Topeka: Cruz Pedregon preview

Cruz Pedregon ready to start adding wins to impressive total at Heartland Park Topeka TOPEKA, Kan., May 21, 2003 -This city, the capital of Kansas, is a long way from Cruz Pedregon's home in Camarillo, Calif., but he has special feelings and...

Cruz Pedregon ready to start adding wins to impressive total at Heartland Park Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan., May 21, 2003 -This city, the capital of Kansas, is a long way from Cruz Pedregon's home in Camarillo, Calif., but he has special feelings and warm memories of Topeka and Heartland Park, its motorsports facility.

The reasons are simple. Four of Pedregon's 22 NHRA Funny Car victories have come at Heartland Park, as have six of his 42 final rounds.

Pedregon would like to find some of that magic this weekend during the NHRA Summer Nationals and drive his Advance Auto Parts Firebird into the winner's circle.

"Topeka has always been one of my favorite tracks," he said. "It has been good to me in the past; maybe it will be good to us now."

Pedregon dominated Funny Car racing at Heartland Park in the mid-1990s. He went to five straight finals from 1994 to 1996 (the track held two races a year from 1993-97), winning three races in a row - the fall race in 1994 and sweeping both 1995 races. His first Topeka win came in 1992 and was an important part of his five-race win streak that carried him to the 1992 NHRA championship. He was runner-up at the first 1994 event and the second race in 1996.

"It has been awhile since I've won there, but there's no reason why we can't recapture some of that glory now," Pedregon commented.

"My co-crew chiefs, Rob Flynn and Dave Fletcher, and I have agreed that our goal is to get the car down the race track on each run," said Pedregon. "We're doing that now but we need it to run down the track quicker than it has been. I'd like to see us run five or six-hundredths of a second quicker at Topeka than we did last weekend at Englishtown (N.J)."

A Friday storm limited Pedregon and the Funny Car field to only two qualifying runs Saturday at Englishtown. He qualified 12th at 4.886 seconds and lost to eventual race winner Whit Bazemore in the opening round, 4.830 at 322.88 mph to 4.898 at 313.51.

As things turned out, Pedregon was the only driver to challenge Bazemore on race day. Del Worsham and Tony Pedregon fouled out in their rounds against Bazemore and Ron Capps' car smoked the tires in the finals.

"Our performance level isn't where it needs to be," Pedregon said. "I don't like losing in the early rounds of a race. I'm aggressive and I think you need to be aggressive to win races. I feel we're close to where we want to be."

Pedregon also is closer to the top 10. He's 12th overall with 293 POWERade Series points, just 24 behind his brother Frank Pedregon, who is 10th. Each round win is worth 20 points.

This is the second of three consecutive races. The Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals will be contested May 30-June 1 at Joliet, Ill.

-cpr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Cruz Pedregon