Houston Cruz Pedregon Preview

Pedregon looking to rekindle record-shattering excitement HOUSTON (April 2, 1999) -- Records are made to be broken, the old adage goes. Cruz Pedregon knows a thing or two about setting records, especially at Houston Raceway Park. He set the...

Pedregon looking to rekindle record-shattering excitement

HOUSTON (April 2, 1999) -- Records are made to be broken, the old adage goes. Cruz Pedregon knows a thing or two about setting records, especially at Houston Raceway Park.

He set the NHRA Funny Car elapsed time record three times in 1998 and broke his own mark twice, both times at Houston Raceway Park. Pedregon, driving the Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Pontiac, won once and advanced to the semifinals in his visits to Houston last year.

Pedregon returns to try and rekindle some of that record-shattering excitement - and win for the first time this season - when the O'Reilly Nationals unfolds April 9-11 at Houston Raceway Park. And Pedregon, who was the only driver to rewrite the record book in '98, will be trying to establish another mark. Only this time, it's not his record to break.

During his last visit to Houston in November, Pedregon dropped the standard to 4.807 seconds while earning his fourth victory of the season. John Force lowered that mark to 4.799 seconds during the recent Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. (March 21).

"We are looking forward to going to Houston. I know (crew chief) Wes (Cerny) is looking for more performance from our race car," Pedregon said. "Wes knows what changes he needs to make to get the car to run better. I look for our performance to pick up. Our car did run well there last year. We'd like to pick up where we left off.

"We had a decent weekend in Gainesville, but it wasn't great. We really need to get back into the later rounds (of the race), and Houston is definitely a place where we feel we can turn the corner. It is a fast track. We are fourth in points and we need to keep moving up the ladder. That's our goal."

On a weekend in Gainesville when five Funny Cars qualified in the 4.80s, including Pedregon's No. 4 at 4.890 seconds, another Pedregon - Cruz's brother Tony - registered the category's quickest elapsed time, 4.777 seconds. That isn't the record because he did not make it official with a run within one percent during the event.

On race day, Cruz opened with a 4.949-second, 291.89 mph run to beat Dale Creasy Jr. In the next round, Cory Lee turned in an upset win in a close race, winning with a 4.934 at 307.86 to Pedregon's 4.938 at 288.77.

"I thought I'd won because I didn't see Cory at all (during the run)," Pedregon said. "It was just one of those races, good and close. We did the best we could but we only had one full run to the finish line all weekend. We were looking for bigger numbers (lower elapsed times). When you run in the mid-4.90s (seconds) these days you are going to be vulnerable.”

A year ago in Houston, Cerny tuned the green Interstate Batteries machine to Pedregon's second record run in as many races, 4.817 seconds. A week earlier in Gainesville, Pedregon had run 4.873 seconds to establish his first 1998 mark.

His success at the track near the Gulf of Mexico began in 1992, Pedregon's first career win in Funny Car. He not only won the race, but also set his first national elapsed time mark at 5.102 seconds.

Pedregon and Cerny hope to flex their mechanical muscle during qualifying sessions -- Friday at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. -- to be ready for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

-30- Cruz Pedregon

1999 Funny Car Record Standing: 4th, 162 points Round Record: 4W -2L Quickest ET: 4.888, Phoenix Fastest Speed: 311.20 mph, Phoenix Wins: 0 Runner-up: 1 - Phoenix

Career Funny Car Record Best Season Finish: 1st, 1992 First Season: 1992 Races Qualified: 134 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 Houston (Spring Race) Best Finish: Won event, 1992 Best ET/Speed: 4.819/317.23, 1998

Personal Age: 35 Birthdate: Sept. 19, 1953 Residence: Camarillo, Calif. Family: Wife - Sharon

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Cory Lee
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing