Cruz Pedregon Sets Early Gainesville Pace

Cruz Pedregon is taking a different approach to the 2013 NHRA season. (NHRA Photo)
Cruz Pedregon claimed the provisional No. 1 spot in NHRA Funny Car qualifying for the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Friday. (NHRA Photo)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Cruz Pedregon raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

Two-time world champ Pedregon, whose only win at this event came in 1998, powered his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to the provisional No. 1 position with a performance of 4.047 seconds at 296.05 mph. If the effort holds through Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions (11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.) it will be his fourth No. 1 at this event and the 51st of his career.

“We just have a good car,” Pedregon said. “It’s very forgiving and maybe making us look better than we are. It has been running good since mid-year last year and carried through over the winter and we have made some improvements. If anything it has picked up more consistency. This is definitely a good track here and one we like. It’s a good start for the Snap-on Tools Toyota.”

Johnny Gray was second in Funny Car with a 4.071 at 313.22 in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger, while Del Worsham drove his DHL Toyota to the third position with a 4.110 at 309.98.

Kalitta led Top Fuel qualifying with a 3.801 at 325.85 in his Mac Tools dragster, holding off Shawn Langdon and defending world champion Antron Brown for the top spot.

“I am real proud of my guys, the car left real straight and ran great down through there,” Kalitta said. “My whole Mac Tools team has the car running good so I am happy to have a good ride here at the Gatornationals which is always a great event. It’s always a race you look at in the series and hope you can do well. I am real proud of what is going on and real hopeful that we can hold up tomorrow.”

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