It took the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ first trip to the Northeast for Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon to get his season on track. After one brilliant performance in the region, which included the quickest pass in NHRA Funny Car history, the two-time world champion is ready for an encore.
Pedregon and all of NHRA’s stars return to New England Dragway in Epping, for the second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, June 19-22. Pedregon takes an impressive amount of momentum into the highly anticipated return to the track coming off a victory at Englishtown.
There, Pedregon went 3.959 in qualifying to record the quickest run ever in the class, also beating Del Worsham in the final round to get his 2014 season headed in the right direction.
“The races as they have unfolded, we have just finally found the sweet spot,” Pedregon said. “When you make changes as dramatic as we have made, it just took time to iron all those bugs out. We started to see flashes, (but) we just didn’t have that consistency. It was a process of just getting things sorted out.”
The Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals is the 11th event of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. A year ago, Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were inaugural winners of an event that exceeded all expectations and will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Pedregon’s victory at Englishtown, which came on the heels of a final-round appearance in Topeka, boosted him all the way to eighth in the points standings, a far cry from the 12th spot he sat as recently as the race before after a first-round loss in Atlanta.
Pedregon’s confidence in the 10,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry never wavered but getting on the preferred side of the top 10 was a welcome relief. Staying there and advancing to the Countdown to the Championship will be the next challenge in the ultra-talented Funny Car class, and Pedregon seems to be embracing that as well.
“When you’re at the track in race mode, the best thing to do is keep your eye on the task at hand,” Pedregon said. “I have to be honest, I was looking at the Internet between races, and I was getting nervous. I was like, ‘Man, we have got to make a move here and do it fast,’ because the last thing you want to do is get close to that cutoff time (to the Countdown) and be fighting it out. I’ve been there before, and it’s not the greatest feeling in the world. We want to not only get into the top 10 but also start creeping our way into that top five if we can. We’ve got a lot of racing left.”
That part excites Pedregon, especially coming off his recent stretch. After going 3.959 at 310.48 mph to qualify No. 1 for the second time this season, Pedregon, who has 35 career victories, knocked off Worsham in an exciting final round at Englishtown. The victory was important for his team’s confidence, and Pedregon hoped it sent a message to them and the rest of the class.
“We have one of the cars than can run with any car out there, and that’s what it’s all about,” Pedregon said. “Once the car starts performing, it seems like everything falls into place. For the younger guys on the team to see that and see what we are capable of definitely helps.”
Pedregon is also anxious to make amends for a disappointing first-round loss last year at Epping. It won’t be easy against a loaded field that includes points leader Robert Hight, reigning world champion John Force and other championship-caliber drivers like Alexis DeJoria, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., and local favorite and Rhode Island native Bob Tasca III. Pedregon, however, is looking forward to his New England Dragway return.
“It’s always great to visit a new venue,” Pedregon said. “It’s really cool to see a different part of the country and the fans come to support it. Our performance will hopefully get better. We were not quite on our game, and I just wasn’t hitting on eight cylinders myself that weekend. Hopefully, we’ll go back there and have a good event.”
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.
Families who are planning to attend the event will want to take advantage of the free tickets for kids ages 12 and under. Fans will also 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.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 20, with sessions at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 21, at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday, June 22, at 11 a.m.
To experience the roaring excitement of the NHRA New England Nationals get your tickets by calling 800-884-NHRA (6472) or visiting www.NHRATix.com.