BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 11, 2003 - After negotiating a rugged three-race drive through Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., like a world-class skier traveling a slalom course, Cruz Pedregon is anxiously awaiting his next NHRA POWERade Series event -...
BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 11, 2003 - After negotiating a rugged three-race drive through Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., like a world-class skier traveling a slalom course, Cruz Pedregon is anxiously awaiting his next NHRA POWERade Series event - the Lucas Oil Nationals, Aug. 15-17, at Brainerd International Raceway.
Pedregon and his Advance Auto Parts team jelled during those three races and have emerged as solid contenders for race wins. The statistics show why. John Force was the only Funny Car driver to have more success than Pedregon in the trio of races. Force won twice and reached the semifinals once. Pedregon finished second once and was a two-time semifinalist.
The performances not only boosted the Camarillo, Calif., driver into ninth place in points, but boosted the team's confidence heading into the final eight races of the year. Pedregon, who's aiming for a top five finish, has 706 points, 12 behind No. 8 Gary Scelzi and 74 behind seventh-place Tommy Johnson Jr. NHRA awards 20 points per round win.
"This is a good time for us," Pedregon said as he thought ahead to the Brainerd race. "We are on a roll. These semifinal finishes aren't victories, but they are mini-victories to us. We want to at least get to the semifinals again and hopefully come out with a win. "It's a good track and is a little like the Bristol (Tenn.) track we run on. I think we have a good set-up for the race."
Further indication of how consistent the performances have been is that Pedregon has qualified for all 15 races. He'd won four rounds in the first 12 races, and then added seven in the last three events.
"I'm excited to have qualified at every race," he said. "I've struggled with doing that the last couple of years. I'm enjoying going down the track every time now. You can't do anything unless you qualify, so our motto is to just get the car in the field."
Pedregon had qualified in the top eight three straight times before the Sonoma race (July 27), when he was 11th.
"We have a good understanding that the qualifying position - although it looks good - is not a determination of how you're going to do," he continued. "We qualified second (at Seattle) and went to the semifinals and qualified 11th (Sonoma) and went to the semis. At Denver, we were right in the middle of the field at eighth and went on to finish second." (That, incidentally, was the first time Pedregon had been a finalist since May 2000.)
The key to success has been getting the car to go down the racetrack.
"We are definitely going in the right direction," said Pedregon. "We went down the track six of seven times at Sonoma. That's quite an accomplishment to do that with a fuel Funny Car. Crew chiefs Rob Flynn and Dave Fletcher are making the right calls."
A good running car also has a positive effect on the driver.
"Waking up Sunday morning and knowing you have a car that - if you are sharp and do your job - can get to the final round makes everything worthwhile," said Pedregon, a winner at BIR in 1992 and runner-up in 1993. "That's the payoff. That's why we do this."
Pedregon's Advance Auto Parts team rolls into action Friday with qualifying at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. and again Saturday at 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday's eliminations begin 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.