CONCORD, N.C. – Cruz Pedregon entered the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway on a winless drought spanning 92 races in the Funny Car class.
That winless drought is now officially over.
Pedregon outran No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force, 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Funny Car finals to snap the winless streak that dated back to 2014. The victory, his 36th in NHRA Funny Car competition, moved him into sole possession of fifth on the all-time Funny Car winners list ahead of Don Prudhomme.
“Ninety-two is a good number. I got my first championship in 1992, so I guess 92 is a good lucky number,” said Pedregon, who is a two-time Funny Car world champion.
Driving his own Snap-on Toyota Camry, Pedregon put together a convincing 4.059-second run at 310.84 mph to defeat John Force, who crossed the line second with a 4.098-second pass at 307.93 mph.
The victory is a big moment for Pedregon, who runs independently against the big teams like Don Schumacher Racing, John Force Racing and Kalitta Motorsports.
“This might be the best, sweetest victory of my career. I’ve been fortunate to drive some good cars and win a lot of races, but this one’s big,” Pedregon said. “I said I just don’t want to finish fourth, so I’m going to do everything I can to not finish fourth. And we got the win.
“I cannot believe we won this race.”
Pedregon gave most of the credit to his crew chief Aaron Brooks, who joined the team last year and has helped right the ship at Cruz Pedregon Racing.
“No question, Aaron has been a great asset,” said Pedregon. “Today we have a car that just won the race. It just goes to show that if you stick with good people and they’ll make you good as they say.”
In the Top Fuel class, Steve Torrence continued his mastery of four-wide competition with his third-straight victory in four-wide action.
Torrence, who was the defending winner of Sunday’s race and also the winner of the inaugural four-wide event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this month, defeated Doug Kalitta, Terry McMillen and Clay Millican to earn his third victory of the season.
“If I honestly knew what the recipe (to winning four-wide races) was, I’d try to write it down so I wouldn’t forget,” Torrence joked.
The Texas racer, who like Pedregon fields and owns his own race team independently of the big teams, put down a 3.813-second run at 326.56 mph to easily beat Kalitta, who slowed to a 4.010-second run at 278.12 mph.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Torrence said. “We didn’t do the best through qualifying and we haven’t had the best car all year. We’ve been working on some stuff. I think we could easily go back and run what we did at the end of the year last year and just stay consistently there, but you’ve got to constantly evolve your program. You’ve got to change and try to go quicker.
“The car performed flawlessly. It did what it was supposed to.”
The victory for Torrence further cemented him as a championship contender one year after he won a series-high eight races and finished second to Brittany Force in the series standings. He believes its further proof that independents such as himself and Pedregon can race against – and beat – the likes of Schumacher, Force and Kalitta.
“It shows a lot of people (it can be done) and we showed it pretty good last year,” Torrence said. “We won eight races and the Traxxas Shootout and the next closest won four. So as an independent we came out and flexed our muscles pretty strongly. We had some bad luck in the Countdown (last year) but I think those guys know that we’re here, we’re very fierce competitors and that independents can go out and hold their own pretty good and knock some of these big dogs out.”