to go to the next event and try to repeat. It starts in qualifying and then you worry about Sunday." Pedregon, who won from the No. 1 qualifying spot, defeated Frank Pedregon, Del Worsham and Scotty Cannon en route to the victory. Pedregon's 18-point deficit is the closest any competitor has been to Force this late into the season since Cruz Pedregon led Force by 43 points in 1992 with three events to go. Kalitta used a consistent tune-up to capture his second win in three events in the Top Fuel category. Kalitta blasted his Mac Tools dragster to a run of 4.594 at 323.27 to defeat Darrell Russell who lost traction and slowed to a performance of 7.331 at 120.74. The victory was the 10th of Kalitta's career. "What a great place to get my 10th victory," said Kalitta. "This is one the closest tracks to our home state (Michigan). So, it's nice to get a win close to home. This is probably the nicest facility we race at. "At the beginning of the year we couldn't get a break. We seem to have some consistency and we're getting a break here and there and things are starting to work for us." Kalitta, who recorded top speed of the event at 326.32 mph, knocked off Jim Cavalieri, Jim Head and low qualifier Doug Herbert before defeating Russell in the final round. Kalitta's victory moved him from sixth to fourth in the Top Fuel points standings. Points leader Larry Dixon was defeated in the second round of eliminations by Cory McClenathan, but extended his points lead to 127 ahead of Kenny Bernstein who lost in the opening round for the second time this season. Coughlin used a run of 6.875 at 200.89 behind the wheel of his Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier to knock off Ron Krisher's Eagle One Cavalier that recorded a run of 6.896 at 200.02. The victory, Coughlin's sixth of the season, moved him into third place on the all-time Pro Stock win list with 29 career victories. The win also moved Coughlin into first place in the points chase. "It's far from over, but what a weekend for us," said Coughlin. "Jim (Yates) going out in the first round kind of opened the door for us. We were able to pull the win off and go a couple of rounds into the lead." Coughlin, who captured his sixth victory in nine events, used a starting-line advantage to hold off Warren Johnson in the opening round. He then went on to defeat Tom Martino and Kurt Johnson. Coughlin, who entered the event trailing Jim Yates by 12 points, now leads Yates by 65 points and third place Greg Anderson by 132 points. The next NHRA POWERADE Drag Racing Series event is the 17th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals, Oct. 10-13, in Ennis, Texas.
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