uriously, while Tony Pedregon's and John Force's National Hot Rod Association dynamics continue to intertwine, the former protege and his mentor are taking opposite approaches to the 2004 season.

Everything old is new again at Force's Camp Castrol, but Pedregon is giving his brand-new Quaker State team a nostalgic flair.

Former team owner Larry Minor will lend historical perspective to Pedregon's operation. Minor helped lift Gary Beck to storied Top Fuel status in the early 1980s, funded Cruz Pedregon's 1992 Funny Car championship run, advanced the career of dragster veteran Cory McClenathan and provided Tony Pedregon with his first NHRA rides in the mid-1990s.

Tony Pedregon invited Minor to take an active part in his new venture as partner with brother Cruz, and according to the reigning champion, "He has expressed his interest in being a financial partner. To what degree we don't know yet. It all depends on how much fun he has, I suppose, when he comes out to Pomona."

At the Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 preseason test session at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a "Larry Minor Racing" tribute was painted on the wing of Pedregon's Chevy Camaro.

Said Pedregon, "He still knows racing, and he's done a lot for me. He's got that spark back." He said Minor's participation will "start at his own pace."

He said he has invited John Mitchell, another mentor, to be active in his new venture, as well. "Not just for financial support. I enjoy having them around," Pedregon said. "These are people who believed in me. I feel like I've always had a relationship with them. Because they gave me that opportunity, now that I'm an owner-driver, I'd like to extend that opportunity to them. Maybe it's just the kind of person I am, but I never really felt I quit driving for them -- I just felt I was on loan to John. I'd invite John over here. When he retires, he's invited, too."

If crew chief Dickie Venables needs any help, Pedregon has an answer: "I'll get Minor to hop that thing up! He was a hands-on owner. He's like a Connie Kalitta. Sometimes he got in there and tuned that car up himself.

"I'm glad to have him as a friend and as a person I can call and get advice from. I'm looking forward to having him back out. Larry Minor was very proactive." Pedregon, a former amateur boxer, added, "We need Minor. Who doesn't need a good cut man in their corner?"

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