Phoenix - Pedregon Geared Up

Confident Pedregon Geared Up For Phoenix PHOENIX (Feb. 19, 1999) -- The reality check came early for Cruz Pedregon and Joe Gibbs' Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Pontiac Funny Car team. Pedregon wasn't among the 16 starters at the season-opening ...

Confident Pedregon Geared Up For Phoenix

PHOENIX (Feb. 19, 1999) -- The reality check came early for Cruz Pedregon and Joe Gibbs' Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Pontiac Funny Car team. Pedregon wasn't among the 16 starters at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. (Feb. 7). It was the second consecutive year he didn't make the field in the opener. But the veteran driver hasn't let the disappointment he felt then cloud the overall picture.

"As far as the big picture goes, there are still 21 Winston Series races remaining," Pedregon said. "We sat down after the Winternationals and analyzed things. Our not making the race was just one of those fluky things. We came up one run short of qualifying, and that was the run we lost due to wet weather. "We obviously need to bounce back. And we will. Wes (Cerny, the crew chief) and the team will be geared up, ready to race."

The first opportunity is the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, Feb. 26-28, at Firebird International Raceway. The last time Pedregon and the Interstate Batteries/Hot Rod Pontiac visited the track, he was clocked at 4.81 seconds, 321 mph. That was last month during testing, when the car's performance lent credence to their championship hopes.

"The 4.81 run was the only time I ran the car to the finish line," Pedregon recalled. "We were testing and I had shut off early on all the other runs. We know we can run well there.

"Looking back at Pomona, there wasn't one thing I could've done to get us down the track. I always look at the situations to see if there was something that I could've done when things weren't right, but nothing would have helped. We had mechanical problems. We had a clutch mechanism fail, smoked the tires and then a blower explosion in the final run."

His best time was 5.717 seconds, and he needed a 5.507 to place 16th. The crew spent the two weeks between races doing more preventative maintenance, something Pedregon thinks will be rewarded in the future. "I believe things happen for a reason," he commented, "and all the work they've done will pay off.

"Right now we have a full head of steam and are definitely going after the championship. We have a great crew chief in Wes and a talented crew. We aren't going to be happy with anything other than No. 1. We know we have a solid race-day setup for Phoenix and we want to go some rounds."

Pedregon, Cerny and crew rebounded quite nicely from their false start a year ago. Cruz won four series events, plus the Winston Invitational. He captured 12 pole positions and reset the elapsed time record three times, the last at 4.807 seconds, last October.

He was the No. 3 qualifier at Firebird in '98 before going on a potent streak, taking the top qualifying spots at seven of the next eight races. Using the 1999 test results for verification, it's obvious Pedregon and his team have championship credentials. They hope to prove it during the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Cruz Pedregon