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Cruz Pedregon Not Rolling Over

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2009
Cruz Pedregon not letting disappointment of U.S. Nationals get him down. (Photo courtesy the NHRA)

Cruz Pedregon not letting disappointment of U.S. Nationals get him down. (Photo courtesy the NHRA)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Concord, N.C. – No pressure, nothing to prove and no revenge motive. That’s what Cruz Pedregon said Friday night after grabbing the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car competition at the NHRA Carolinas Nationals.

His motivation on Friday, and will be for the rest of the season, Pedregon said, remains the same no matter what the circumstances: win races.

If anyone ever had a right to have spite-based motivation, Pedregon would be No. 1 qualifier there as well.

Two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals, his bid to hold onto a berth in the Countdown to 1 was blunted by a controversial situation in the semifinals.

In that semi at O’Reilly Motorsports Park in Indianapolis, Robert Hight beat his team owner, John Force, and that moved Hight in to the 10-driver, six-race playoff, and Pedregon out.

Pedregon and his brother, Tony, claimed that Force deliberately lost to Hight in order to put another John Force Racing driver and car into the Countdown.

A near brawl broke out between Tony Pedregon and Force after the run in question. They got in each other’s faces and pushing and shoving ensued.

Pedregon said, no, there was no way to quickly forget what happened.

“It was a bummer,” Cruz Pedregon said Friday of Indy. “I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t affect us. It was hard to get up in the morning because you work all year. Ashley Force said it best. She did such a classy interview. She said, when she commented on the goings-on there with John and all the yelling and pushing and all that, she said that everybody is out here working all year for that moment, all the blood sweat and tears and that’s what it came down to.”

But Pedregon also said he is not about to let it destroy what’s left of his season.

“We’re out here just trying to perform at a high level,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we missed the Countdown. We missed it by just a little bit. We just come up short.”

His pass of 4.087 seconds and at 303.91 mph showed that he is not going to let the past affect his immediate future.

Second to Pedregon Friday was, rather ironically, Hight.

Nabbing provisional No. 1 qualifying spots in the other pro classes were Antron Brown in Top Fuel, Mike Edwards in Pro Stock and Hector Arana in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Top Fuel: Brown tore the top spot away from defending series champion Tony Schumacher with a pass in 3.847 seconds and at 317.87 mph. It came on the final Pro run of the evening.

Doug Herbert, who was fastest in the first round of qualifying Friday, will head to Saturday in the No. 3 spot.

Brown was happy with the five points he picked up under the new point-paying system the NHRA has instituted.

“Those are valuable points that we needed,” Brown said. “This is the Countdown. It puts pressure on everybody and those points really help.”

Brown said he is not confident that his Friday time will hold up through Saturday’s third and fourth rounds of qualifying.

“I don’t think it’s going to hold up,” Brown said. “I think we’ll see some really low .80s. It’s supposed to be overcast.”

In Funny Car: John Force racing continued to flex its biceps as three of the team’s drivers posted top-five qualifying passes.

Robert Hight, who squeezed into the Countdown by advancing to the finals at the U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, claimed the No. 2 qualifying spot behind Pedregon.

Ashley Force Hood will head to Saturday’s rounds of qualifying in the third position. She was bumped from No. 2 by Hight on the final pass of the session.

John Force had the fifth-quickest time Friday.

Point leader Tony Pedregon was 11th fastest Friday. Ron Capps, third in points, was 12th.

In Pro Stock: Edwards showed no signs of yielding his unofficial title of qualifying king of the division. If his time holds up throurgh Saturday, he will start as No. 1 qualifier for the 10th time this season.

His problems have come on Sundays. He has three victories, which isn’t horrible, but he sure would like to turn more of those big Fridays and Saturdays into big-point weekends.

You’ve got to believe that Edwards wishes that the NHRA would have installed its new system which pays points for each qualifying run before the season instead of before the Countdown. He picked up four big points in qualifying on Friday.

Ronnie Humphrey was second fastest and Allen Johnson was third

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Arana followed up his big victory in at the U.S. Nationals two weeks ago with a pass at 189.98 mph in the first round of Friday’s qualifying. His time was 6.965 seconds. It all held up through the second round on Friday afternoon.

Arana starts the weekend third in points. If his time holds up through Saturday’s qualifying sessions, he will claim his fifth No. 1 qualifying position of the season.

Andrew Hines was second quickest Friday with a pass at 6.980 seconds. Angie McBride was third fastest on the day.

Point-leader Eddie Krawiec was fifth fastest.

Notes from ZMax

The driver whom many call NASCAR’s best ever looked a little unsure of himself in the pits at ZMax drag strip at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Friday. Not because he was climbing onto a Pro Stock motorcycle that goes 0 to 200 in about 6 seconds, but because he was climbing onto a bike that did quite fit.

“Seat’s a little too small for me,” David Pearson said after finally getting of the bike.

Guess so as the bike belonged to Karen Stoffer.

Pearson was Stoffer’s guest on Friday. They talked racing and bikes and the differences between going in circles and going straight.

Pearson, the winner of 105 Sprint Cup races, is a relative stranger to NHRA events these days but a stranger neither to drag racing nor fast motorcycles.

Pearson did some drag racing back in the day, just not of the top-shelf NHRA variety. And, sitting in his garage right now is a Harley he has had after-marketed into a very fast machine.

He still loves speed, Pearson said.

Meeting of the mouths

Standing near the staging area early Friday evening was John Force and he was talking to Rusty Wallace.

What do you supposed the word count was on that conversation. Oh, and the third member of the conversation was Jimmy Spencer. Yikes. Fans were lucky to be able to hear the cars.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2009
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