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Cruz Pedregon Returns To Winning Form

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 28 2021

Cruz Pedregon picked up a Funny Car ‘Wally’ on Sunday.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Add veteran drag racer Cruz Pedregon to the list of single-car team-owner/drivers aiming to level the playing field in NHRA’s nitro Funny Car class.

Pedregon posted his first Funny Car victory in more than three years on Sunday when he defeated single-car owner/driver and point-leader Bob Tasca III in the final of the 14th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Pedregon’s 0.053-second reaction time secured his 37th career victory after an extended drought. NHRA’s Funny Car world champion in 1992 and 2008, Cruz had scored his most recent national event victory during the four-wide race at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C., in 2018. His most recent win in a traditional two-wide race was recorded at Englishtown, N.J., in 2014.

On Sunday, Pedregon covered the 1,000-foot distance at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in 3.958-seconds at 324.75 mph to trailer Tasca, whose reaction time of 0.100-seconds translated into a pass in 3.913-seconds at 332.02 mph.

Ironically, Pedregon and Tasca are at the forefront of single-car teams looking to end the dominance of the multi-car Funny Car juggernauts fielded by Don Schumacher Racing and John Force Racing. Pedregon, in fact, directly has benefitted from DSR’s trimmed-down 2021 lineup, inheriting Tommy Johnson’s team from a year ago led by crew chief John Collins.

“We have been prepping for a winning season, putting in so many hours and there’s nothing quite as rewarding as coming out on top and holding up that (Wally) trophy at the end of a race weekend,” said Pedregon, driver of the Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. “What a great job John (Collins), Rip (Reynolds) and the team did to get us ready for this race. What a real triumph for us all, especially after the 2020 season.

“We really appreciate our sponsors and great fans for sticking with us and giving us the additional boost of confidence we needed. That support is what makes it all possible.”

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the seventh race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. 

Pedregon reached his first final round of the year and 77th in his career on the strength of victories against Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria. “The Cruzer’s” performance against JFR’s Hight and was particularly impressive, as Pedregon and his team delivered a 3.959-second pass to beat Hight’s 3.986. One round later, Pedregon’s 3.947 carried him past DeJoria’s 3.941 thanks to his first holeshot of the day.

Pedregon’s subsequent holeshot against Tasca and his Ford Mustang measured just over one foot at the finish line.

“(Winning) is not why I drag race, but this’ll keep me drag racing,” said Pedregon, 57, who moved into seventh in the point standings. “It’s a good team and I felt like I was kind of holding my team back a little, but I dug deep. You work your way into winning again and these guys taught me to get back into that winning. It feels good to be back at it. This win means that I’m as good as the car, and I know I have a good car, so I think I can be there for the car as well and win more races.”

Tasca had advanced into his third final in 2021 and 19th of his career via victories against Blake Alexander, John Force _ a matchup that determined the point leader leaving Norwalk _ and No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps of DSR in the semifinals. Tasca went low in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, running 3.920 against Force and ending Capps’s afternoon with a 3.924-second pass at 330.39 mph to move into the final.

Tasca, who won in 2019 in Norwalk, exited Ohio with a 53 point-lead over “Brute” Force. The series returns to action July 16-18 with the Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., outside Denver. It’s the first race of the NHRA’s famed summertime Western Swing.

In addition to hoisting the Wally trophy, Pedregon _ who qualified 10th _ celebrated with the ice cream scoop trophy the Bader Family offers the winners at their dragstrip.

Top Fuel point-leader Torrence raced to his third win in Norwalk in the past four events, beating Brittany Force in a side-by-side run. Torrence was first off the starting line, allowing his 1,000-foot run of 3.736-seconds at 313.88 mph to hold up over Force’s quicker 3.730 at 326.24. Torrence earned his fourth win of 2021 and 44th in his career in his Capco Contractors dragster. The Texan advanced into the final by knocking off Shawn Langdon, Leah Pruett and Austin Prock, who was subbing for a medially sidelined Clay Millican.

“These wins really mean a lot,” Torrence said. “I had to get out and apologize to Brittany because I did not mean to go up there and double-bulb (at the Christmas Tree). I’ve been known to do some ‘creative stuff’ on the tree, but I wasn’t trying to do that today. You just have to stay focused and be ready. Those Capco Boys, they’ve done a great job and I’m so proud and honored to be in the position I’m in. To be part of this, it’s humbling. This car is unreal right now, and (crew chiefs) Bobby Lagana and Richard Hogan, those guys are awesome.”

Force powered to her second final this year and 25th overall by defeating Mike Bucher, Justin Ashley and Antron Brown. Brit also set the track E.T. record with an impressive run of 3.696-seconds at 326.09 mph in her semifinal win.

In a Pro Stock matchup of longtime rivals, Erica Enders used an 0.005-second reaction at the wheel of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Anderson. Enders’ quarter-mile run of 6.606-seconds  at 205.44 mph held off Anderson’s quicker 6.594 at 206.20, denying the four-time world champ the chance to tie Warren “The Professor” Johnson for most wins in Pro Stock history (97).

Enders, meanwhile, scored her second win of the season and 31st in her career in a race featuring a pair of four-time world champions. “This is huge mojo. My team, they always step-up to the plate,” Enders said. “After the semifinals, we knew we had to tune it up and we came back and made a bunch of changes. I’m just thrilled and I’m really proud of this team.”

Enders reached the 57th final in her career by defeating Cristian Cuadra, Bruno Massel and Kyle Koretsky. Anderson, who qualified No. 1 for the sixth time in seven races, beat Fernando Cuadra, Val Smeland and Matt Hartford en route to his fourth final this year and 162nd in his career. Anderson maintained the point lead, while Enders moved into second.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith set the track E.T. record in the final round aboard his Denso Auto Parts/Stockseth/Matt Smith Racing EBR, covering the quarter-mile in 6.782-seconds at 200.56 mph to beat Steve Johnson and his Suzuki. Smith picked up his second win this season and 28th in his career, as the reigning world champ built on his point lead. To reach the final round, Smith trailered Jianna Salinas, Ryan Oehler and Eddie Krawiec, dialing up his best round of the weekend _ and the quickest in Pro Stock Motorcycle history at Norwalk _ to deny Johnson a second straight victory.

Johnson moved to second in points by advancing to his third final in 2021 and 25th in his career. Johnson posted round-wins over Jim Underdahl, Angie Smith and Joey Gladstone.

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Sunday’s final results from the 14th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. The race was the seventh of 22 in the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series: 

Top Fuel _ Steve Torrence, 3.736-seconds, 313.88 mph def. Brittany Force, 3.730-seconds, 326.24 mph. 

Funny Car _ Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 3.958, 324.75 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.913, 332.02. 

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 205.44 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.594, 206.20. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Matt Smith, EBR, 6.782, 200.56 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.836, 196.10. 

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Matthew Cummings, 5.206, 279.21 def. Karen Stalba, 5.240, 279.67. 

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ DJ Cox Jr., Chevy Camaro, 9.750, 105.46 def. Bob McCosh, Camaro, Foul/Red Light. 

Competition Eliminator _ Bruno Massel, Chevy Cobalt, 7.311, 169.70 def. Ronnie Bohn, Dragster, 7.796, 165.07. 

Super Stock _ Anthony Bertozzi, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.550, 104.07 def. Ricky Decker, Chevy Camaro, Foul/Red Light. 

Stock Eliminator _ Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 10.526, 118.43 def. Don Belles, Camaro, Foul/Red Light. 

Super Comp — John Labbous Jr., Dragster, 8.836, 181.47 def. Alison Prose, Dragster, Foul/Red Light. 

Super Gas _ Jeremy Mason, Chevy Nova, 9.979, 137.98 def. Jason Kenny, Chevy Corvette, Foul/Red Light. 

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Alan Kenny, Dragster, 6.285, 205.69 def. Anthony Bertozzi, Dragster, 7.266, 167.91. 

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Curt Fredrich, Chevy Camaro, 6.751, 206.42 def. Mike Badia, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Foul/Red Light. 

Pro Modified _ Jose Gonzalez, Chevy Camaro, 5.723, 250.09 def. Brandon Snider, Chevy Corvette, 5.777, 248.84. 

Factory Stock Showdown _ Chuck Watson, Ford Mustang, 7.761, 177.63 def. Bill Skillman, Mustang, 7.803, 177.09. 

Final round-by-round results from the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals:

TOP FUEL 

ROUND ONE _ Antron Brown, 3.767, 328.14 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.855, 312.35; Austin Prock, 4.694, 153.81 def. Krista Baldwin, Broke; Brittany Force, 3.794, 325.53 def. Mike Bucher, 4.134, 287.23; Billy Torrence, 3.789, 325.22 def. Joe Morrison, 5.687, 123.36; Mike Salinas, 4.835, 152.78 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 4.862, 150.95; Steve Torrence, 3.915, 305.98 def. Shawn Langdon, 9.536, 77.66; Justin Ashley, 3.778, 322.19 def. Josh Hart, 3.818, 290.44; Leah Pruett, 3.800, 321.58 def. Doug Foley, 4.642, 162.76; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Prock, 3.766, 325.69 def. Salinas, 3.808, 319.14; Brown, 3.783, 323.97 def. B. Torrence, 3.793, 323.74; Force, 3.735, 326.71 def. Ashley, 4.959, 154.71; S. Torrence, 3.781, 325.45 def. Pruett, 3.772, 326.95;

SEMIFINALS _ S. Torrence, 3.739, 321.88 def. Prock, 3.956, 243.81; Force, 3.696, 326.08 def. Brown, 3.765, 326.32; 

FINAL _ S. Torrence, 3.736, 313.88 def. Force, 3.730, 326.24.

FUNNY CAR 

ROUND ONE _ John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.946, 327.43 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.105, 308.57; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.948, 325.14 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 4.205, 252.76; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.948, 324.83 def. Bobby Bode, Ford Mustang, 4.021, 308.50; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.949, 324.05 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.024, 159.38; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.006, 323.74 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.373, 263.92; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.973, 320.66 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.053, 292.14; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.973, 326.48 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.783, 167.78; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.968, 323.74 def. Mike McIntire, Camry, 6.231, 109.61; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 4.015, 322.04 def. Todd, 9.087, 86.85; Tasca III, 3.920, 331.53 def. Force, 4.002, 327.66; Pedregon, 3.959, 326.24 def. Hight, 3.986, 321.50; DeJoria, 3.952, 317.27 def. Hagan, 4.086, 260.16; 

SEMIFINALS _ Pedregon, 3.947, 324.44 def. DeJoria, 3.941, 320.89; Tasca III, 3.924, 330.39 def. Capps, 4.013, 324.98; 

FINAL _ Pedregon, 3.958, 324.75 def. Tasca III, 3.913, 332.02. 

PRO STOCK 

ROUND ONE _ Val Smeland, Chevy Camaro, 6.692, 207.27 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 12.610, 69.98; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.647, 206.20 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 15.200, 57.01; Bruno Massel, Camaro, 6.663, 206.70 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.656, 205.22; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.649, 205.88 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.647, 206.80; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.647, 206.26 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.672, 205.35; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.629, 207.27 def. Fernando Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 11.469, 77.15; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.729, 205.22 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 12.272, 71.51; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.674, 206.95 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.713, 205.88; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Enders, 6.647, 207.34 def. Massel, 6.693, 207.15; Koretsky, 6.653, 206.76 def. Cuadra Jr., 7.176, 150.15; Hartford, 6.647, 206.29 def. Glenn, 6.668, 205.94; Anderson, 6.640, 206.99 def. Smeland, 6.687, 207.40; 

SEMIFINALS _ Enders, 6.643, 206.57 def. Koretsky, 6.660, 206.23; Anderson, 6.627, 205.79 def. Hartford, 6.653, 206.20; 

FINAL _ Enders, 6.606, 205.44 def. Anderson, 6.594, 206.20. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE 

ROUND ONE _ Angie Smith, 6.946, 196.73 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Foul/Red Light; John Hall, Buell, 6.911, 197.42 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.952, 191.27; Ryan Oehler, 6.995, 194.55 def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.996, 193.65; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.835, 197.57 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 10.750, 77.01; Andrew Hines, Buell, 6.854, 199.67 def. Cory Reed, Suzuki, 6.937, 193.74; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.817, 197.51 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.148, 190.59; Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 6.846, 199.52 def. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 7.041, 190.03; Matt Smith, 6.818, 200.83 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.193, 186.10; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Krawiec, 6.854, 200.41 def. Hall, 6.891, 197.08; Gladstone, 6.856, 197.65 def. Hines, 6.847, 199.91; M. Smith, 6.816, 200.26 def. Oehler, 7.119, 191.51; Johnson, 6.821, 197.57 def. A. Smith, 6.903, 196.59; 

SEMIFINALS _ Johnson, 6.797, 196.36 def. Gladstone, 6.869, 195.56; M. Smith, 6.800, 199.85 def. Krawiec, 6.823, 199.61;

FINAL _ M. Smith, 6.782, 200.56 def. Johnson, 6.836, 196.10. 

Point standings (top-10) following the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 733; 2. Antron Brown, 518; 3. Billy Torrence, 448; 4. Brittany Force, 442; 5. Shawn Langdon, 385; 6. Justin Ashley, 337; 7. Doug Kalitta, 332; 8. Leah Pruett, 320; 9. Mike Salinas, 318; 10. Josh Hart, 310.

Funny Car _1. Bob Tasca III, 590; 2. John Force, 537; 3. J.R. Todd, 502; 4. Robert Hight, 485; 5. Ron Capps, 453; 6. Matt Hagan, 434; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 417; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 399; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 397; 10. Terry Haddock, 252.

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 648; 2. Erica Enders, 506; 3. Aaron Stanfield, 479; 4. Matt Hartford, 450; 5. Mason McGaha, 433; 6. Deric Kramer, 423; 7. Dallas Glenn, 399; 8. Kyle Koretsky, 384; 9. Troy Coughlin Jr., 356; 10. Chris McGaha, 273.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Matt Smith, 499; 2. Steve Johnson, 406; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 348; 4. Ryan Oehler, 345; 5. Angelle Sampey, 264; 6. Joey Gladstone, 255; 7. Angie Smith, 233; 8. Karen Stoffer, 226; 9. Cory Reed, 218; 10. Eddie Krawiec, 206.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 28 2021
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