Explosion Wrecks Pedregon Car at Qualifying for NHRA Finals

Cruz Pedregon, car owner Joe Gibbs' former National Hot Rod Assn. funny-car champion, provided most of the excitement Friday in qualifying for drag racing's Winston Select Finals at Pomona when his Pontiac Firebird disintegrated after a supercharger exploded at the end of the day's fastest funny-car run.

"I had absolutely no warning," the Camarillo driver said after going 276.75 m.p.h. in 5.13 seconds. "The car was running fine and then it blew. I told Joe [Gibbs, former coach of the Washington Redskins], 'The running back is always the one that takes the hits.' I guess that was me."

The body flew off Pedregon's car and damaged Ray Higley's Dodge Avenger in the next lane. Neither driver was injured.

The season's eight best top-fuel qualifiers will run for a $100,000 winners' prize today in the 11th annual Budweiser Classic. The first two rounds will be part of qualifying for Sunday's eliminations.

Blaine Johnson, who qualified No. 1 at seven of 18 national events, will race Joe Amato in the 11:30 a.m. opener. Other pairings: Scott Kalitta vs. Eddie Hill, Cory McClenathan vs. Kenny Bernstein and Mike Dunn vs. Larry Dixon.

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