Cruz Pedregon has had far too much success and has been around the sport far too long to get overly concerned about a slow start to his 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Plus, the two-time Funny Car world champion has a pretty good security blanket at Royal Purple Raceway.
Pedregon has three career victories at the track, including his first professional win. The driver of the 8,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry also enters this weekend’s 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries as the defending event champion, giving Pedregon another reason to believe more success is right around the corner.
“We’re right on the cusp of making consistently fast runs,” said Pedregon, who is currently 12th in points. “I believe cream will rise and I think we are prepared to climb the ladder and get back to where we were most of last year. I think we’re right there and there are no concerns. Houston has been a great track for me. I’ve had success there even going back to the Alcohol Dragster ranks.”
Bob Vandergriff (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were also winners of last year’s event at one of the circuit’s quickest and fastest tracks. The event, the sixth of 24 during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, will once again be televised on ESPN2.
Pedregon knocked off Tim Wilkerson a year ago in the final round at Houston and his three victories at Royal Purple Raceway are third-most in Funny Car, behind only his brother Tony’s four and reigning world champion John Force’s seven.
Despite the track’s unique challenges and ever-shifting climate in the area, Pedregon has seemingly always been in tune with what his car has needed in Houston. He expects another challenge this weekend but it might prove to be just the race he needs to get his season on track.
“It’s a combination of the atmospheric conditions along with a track that has a lot of personality,” Pedregon said. “You can’t just throw everything at it. You have to be good with your set-up and good with the clutch. We’ve been able to bring that to the table (in Houston) and I credit that to our success.”
Pedregon’s 2013 win at Royal Purple Raceway was one of four during a season that saw him grab the points lead for a short stretch. He was in the top five for the majority of the season and finished fourth overall but has been unable to recreate that magic thus far in 2014.
Pedregon has suffered through first-round losses at four of the first five races this season and things won’t get any easier when it comes to competition in Houston. Points leader Robert Hight is red-hot after picking up his second win and fourth final round appearance of the season in Charlotte, while teammate and 16-time Funny Car world champ Force is always a threat in Houston.
Other favorites include Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., but Pedregon continues to preach patience and wouldn’t term Houston a must-win event. Of course, past successes immediately puts him in good position to do just that.
“Do we want to see some good, consistent runs? Of course, but you can’t put all of that pressure on one race,” Pedregon said. “It would be nice to do well and I think we’re capable of it, but it’s one many opportunities to perform well. It’s an important race but to say it’s more important than others, that’s not the case.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, April 25, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 26, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 28. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, April 25 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 26 at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 9:45 a.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.royalpurpleraceway.com or call Royal Purple Raceway at (281) 383-RACE (7223). Tickets for children 13 and younger are free in reserved sections on spectator side with paid adult tickets.