ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 25) -- Gumout-sponsored Funny Car pilot Cruz Pedregon has spent the 1999 National Hot Rod Association season with one objective dominating his every thought -- beat John Force. In the rain-delayed final round of the 30th ...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 25) -- Gumout-sponsored Funny Car pilot Cruz Pedregon has spent the 1999 National Hot Rod Association season with one objective dominating his every thought -- beat John Force. In the rain-delayed final round of the 30th Annual Mopar Parts Nationals Tuesday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Pedregon had his third chance of the year to take care of that particular piece of business by himself.
With the event's title on the line, Pedregon drove his sleek Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird down the strip in the day's quickest elapsed time - 4.873 seconds at 300.73 mph. Unfortunately, Force's 4.878-second lap at 309.34 mph was close enough to Pedregon's time that his miniscule reaction time advantage (0.520 seconds to Pedregon's 0.545-second start) was good enough for a 0.020-second win.
"The supercharger blew up just before the finish line and we think that may have cost us the race," Pedregon said. "It was so close all the way down. I didn't even see him. What a weekend. We may have lost by a split-second but I can't complain too much.
"It seems like a lot of people say that if you don't win the race outright then you might as well have gone out in the first round. I don't see it that way. I like the way they do it in NASCAR. Over there, if you're even in the top 10 or the top 5 then everyone is celebrating. I can tell you this, to get to the finals of an NHRA event in this bracket is a huge deal. We're very happy in the Joe Gibbs pit."
Earlier in the day, Pedregon had beaten his brother Tony for the first time in four chances this year. This time Cruz pasted his brother at the starting line, 0.473 seconds to Tony's 0.538-second start, and went on to win easily with a lap of 5.020 seconds at 254.18 mph to Tony's smoke-filled 14.035-second pass at 72.15 mph.
"Obviously, our goal was to win the event," Cruz said. "Getting by Tony was one of the crucial steps we had to take to realize that goal. That was a big, big win for us. We did what we had to do to get to the finals."
To reach today's action, Cruz beat Bob Gilbertson in Sunday's opening round of eliminations with a lap of 4.933 seconds at 309.91 mph. He then downed his other brother Frank with a 4.886-second, 315.27-mph pass in the quarterfinals.
Cruz now occupies the third spot in the Winston championship points standings. He has accumulated 542 points this year and trails Tony by 157 points and Force by 335 points.