Indianapolis: Cruz Pedregon preview

Three-time U.S. Nationals winner Cruz Pedregon sets sights on Advance Auto Parts team win this year INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 25, 2003 - It's billed as the oldest, most prestigious and richest NHRA event, the one each driver entered wants to win ...

Three-time U.S. Nationals winner Cruz Pedregon sets sights on Advance Auto Parts team win this year

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 25, 2003 - It's billed as the oldest, most prestigious and richest NHRA event, the one each driver entered wants to win more than any other. And the U.S. Nationals, year in and year out, has lived up to that hype

Cruz Pedregon has won it three times (1992, 1994-95) in Funny Car and has savored each one. "Each time I got the biggest thrill knowing I'd just won our sport's biggest race," he recalled. The victories were special then, and each win made him want more.

Capturing a fourth title is on his agenda when the 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals convenes at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Aug. 29-Sept. 1. It's the 17th race in the POWERade Series and Pedregon thinks his Advance Auto Parts team is capable contending for the win.

"I think we're right there," said Pedregon. "Our team is coming together and we have a good understanding of what we're trying to do and how to run the car. It's come a little slower than we would've liked, but it's nice to see us coming together."

Pedregon is driving one of the most consistent racecars in the category over the past four races. He climbed into the top 10 last month and is now ninth (737 points), five rounds (20 points are awarded per round win) away from sixth-place Ron Capps (840).

"One reason teams take this race so seriously is because of its importance," added Pedregon. "It's an event that can turn your season around. If you don't win the championship but win at Indy you can consider your season a success."

Winning now would mean a lot to him, said Pedregon, the 1992 Funny Car champion. "This place is special to me and it would really make our season a success. We have a nice streak going of qualifying for every race, something I haven't done in years, even dating back to 1997. I feel like I'm coming here with a car good enough to win the race."

When he's been to the U.S. Nationals' final rounds, Pedregon hasn't let the moment slip away, winning in each of his three tries.

The Advance Auto Parts team tested at IRP Tuesday and Wednesday to see if the tune-up could be changed enough to lower Pedregon's elapsed times into the 4.70-second range. "We wanted to pick up the pace," said Pedregon, who's best time is 4.807 seconds. "I told Rob (Flynn) and Dave (Fletcher, the team's crew chiefs) the reason we tested was to try to go fast. We want to qualify No. 1 and win this race."

The team will have one more qualifying session than normally allotted at the other 22 events on the schedule. Action begins Friday night at 7:30 and resumes Saturday at 1:45 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday's times are noon and 4 p.m. U.S. Nationals eliminations are scheduled Monday at 11 a.m.

Advance Auto Parts, Inc. is based in Roanoke, Va., and is the second largest auto parts chain company in the nation. With approximately 2,400 stores in 38 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the company serves both the do-it-yourself and professional installer markets. Additional information about the company, employment opportunities, services, as well as on-line purchase of parts and accessories can be found on the company's website at: www.AdvanceAutoParts.com.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Cruz Pedregon