Pomona II: Cruz Pedregon champion report

Sixteen years later, Cruz Pedregon wins second Funny Car championship POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) -- Sixteen years after winning his first NHRA title, Funny Car veteran Cruz Pedregon returned to the top of the drag racing world early Sunday...

Sixteen years later, Cruz Pedregon wins second Funny Car championship

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) -- Sixteen years after winning his first NHRA title, Funny Car veteran Cruz Pedregon returned to the top of the drag racing world early Sunday afternoon after advancing to the quarterfinal round of the season-ending 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway.

"I'm stunned," an emotional Pedregon said moments after his brother Tony Pedregon eliminated the last racer within reach. "It's awesome Tony got that win right there because I'm standing here thinking of my dad (Frank) and that I hope he's proud of his sons. I was 18 when he died and Tony was 16 and now we each have two world championships. We've come a long way for a couple of Hispanic kids from Chino."

Cruising through the regular season with a steady if not spectacular racecar, Pedregon entered the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs a solid fourth in the POWERade rankings. That's when he and crew chief Rahn Tobler turned on the jets in the Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara and rose to the top of the class, powering to three final rounds in the first five playoff events and winning the last two races outright to gain frontrunner status.

Proving it's better to enter the final race of the year with a lead, however slim it might have been (12 points), Pedregon kept the pressure on the other four drivers still within reach by starting off the Sunday's eliminations with a big round win over Jerry Toliver. That single victory immediately knocked Tony Pedregon and "Fast" Jack Beckman out of the equation. Moments later, second-place Tim Wilkerson fouled out, leaving just Robert Hight with a chance to spoil the long-awaited championship celebration.

"When Tony beat Robert it was like I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Was I really the champ? Was that it? There must've been someone else with a mathematical chance, right?

"I love the Countdown format. Let's be perfectly up front, if it wasn't for the Countdown then Tim Wilkerson would be the champion. He's a great racer and deserving of this trophy, but we got it done under the rules that are there and here we are. It's impossible to describe this feeling. I'm just all over the place emotionally, and I still need to race.

"I went over to John Force this morning. Man, we have our battles in the sponsor hunts but as a person and as a racer, there's no one I admire more. He was there when I was hurt, he was there when I was on the outs. He's a class guy and a racer and for him to be one of the first guys down here to congratulate me is very special."

Pedregon also lauded his crew chief Rahn Tobler, who has only been with Pedregon Racing for slightly more than a year. Prior to joining the team, all of Tobler's experience was gained in the Top Fuel class.

"What's he been able to do with this car and this team is nothing short of amazing," Pedregon said. "Without Rahn and this crew, I wouldn't be champ. There're also a million sponsors to thank. Advance Auto Parts was with me even when things weren't so great. Snap-on Tools, the Palms Hotel and Casino, Herzog, Great Stuff, Sioux City Trailer, Toyota, Q Racing, and all the others. This is for them.

"My wife Sharon carried me through the lowest points of my career. Joe Pisano taught me how to drive all those years ago. My brother Tony is my teammate and partner. His crew is very important to our success also.

"We'll celebrate later. Right now we got to get back to work."

-credit: pr

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