The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series ended almost two weeks ago, but the ferris wheel of tuners keeps on churning away. After two years working with two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon, John Collins and advisor Lee Beard got the axe this week in favor of Jason Bunker, with advisory capability from John Medlen.
Although the duo performed well together for most of their tenure, Pedregon’s crew chief lounge has always had a revolving door. No doubt Collins recalled this when he signed on to work with Pedregon, bringing his full Tommy Johnson crew from the former Don Schumacher Racing stables with him on arrival. They had some successes and some off-weekends like everyone else in the nitro categories, but it wasn’t enough to retain their positions for the upcoming, 21-contest 2024 Mission Foods Drag Racing Series campaign.
Bunker, who arrives at Cruz Pedregon Racing from Paul Lee’s pits, had Medlen by his side during the latter part of the 21-race Funny Car 2023 season, and the duo have helped Lee get some consistency to go with his quick laps in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the same equipment used by Pedregon.
Bunker has worked in the tuning arena since he was a teenager; in addition to working with his family, Bunker helped Mike Green in tuning Justin Ashley during that driver’s Rookie of the Year initial season in Top Fuel. He’s also gained experience in Pro Mod and in Nostalgia Funny Car.
Medlen, of course, is the father of the late Eric Medlen and has worked with John Force Racing, Don Schumacher Racing and was Dean “Guido” Antonelli’s co-pilot during Ron Capps’ second and third championship seasons, the second with Don Schumacher Racing and the third with Ron Capps Motorsports and Toyota. “It’s like a football team,” Pedregon said. “You have to have the right people in the right places to be able to succeed. It’s going to be a busy off-season but we will be ready to rip in 2024.”
During the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals on the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip Pedregon, a 38-time national event winner in Funny Car, announced a contract extension with longtime sponsor Snap-On Tools. “I am very excited for this opportunity to have Jason and John join our Snap-On Nitro Funny Car team,” Pedregon said. “They both have the mindset and the skills that you desire out here, and will definitely be a great piece to bring our team into championship form.”
Bunker acknowledged he’s “eager, excited and motivated for this opportunity, for both myself and the entire team we are putting together here at CPR. The competition in Funny Car is incredible right now, but we feel we have a solid plan as a team, to hit the ground racing in 2024.”