Denver: Cruz Pedregon preview

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 11, 2006) -- Cruz Pedregon, the 1992 NHRA Nitro Funny Car world champion, and his Advance Auto Parts Nitro Funny Car Team are headed to Morrison, Colo. (near Denver) this weekend for the Mile-High NHRA Nationals at...

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 11, 2006) -- Cruz Pedregon, the 1992 NHRA Nitro Funny Car world champion, and his Advance Auto Parts Nitro Funny Car Team are headed to Morrison, Colo. (near Denver) this weekend for the Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 13th of 23 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events in 2006.

The second half of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season kicks off with the first of three consecutive weekends of racing and one of its greatest challenges. NHRA's POWERade pros must travel high and deep into the Rocky Mountains, to more than 5,800 feet and picturesque Bandimere Speedway, where the mile-high altitude plays havoc with everything from engine tune-ups to aerodynamics. Teams must make wholesale changes to established power-making combinations and battle the lack of downforce in the thin air to tackle the unfamiliar environs. The event is testament to the skill and adaptability of the crew chiefs and teams.

"Denver is a great equalizer. There are a lot of teams who have great setups for sea-level conditions, but it is different there," Pedregon explained of the unique atmospheric conditions. "The air isn't pushing on the spoiler as much, so it's a challenge for our crew chiefs. As drivers, we've got to be on our game -- we'll all get winded easier because of the thin air. We're looking forward to the challenge of that additional element of running in different conditions. We won in '93, and we've been runner-up in 2003 and 2004, so we know we can do well in Denver. The Advance Auto Parts Team is looking forward to the start of the second half of the season."

The NHRA racers had a few weeks off before their western swing, but Pedregon and his Advance Auto Parts Team did not take a vacation during that time. They elected to participate in the world's largest single-day drag race, "Night Under Fire," held at Norwalk (OH) Raceway Park on July 1st. The event brought in eight of the top NHRA Funny Car drivers -- including Pedregon's brother and teammate Tony - for a match race in front of a huge amount of fans, with the race being a prelude to a $100,000 fireworks spectacular. Other drivers who participated included John Force, Scott Kalitta, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson, Eric Medlen and Gary Densham.

"There were eight really good Funny Cars at Norwalk, and out of all the cars, Tony and I were quickest in the first run," Pedregon said. "That was exciting for the huge amount of fans who were there for the event because it meant that two brothers got paired up with each other. Tony got the win with low E.T. of the event of 4.76, which was a new track record. We tried some things on the new chassis and learned a few more things that we don't want to do in the future, so overall it was a good event for the Advance Auto Parts Team. We've had a good rest these past few weeks and now we're ready for the western swing."

During his rookie season in Funny Car in 1992, Pedregon won the NHRA world championship. With this accomplishment he became the only racer other than John Force to win the championship in the 90s. In 1997, Pedregon was also the first motorsports athlete to receive the "Premio De Oro," the only national award for Hispanic athletes. Born into a racing family, Pedregon's father, Frank, raced Top Fuel dragsters in the 1960s. His brothers Tony and Frank also compete in the Nitro Funny Car ranks. In 1980, Cruz won his first official drag race at the age of 15, driving a 1953 Kenworth truck.

How to get to Bandimere Speedway: The track is 10 miles west of Denver just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.

After conquering the quarter-mile Bandimere Speedway this weekend, the NHRA warriors head to Kent, Wash. (near Seattle), and the Pacific Raceways on July 21-23. Check your local ESPN2 listings for broadcast times and event coverage.

-www.PedregonRacing.com.

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Scott Kalitta , Tim Wilkerson , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight