CRUZ PEDREGON WINS U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN, TOP FUEL FIELD SET Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, Allen Johnson, Matt Smith qualify No. 1 INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Cruz Pedregon capped a momentous Sunday at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals by defeating Tim ...
CRUZ PEDREGON WINS U.S. SMOKELESS SHOWDOWN, TOP FUEL FIELD SET
Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, Allen Johnson, Matt Smith qualify No. 1
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Cruz Pedregon capped a momentous Sunday at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals by defeating Tim Wilkerson to win the U.S. Smokeless Showdown, the annual bonus race for Funny Cars, and the $100,000 first prize that comes with the title.
"I tried not to think about the money," said Pedregon, a former POWERade Series and three-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion who won the bonus race for the first time in his career, powering the Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara past Wilkerson's Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Impala, 4.184 to 4.280. "I'm still kind of in shock (but) I'm going to enjoy this one."
Cruz celebrated alongside his brother Tony Pedregon who earned the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car at the 18th and final regular season event in the 24-race NHRA POWERade Series season. Joining Pedregon on the pole of their respective classes were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Meanwhile, the Countdown to 1 playoff picture came into perfect focus as the Top Field was set with Dave Grubnic and Doug Kalitta securing the final two berths by virtue of Morgan Lucas's DNQ; in Pro Stock, Warren Johnson needs to reach the final round -- something he's yet to do this season -- to bump Greg Stanfield; and in Pro Stock Motorcycle it'll be a winner-take-all matchup between 10th-place Karen Stoffer and 11th-place Hector Arana in the first round of Monday's race to determine the final berth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.
"We can't blame it on anyone else," said Stoffer (7.071), who qualified 15th and will cede lane choice to the No. 2 qualified Arana (6.954). "The goal is to find the glitch (in the Geico Suzuki) tonight and come out and rock the mountain (Monday)."
The deepest field of the season resulted in a number of notable drivers who did not make the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals field, including Lucas in Top Fuel, John Force (who fell from sixth to eighth place)and Gary Scelzi in Funny Car, and 10th-place Greg Stanfield in Pro Stock (which opened the door for Warren Johnson).
Conditions were not ideal Sunday, but Tony Schumacher was able to power his U.S. Army dragster into the field with a 3.877 at 313.58 in the first of the final two qualifying rounds and he had the quickest pass in the final qualifying round. He'll open with Bob Vandergriff Monday as he seeks to break the NHRA Top Fuel records for consecutive wins (5) and wins in a season (10) and tie Joe Amato's record for most wins all-time in Top Fuel (52).
At the top of the Top Fuel class was U.S. Smokeless dragster pilot Larry Dixon, a three-time winner of the U.S. Nationals who is sitting on the pole in Indy for the second time in his career. He set the pace on Saturday with his 3.841 at 307.23 that held up on Sunday.
"It's fine, but obviously the big prize is tomorrow," said Dixon, who is currently in third place behind Schumacher and Antron Brown.
Tony Pedregon's 4.073-second pass at 301.94 mph in his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala held up on Sunday to earn him his third No. 1 qualifier of the season. The two-time and defending POWERade Series champion has won 40 career races, second most in Funny Car, but never has he found his way to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner's circle.
"This race is big," said Pedregon, currently second to Tim Wilkerson in the Funny Car standings. "I've had some highlights in my career, won two championships, and there's no question, if I win this race, it'd be right up there.
Allen Johnson lowered the No. 1 mark for the third straight day of qualifying, to 6.634 at 207.18, to earn his first career Indy pole in his Team Mopar J&J Racing and he will sleep on that career achievement tonight with another in his reach.
"To do anything here at Indy to get your name in the record books, I can't explain how good it feels," said Johnson, who earned his second No. 1 of the season and fifth of his career. "It's a dream of everybody's to win Indy. It would rank up there with winning a championship."
Smith's 6.932 at 189.90 aboard the Nitro Fish Buell earned him his second pole at Indy, the first coming in 2006 when he doubled up and won the race. Smith has actually been to three straight final rounds at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals with the one win in 2006.
"It's good to come back here. This has been a good track for me," said Smith, who will start from the pole for the fifth time in this season having won the previous four times. "We're going to try to win us another one tomorrow."
Also clinching playoff berths Sunday were Ron Krisher in Pro Stock and Craig Treble and Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The Funny Car field was already set coming into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday and can be seen on ESPN2HD at Noon to 2 and 7-10 p.m. ET.