Richmond: Cruz Pedregon preview

Pedregon poised to push the pedal to the metal RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 8) -- With three races left in the 2008 Countdown to 1, world champion Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon has decided to step up his game heading into this weekend's third annual ...

Pedregon poised to push the pedal to the metal

RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 8) -- With three races left in the 2008 Countdown to 1, world champion Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon has decided to step up his game heading into this weekend's third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.

Arriving in the home state of longtime sponsor Advance Auto Parts, Pedregon's plan to push the performance of his Toyota Solara to a new level might not be as radical as it sounds. After all, he and crew chief Rahn Tobler have done extremely well with their semi-conservative "lets make sure and get it down the track every run" philosophy. At the same time, Pedregon wants to add a few more coals to the fire in an attempt to win it all.

"Having last weekend off gave us all a chance to catch our breath and analyze what we're doing and where we're at," said Pedregon, who led the points outright just a few short weeks ago. "The first thought I had is that we're still very much alive in the hunt for this year's championship. The second thought is that we're not No. 1 at the moment so it might be time to lean towards a more aggressive tune-up.

"Having said that, for Rahn and I to tune the car to what we believe is our max probably equates to the other top teams tuning to about a seven or eight on the scale of 1-10. Hey, our car has run right there with the top teams all year and we're not killing parts every run so why make big changes? Let's just say that we'll be more inclined to take a chance at this point because we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Having been to the top of the drag racing mountain when he won it all in 1992, Pedregon knows the difference between a second-place finish and, say, a fifth-place finish, isn't much. In the long run, the champion is the only one anyone remembers.

"Both Rahn and I have won championships before and we've both come up short on other occasions," Pedregon said. "The point is, we know how to close the deal and we're now entering the part of the season where it's time to get on a roll. We might as well pull out all the stops and just have some fun and try to win this thing.

"On my drive over to Richmond I started thinking that it was only one year ago in September when Rahn joined us. Prior to that he'd been a Top Fuel guy for his all of his career. For him to have come this far in 12 months time is remarkable. He's right there trading blows with the best in the business, guys that have been tuning Funny Cars and winning titles in this class for 20-plus years. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have.

"I looked at the last race, that (point leader) Tim Wilkerson ended up winning, and I see the numbers. He ran a 4.18 in Round 1; we ran a 4.13. He ran a 4.23 in Round 2; we ran a 4.22. Hats off to Tim, he got it done, but from our perspective, we're right there with him and all the other cars still in the hunt. That's very encouraging."

Pedregon could very realistically reach second place at this event, leaving the final two stops in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif., to reel in Wilkerson, who is roughly five rounds ahead at this point.

-credit: pr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson