BAYTOWN, Texas – Cruz Pedregon continued his strong start to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season as he powered to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their respective categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near Houston.
The two-time Funny Car world champion has one win this season along with one No. 1 qualifying position and is second in points. On Friday he raced to the top of the qualifying order in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry Funny Car with a leading performance of 4.086 seconds at 310.41 mph.
“This run was really good for us because we broke a couple of rods [on a 4.70 176.76 mph pass] in the first session,” Pedregon said. “It was a flawless pass that really set me back in the seat right at the hit of the throttle. It really pulled hard all the way through, and I knew it was a good pass. But we weren’t trying to knock it out of the park, and or goal was just to keep all eight cylinders lit all the way to the finish line. I honestly would have been happy with a 4.12 or a 4.13. So we were really thrilled with the 4.08.”
Pedregon has eight career No. 1 qualifying positions at the track, but knows that keeping it for eliminations on Sunday could be a tall order.
“Houston has always been a fast track, but our cars are making a lot more power than they used to, and we’re also getting used to some new parts and new tune-up ideas that we’re trying,” Pedregon continued. “And as good as the 4.08 run was, I think that if we have a cloud cover tomorrow, some of the other drivers like Johnny Gray or Courtney (Force) could pop a 4.07. So we have our work cut out for us on Saturday.”
Kalitta raced his Mac Tools dragster to the qualifying lead during a wild second session which saw the top spot change seven times during the course qualifying. Kalitta was in the final pair of cars and posted a run of 3.791 seconds at 321.65 mph to take the lead into the final day of qualifying on Saturday.