CRUZ PEDREGON EDGES TOWARD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE; PLEDGES TO NOT FOCUS ON EVENT, NOT PRESSURE POMONA, Calif. -- Winning this year's POWERade Series Funny Car world championship is as easy as sinking a putt, Cruz Pedregon said. And if you...
CRUZ PEDREGON EDGES TOWARD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE; PLEDGES TO NOT FOCUS ON EVENT, NOT PRESSURE
POMONA, Calif. -- Winning this year's POWERade Series Funny Car world championship is as easy as sinking a putt, Cruz Pedregon said. And if you think that's simple, you've missed the point.
Honest golfers admit that unless you've got Tiger Woods' ability and the swagger to match, a putt with money on it probably still makes you sweat, no matter how many greens you've walked. If you extend that analogy to NHRA POWERade Series Drag Racing, Pedregon's seen a lot of grass.
Three of the four 2008 NHRA POWERade Series world championship titles will be decided when the world's fastest motorsport comes to Auto Club Raceway at Pomona for the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 13-16. Tony Schumacher claimed his fifth consecutive and sixth overall title in Las Vegas after yet another season of domination.
It's been 16 years since Pedregon won his first -- and only - world championship title. After that, he didn't see first place from April 25, 1998 until April 2, 2008 and with his second consecutive win last weekend, equaling his win total from the previous 10 years, Pedregon elbowed his way back to the top of the standings with only the final event of the year standing between him and his second title.
That, and a few other hungry drivers.
Pedregon knows he's blessed. At some point winning those four rounds on race day felt more like winning 80, he said. And yet, the same steady approach that has kept him bobbing just below the surface of the upper echelon of POWERade Series success for so long has carried him once again to the top.
Pedregon intends to stay there.
"The winning has been such icing on the cake," Pedregon said. "The fact we're ahead of the points right now is 100,000 percent amazing. I'm just really enjoying it, but it's not over yet. It's such a difficult task, but we're on the green. We just have to put the ball in the hole and close this thing out. The opportunity doesn't come very often."
It's hard to believe that Pedregon has had a few droughts. Games he's played and bets he's made with himself and his crew mark the time.
In 2005, after only winning one early-season event all year, Pedregon decided he wouldn't cut his hair until he won again.
Months passed and his hair grew. Outward. In all directions. No gel could contain it. He wore a lot of hats.
Soon he couldn't get his driver's helmet on, so he cheated and trimmed it down. Fortunately, he beat Ron Capps in Las Vegas the following spring and lopped his hair off. There have been other extra-curricular motivators, like his coin-packed parachute pack. The hair is only the most recent.
His team hasn't had much time to play games these days, he said, and Pedregon is fine with that. Right now he and his team are focused on continuing to mesh the individual efforts they've turned on so well in the postseason.
They'll need to hold off Cinderella-story Tim Wilkerson and John Force Racing's Robert Hight to earn the title. The face-off with a JFR entry harkens back to Pedregon's 1992 world champion win, when he held off John Force to become the only man to win the world championship other than Force himself from 1990-2002.
In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin has all but clinched his second consecutive and fourth overall world championship title. He holds a 123-point edge on second-place Greg Anderson.
The battle in Pro Stock Motorcycle is just as close as the one in Funny Car. Matt Smith has a precarious hold on the top spot, with only a 19-point lead on No. 2 Eddie Krawiec and a 39-point lead on Chris Rivas. It would be Smith's second title in a row and Krawiec's first.
* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 13-14, and at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 15. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16.
* TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Call NHRA at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or visit nhra.com or ticketmaster.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Nov. 15. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 16. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise the race beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 16.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA POWERade Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 13. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 14.