He’s a “Cruzer,” not a crooner.
But if two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon were a singer, he’d open every performance with the iconic Frank Sinatra hit “My Way.”
“That’s a pretty cool song, to me, and the message in it is pretty cool,” the independent David in a class full of Goliaths. “How many songs have you heard where it’s ‘I did it his way?’ Can you imagine? That song would not be a very popular song. So I’ve always been that way.
“Even the last couple of year when I was driving for Joe Gibbs, I had already started buying equipment. I bought a truck and a trailer — even when I was employed and had no plans on leaving Joe Gibbs. This has been instilled in me. It’s in my fabric, my make-up,” he added.
Pedregon drove for Larry Minor and then for Gibbs, but he always had something else in mind.
“Once my career was up and running, the next natural phase was ownership,” Pedregon said. “My dad taught me to do your own thing. He always encouraged me. My dad (Frank, who never urged his sons to drag race like he did) was a demanding guy. His way was to do your own thing, own your own business and not be a follower. He taught me the leader mentality, not the follower mentality. It has been an experience. It has been tough.
“But I doubt very much I’d still be around if I hadn’t gone my own way,” Pedregon continued. “Larry Minor folded his operation in 1990 and Joe Gibbs folded his operation in 2000. So it’s a good damn thing I did go on my own, because I’d be ‘Cruz, the guy that raced in the ’90s’ and is long forgotten.”
And now the end is near. And so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full. I traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
The end of Pedregon’s career isn’t near.
He’ll be 57 this month and has no calendar for exiting the sport. However, he calculated that he won’t stay as long as 71-year-old John Force.
Racing past age 70 is “not something that I desire to do. I’m not going to put a timetable on driving. I don’t think I’m going to race as long as he has, but I definitely have a few years left in me,” Pedregon said. “I could see myself more as an owner and still being out there with my car. Through all the years I’ve been at it, I’ve also been collecting experience on how to run a team better, how to manage people better and how to run a car.
“So I feel like I’ve got a lot of good years left to offer. I’ve been doing it so long I’m getting good at it — might as well keep it going.”
Losing isn’t in his plans, despite starting the season with three straight first-round losses and one round-two defeat.
“I feel like we’re on the brink of breaking out of the rebuilding mode that I’ve been in for several years now. I’ve got probably the most solid team, top to bottom. I feel like I finally have a team that stacks up well against the competition,” Pedregon explained. “More than anything, it has been about personnel with me. As a single-car team, you’re challenged.
“Times have changed, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is people – you still have to have good people,” he added. “I used to think, ‘Man, if I could just get the right budget together and buy certain parts and pieces of equipment — boom, I’m good.’ Well, it has taken me several years to realize it takes more than the equipment. And it takes more than a nice race shop. It takes more than a nice truck and trailer. The people are the ones who really make the difference. It has been a process, but I feel like the sport has created enough good people, and I’ve been the beneficiary of that.
“I feel like it’s a bigger deal if we’re successful — and I plan on being successful as an independent team,” Pedregon continued. “If you become part of a conglomerate multi-car team, you’re expected to win. You should win. You have all the resources. You have everything you need; the best of everything. It’s expected. It’s a big deal anytime you can win, but it would be an even bigger deal if we can pull it off and do it our way.”
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