Sonoma: Cruz Pedregon preview

Pedregon, Advance Auto Parts Team want to maintain momentum at Sonoma SONOMA, Calif., July 30, 2003 - This is the way Cruz Pedregon envisioned it: His Advance Auto Parts Funny Car would be contending for race wins on a regular basis. He would...

Pedregon, Advance Auto Parts Team want to maintain momentum at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif., July 30, 2003 - This is the way Cruz Pedregon envisioned it:

His Advance Auto Parts Funny Car would be contending for race wins on a regular basis. He would consistently qualify among the top eight and be a solid member of the NHRA POWERade Series top 10.

It's now 14 races into the season and Pedregon's vision is beginning to come into focus. He's been a contender for race victories at Denver and Seattle the last two weeks. He's qualified in the top eight in the last three events and he's forged his way into the top 10 at No. 9 (634 points).

Now, with the Fram/Autolite Nationals - the last race on NHRA's traditional "western swing" - coming at Infineon Raceway, Aug. 1-3, Pedregon hopes to transform the progress made into a victory.

The turnaround is impressive. In the first 12 races, Pedregon won four rounds. He's won five more in the next two races. He won three in Denver alone, going to the finals for the first time since 2000. He added two more round wins in Seattle on Sunday, going to the semifinals. In both instances, John Force was the driver who beat Pedregon.

While the round wins began to add up at Denver, Pedregon points to a good outing at St. Louis (June 29) as the impetus for the surge. The car ran well and he qualified fourth, his highest starting position in 2003. But a hot, tricky track bit Pedregon and he lost in the opening round.

Track conditions were challenging at Denver and Seattle, too. That's why Pedregon and crew chiefs Rob Flynn and Dave Fletcher are looking forward to Infineon Raceway's smooth racing surface.

"We can turn our horsepower loose at Sonoma," Pedregon said. "At Seattle, we were like a boxer on defense. We were doing the rope-a-dope all weekend, so we're ready for a good track like the one at Sonoma. We'll try to go on offense a little more at Sonoma. We are making some power. On a good racetrack in the right conditions, our car will run."

Pedregon qualified second at Seattle and navigated the slippery, bumpy track well enough to win his first two rounds. He left the starting line first against Force and had the engine not dropped a cylinder, Pedregon would've reached the finish line first.

"We dropped the cylinder about halftrack," Pedregon noted, and the car slowed to a 5.170 at 280.66 while Force won with a 5.046.

"One of my goals this year is to eclipse my personal elapsed time best, and that's 4.80 (seconds)," added Pedregon, "so I'd like to jump into the (4).70s before the end of the year. Sonoma might be the place we can do that."

Pedregon does have two victories (1996, 1998) at the Sonoma racing facility, both coming when it was known as Sears Point Raceway. He also was runner-up in 1992.

The track was remodeled last year and its name changed to Infineon Raceway. Part of the reconstruction separated the drag racing asphalt from the road course, assuring a smooth 1320-foot drag racing surface.

Qualifying is scheduled at 3 and 6 p.m. Friday, noon and 3 p.m. Saturday. Sunday's eliminations begin at noon.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Cruz Pedregon