Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals
Family history colors Pedregon's plan of attack
"For what ever reason they changed their strategy to try and just preserve their lead," said Cruz Pedregon, Tony's older brother who holds the top spot in the points this time through. "They ended up barely qualifying, losing Round 1, and having to sweat it out all day. It turned out okay but we learned from that, and it's why we're not going to change anything we've been doing. We're going out in a blaze of glory one way or the other."
Considering he's won the last two events in a row, Cruz's strategy remains sound. Exhibiting the signs of true champions, his Advance Auto Parts race team is peaking at the perfect time, racing through the first five events of the NHRA's playoffs with a class-leading 12-3 race day mark.
"We've raced with nothing to lose and kind of just trusted ourselves," Pedregon said. "We've been going for it and it's paid off. We're not going to pull back at all. We may be in the points lead, and that's very exciting for a bunch of different reasons, but I still feel like we have to push ourselves to the edge if we want to win it all."
Cruz arrives at Pomona Raceway in a much tighter race than brother Tony experienced one year ago. He's just 12 points up on Tim Wilkerson, 39 ahead of Robert Hight, 62 in front of Tony, and 64 up on "Fast" Jack Beckman.
"It's scary close," Cruz said. "The two guys that are the biggest threats worry me for completely different reasons. Wilkerson is generally great when it's warmer and it's supposed to be warm this weekend. Robert is back there lurking. He won this race last year and he'll have the entire might of John Force Racing behind him, including three blockers on Sunday that would love to take everyone else out. It's gonna be brutal. The champion this year will definitely have earned the crown.
"I'm so glad we run Thursday because I can't wait to get back in the car. The first thing to do every race is qualify well and with the points as close as they are, the championship can literally be won or lost in qualifying."
After so much success very early in his career -- capped by the 1992 championship -- the 25-time national event winner has learned over some leaner years that any success at the highest level of straight-line racing must be enjoyed to its fullest extent.
"This has been an incredibly exciting time for us," Pedregon said. "I'm really happy for Rahn (Tobler, crew chief). I'm happy for the guys. We've had meetings where I've just reminded everyone to enjoy these moments because they're hard to come by. Win or loss, this has been a great season for us and I truly feel as though we're just hitting our stride. I'm already fired-up for next year."
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