Experience tells points leader Pedregon to stay the course DALLAS (Sept. 17) -- New Funny Car points leader Cruz Pedregon admits that as little as five years ago, and definitely any time in his career before that, he might be contemplating a ...
Experience tells points leader Pedregon to stay the course
DALLAS (Sept. 17) -- New Funny Car points leader Cruz Pedregon admits that as little as five years ago, and definitely any time in his career before that, he might be contemplating a different tact heading into this weekend's 23rd annual Super Start Batteries NHRA Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. But he's older and wiser now, so he'll resist temptation to change anything on his Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara, no matter how tight the championship chase may be.
Pedregon pushed his way into the POWERade points lead last weekend in Charlotte with a convincing runner-up finish in the first of six races in the NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoff system that will ultimately decide the 2008 champion. However, looking at the current standings, the 1992 champ sees four other racers within 13 points of his perch, a deficit that could be made up very quickly with each round of racing worth 20 markers and eight bonus points available during qualifying.
"In years past, I definitely would have been thinking we need to step it up and shoot for some big numbers in qualifying to earn a few extra points," Pedregon admitted. "But I've been beaten up too many times in the past trying to reach beyond what we need to do to be successful. It may be boring to hear, but we're not going to change a thing just because we're in the points lead. Everything is staying exactly how it's been."
It's actually a very wise tactic for Pedregon, considering crew chief Rahn Tobler's expert tune-up and his own steady driving has delivered multiple-round outings for eight consecutive events and 16 of 19 races this year.
"We're not flashy," he said. "We just work hard at what we're doing. In Charlotte, every time the win light came on I thought to myself that we were having a great day and that everything we did from that point forward would be a bonus. We've just kind of kept that mindset all year and it's paid off.
"I don't have to go far to think about how crazy it would be to change our plan of attack. We all remember last year when my brother Tony got conservative at the last race, barely qualified, lost in Round 1, and had to sweat out winning the championship. For whatever reason he changed the very thing that got him to that point and it almost cost him. I won't let that happen."
Both Cruz and Tony Pedregon have deep Texas roots. Their famous racing father, "Flaming Frank" Pedregon, is from El Paso and their mother Dora is from San Antonio. Plus, as the two most prominent Hispanic drivers in American motorsports, they know they'll have a huge built-in fan base in the Lone Star State.
"We have two races in year in Texas, one in Houston and one in Dallas, and we always have huge support from our Hispanic fans," Cruz Pedregon said. "It motivates you, for sure. Tony and I are the only Hispanic racers to ever face each other in the final round of a Funny Car race and both times that happened in Texas. So far, he's 2-0 in those races so if I change anything this weekend, that would be it. Otherwise, it's more of the same from the Advance Auto Parts team, hopefully with the same results."