Cruz Pedregon - Atlanta Preview

Pedregon feels team's consistency will pay off COMMERCE, Ga. - Consistent is one of Cruz Pedregon's favorite words. It describes the way he and crew chief Wes Cerny want their Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Funny Car to run at each NHRA Winston ...

Pedregon feels team's consistency will pay off

COMMERCE, Ga. - Consistent is one of Cruz Pedregon's favorite words. It describes the way he and crew chief Wes Cerny want their Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Funny Car to run at each NHRA Winston Series race.

With the seventh of 22 events next up - the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, May 14-16, at Atlanta Dragway - the two like the consistency the Joe Gibbs-owned Pontiac has displayed in the last three races. Pedregon has been a semifinalist each time and has climbed into third place in points. But he's still seeking his first 1999 win.

"We've had a little bit of a slow start this season, but our car is running pretty good right now," said Pedregon. "It doesn't matter where you start winning races, whether it's the beginning, the middle or the end, but the pendulum is on the verge of swinging our way."

Cruz qualified second and advanced to the semifinals at Dinwiddie, Va., near Richmond, at the rain-delayed Pennzoil Nationals, May 3. Then Pedregon ran into Force.

"When I woke up that morning I had a pretty good feeling that I was going to be racing Force, so I was really ready for him," Pedregon said. "He's the guy everyone needs to get around if we're going to win the championship. As a driver, you have to lay it on the line."

The Interstate Batteries car left the starting line first (.489 to .531) but the rear tires lost traction close to mid-track and Force had an easy run. He won with the quickest time of the weekend, 4.897 seconds to Pedregon's 8.765.

"Our car had been running consistently and was getting down the track," Pedregon commented. "Wes was just doing what he had to do to beat Force. Aggressiveness is what wins races, and in a contest like that you don't want to leave anything on the table."

After qualifying at 4.943 seconds, Pedregon ran 5.016 to stop Dean Skuza in the first round and 5.088 in the second to beat Cory Lee.

"We'll put everything back together and be ready when we get to Atlanta," Cruz said. "I'm feeling good about our chances. If this were NASCAR, our semifinal finish would be in the top four. That's a pretty good indicator of your team's ability. We're solidly in the No. 3 position and the best is yet to come this year for this team."

Pedregon won at Atlanta Dragway last year, defeating Force in the finals. He's the only driver other than Force to win the Winston Series Funny Car crown in the 1990s. And Cruz had to come from behind to do it in 1992. Pedregon won five straight races late in the season to overtake Force, now an eight-time champion, including the last five in a row.

After failing to qualify at the first race this year, Pedregon was a finalist at Phoenix, losing to Force. His previous semifinal (or top four) finishes came at Houston and Dallas.

Cruz will be ready when qualifying begins Friday (May 14) with sessions at 3 and 7 p.m.

Cruz Pedregon

1999 Funny Car Record Standing:  3rd, 391 points 
Round Record:  10W-5L
Quickest ET:  4.878, 
Houston Fastest Speed:  314.13 mph, 
Dallas Wins:  0
Runner-up:  1 - Phoenix
Career Funny Car Record Best Season Finish:  1st, 1992 First Season:  
1992 Races Qualified: 137 in Funny Car Wins:  21 (fourth in all-time Funny
Car victories) Runners-up:  19 Last Win:  Nov. 2, 1998, Houston Last
Final:  Feb. 28, 1999, Phoenix No. 1 Qualifier:  29 times Last No. 1
Qualifier:  1998, Pomona II Quickest E.T.:  4.807 sec., 1998, Houston II
Fastest Speed:  319.60 mph, 1998, Houston II

At Atlanta Best Finishes: Won in 1998; Runner-up in 1995

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Dean Skuza , Cruz Pedregon , Cory Lee