Hey everyone, sorry I’ve missed a few races but we’ve been really focused on getting this Snap-on Toyota dialed in. So, here’s what’s been going on the last few weeks at Cruz Pedregon Racing.
Before we headed to the race in Atlanta, I made a stop to visit my good friends Jeff and Amy Garmon. They own Garmon’s Diesel, right outside of Atlanta and are an associate sponsor for our team. They have a diesel performance transmission shop and we toured their facility. They also held a Snap-on diagnostics seminar at their shop with their franchisee (Ben Arnold) and some of his customers. It was pretty cool because they had some 5.7 Cummins diesel trucks that Jeff’s souped up and some Dodge diesels that run crazy times in the ¼ mile. It was cool to be a part of that since I grew up around diesel trucks.
After that, we headed to the Coke Champions dinner which is always fun. We had a great meal and a chance to spend some time with the folks from Coke and the Mello Yello brand that are supporting our sport. It’s pretty awesome that they invite the past champions to this event every year and we truly appreciate everything they do for us!
The next stop was at Sparky Machines Auto Museum with Snap-on franchisee Ron Smith. It was at a really cool car museum with lots of neat cars and trucks with a great shop out in the country. They had a great turn out too which always makes for a fun time.
The race weekend was crazy, getting rained out and having to make a second trip back. We ended up getting two qualifying runs on Friday and ended up 3rd and went to the semi-finals where we dropped some cylinders due to a head gasket issue but still managed to come out on top of the points.
Next, we moved on to Topeka, one of my favorite tracks with a great history of winning back in the 90’s with the McDonald’s car. I started out my weekend with Snap-on franchisee David Foster at the Clint Bowyer Autoplex in Emporia. There were a lot of cross-over fans from NASCAR and I got to sign 4 or 5 tool boxes and even a dusty old diecast. Lol! The race that weekend was interesting from the perspective that we were very consistent and qualified 8th but didn’t get the end results we were looking for. In the first round, we found out we had a broken piston so running a 4.18 with that issue was pretty amazing, but wasn’t good enough to get past Beckman. Overall, we learned a lot. The guys got a little bit of rest and did a lot of work during the off week to get ready to go out and battle at Englishtown!
During Memorial Day weekend, I was invited out to the Coke 600 by my good friend Jeff Howe from Snap-on. Every year, Snap-on runs a national sales program where a franchisee, customer, and guests get an all-expenses paid weekend out at the Coke 600 event. We started off by touring the Penske shop and having dinner on Friday night. On Saturday, they took everyone to the NASCAR museum and then we attended the Nationwide race. Snap-on did everything first class and even raffled off a SS Camaro! Thanks again to everyone for that great experience!
Next, we got to spend time near Englishtown with franchisee Richard Frye at Tom’s Ford dealership in Keyport, NJ. They had some great pizza and subs along with some great Snap-on customers. E-town was one of our better races but unfortunately we don’t have the results to show it. We had the quickest ET on both middle of the day runs. In Q-3 we ran a 4.10 and the belt broke at about 150 feet before the finish line so it was probably on a 4.08. It was a tremendous run because the track was about 120 degrees. In E-1, we continued the stellar runs with a 4.08 against Capps’ 4.12 but in the second round, the clutch was grabbing real hard on the engine during the burn out and backing up so we wound up spinning the tires early and it never really recovered. It was disappointing for sure but definitely a race where we felt like we had the car to beat. We looked at the clutch situation and discovered that the springs weren’t right so we’re working in the shop now to get it fixed for Bristol. There’s no reason we can’t go there and pick up where we left off.
The team is enthusiastic and the crew chief and driver are on the same page. This Snap-on car is a great car and we’re so excited for all our sponsors! We’ll go out to Bristol where I’d love to win! It’s probably the most scenic facility on the circuit. They have the short track next door and the drag race track is carved out of a mountain so the thunder of the cars is amazing. I think we have something for ‘em next weekend so tune in!
Hey everyone! All of us here at CPR are still on cloud nine about the win last week, but now the focus has shifted to Atlanta!
The ride along before the Houston race was in Cleveland, Texas, north of Baytown, which I never even knew anything existed past there. LOL! Pretty soon, we were in this neat little town meeting “Jammin” Jim Phillips, Snap-on franchisee at Martin Auto Park. The people there were awesome and just good country folk. They had a full-on BBQ and smoker there making some good old food. I got to spend some time with Jim and learned he was in management with Snap-on before becoming a franchisee, is a 20+ year Snap-on veteran, and owns three other Snap-on franchises, which is so cool! The most interesting thing about him is he races on pavement oval tracks, which is right up my alley. We talked about and compared the different pavement/dirt venues we’ve raced at, so it was neat to have something else in common to talk about besides drag racing. LOL. Jim did ask me at the end of the visit to win a Wally just like in Vegas, so we did! (See the pic of us playing tug of war with poor old Wally) J
After the ride along, we got focused on the race weekend. On Friday, we topped the charts with a 4.08 on the second run; it was smooth and fast. I really felt with the cloud cover that we could run even better, but it rained all day Saturday, so they cancelled qualifications, which put us right into Sunday. We had so much rain on Saturday that pieces of the track were peeling up on Sunday, but the NHRA Safety Safari did a great job getting the track fixed and prepped for race day!
Even with all their efforts, the rain still made the track tough, and as a lot of cars did, we spun the tires in the first round. Luckily, we got the win, so we moved on to the second round where we ran a 4.18 with a couple 4.24s to follow in the semi’s & final round to WIN the race. Our 4.18 was actually low e.t. of race day, and our 4.08 quick time for qualifying. All in all, I’d say we hit it out of the park at Royal Purple Raceway. It was a solid effort from the team, answering the bell every round, even with shortened turnaround time due to the live TV broadcast, which was excellent. We had under an hour to get suited up and have the car on the starting line for the final. I’ve never gotten strapped into the car so fast in my life, and it was definitely nerve racking. We made some good calls all weekend and the guys did a great job putting the car together… a total team effort. It just goes to show what good equipment, a fast car, and dedicated team members can do! We’re definitely starting to hit our stride and like the car’s response to the changes.
Not only did we qualify #1 in Houston and win the race, we also left there #1 in the points standings, which is very exciting for all of us!
Now, we’re sitting in Atlanta where it’s hot and humid, hoping our momentum carries through. We’re going to keep our approach the same because we feel like we’re doing something right. J
After celebrating our Vegas win for a week, we headed out to Charlotte for the Four-Wide Nationals. We started out spending some time with franchisee Gabe Cestaro at the Grill n’ Chill event and it was awesome! I had the opportunity to take some pictures next to the 2nd largest rubber tire loader that Caterpillar makes, called a 993 and it’s about as big as a two story building. The tires on it were about the height of our race trailer which is over 12’ tall. I got to sit in it and they let me do everything but drive it. LOL! Blanchard CAT, where the Grill n’ Chill was held, owns 14 dealerships in South Carolina and the guys there were great hosts. We cooked up some food on a Snap-on grill and they gave away all sorts of prizes, including a foosball table. Gabe not only put this event together, but he was also the honorary franchisee for the race weekend, and he and all his guests had a great time. He’s only been a franchisee for a year and a half, but he’s already among the top in sales, so he kicks butt! He’s enthusiastic and a real people person, so it was a pleasure to spend time with him throughout the weekend.
As far as the race goes, it was the complete opposite of Vegas. On Friday, we had conditions that were humid, then we had a cold front come in. We thought we had a nice set-up for qualifying, but then we had to go through scramble mode, and we just flat out over-powered the track all weekend.
We did have a clutch malfunction during one run, which was my fault. I miscalculated one of the accessories and had to get a lesson from Dave at Electrimotion on fine-tuning this particular part. We’ve worked hard to have better parts from the cylinder heads to the top, which is making the car more efficient and better for the long haul, but there are definitely some learning curves that come along with that. It can make it difficult because you have to deviate from the notes you usually rely on and make an educated guess about where you need to be. It also didn’t help that we lost two runs on Friday due to weather.
As you can probably tell by looking at the times throughout the weekend, the conditions weren’t that great, and it wasn’t the best racing we’ve had at that track. I think it was a combination of the cooler track temps and for whatever reason, the track wasn’t in its normal super-bad, double throw-down condition. I always say that’s it our job, as racers, to adjust, and Matt Hagan’s car is the one that figured it out this weekend and won the race. I told the guys after that everybody has weekends like this, and we’ll just shake it off and move to the next one. J
Although it’s not a race to remember, we did manage to move up to 2nd in points! Very proud of the team to be in such a great position after the first five events! Now, it’s time to get ready for Houston and get back in our groove. It’s a track that I enjoy, and I think we’ll come into this track with some good information from Charlotte. I feel confident that we’ll come out Friday firing and can keep our momentum rolling.
Hey everyone! I spent a little time at Toyota’s headquarters in California before the race in Vegas. It’s always fun to see that whole group, not only the NHRA guys but the NASCAR drivers and everyone else. Toyota provides a lot of support for racing so it’s great to see team Toyota get some wins. There were a lot of people there who work at Toyota in Torrance, which is right down the street from where I was born, so it’s good to be there and sign autographs for that group. I was even sitting next to Ivan “Iron Man” Stewart who’s a big star in off-road so it was cool to be a part of that. There were also motorcycle and rally car racers there so that just goes to show the variety of racing that they sponsor. We’d like to thank them for all they do for us!
So, we planned on going to Vegas to rock n’ roll and that’s exactly what we did!
We started out the week hanging with Snap-on franchisee Dave Ruskowitz. It never ceases to amaze me the different kinds of businesses that need and use Snap-on tools. The Vegas cookout was at a bus depot which I thought was very interesting. They had these giant jacks that lifted a Greyhound-sized bus up in the air about 8 feet so they could take the transmission out. The tools and technology they use are amazing. Heck, we used to use a forklift and a bunch of wood to lift up a truck half that height to work on it. LOL! Dave was also the honorary franchisee for the weekend and he has one of the nicest trucks I’ve ever seen! He was there all weekend with some customers so we had a good time.
When we got to race weekend, Friday was a struggle and we were 0 for 2 on the first two runs. We’ve changed the engine combo a little from last year trying to get better and take advantage of some new technology and we hadn’t run the car in such hot conditions yet. The track temp was pushing 120 degrees on Friday which was challenging but we came back strong on Saturday. We ran back to back 4.11s which were first and fourth quickest of the sessions. On Sunday, we were on it. The conditions were windy, blowing sand and dust on the track which made the track difficult and a lot of the top cars in Top Fuel and Funny Car were smoking the tires right at the hit of the throttle. We made some good adjustments and pulled it back quite a bit. Densham gave us a close race in the first round but after that, we got past Johnny Gray, then Alexis DeJoria.
The final round was against Courtney Force and was going to be close any way you slice it. She had lane choice so we went into the left lane that everyone was saying was less than favorable but we made it work. We were aggressive but felt like we made some good moves. Then the car wouldn’t go in reverse which was a nail biter and what I thought was going to be the end of our day. The next thing I knew, some of my crew guys and some of NHRA‘s personnel pushed the car back to the starting line. I had no idea if I was going to have to shut the car off or if the reverser would cause problems going down the track. I had all these things going through my head but when I got back to the line and saw Courtney hadn’t staged yet (which we appreciated), I thought “let’s get it on”! We ran a 4.17 and got the win light!
It was a great, great win for the team, Snap-on, Toyota, Sioux City, Lucas Oil, Burris Racing, Blue Media, and all of our supporters! I have to really hand it to our guys because the NHRA gave us very short turn-around times (due to TV) in the semis and finals but my guys, headed up by Warrior and Todd, got it done. This WIN was truly a team effort! Our performance in Vegas also moved us up to third in points and qualified us to race in the Traxxas Shootout in Indy!
Things are really clicking and I can’t wait to go to the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte in two weeks and keep this momentum going. We made some mistakes and still have some work to do but we’re confident and ready!