On a day when full runs were hard to come by, Cruz Pedregon was able to figure out a few things that his rivals could not and as a result, the two-time Funny Car world champion ended the day as the provisional low qualifier at the Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals. Pedregon drove his Snap-on Dodge to a 4.002 to earn the honor, barely edging rivals Ron Capps and Bob Tasca III, who ran 4.005 and 4.008 respectively.
Pedregon has been the low qualifier 61 times in his career, but he’s only made three starts in the top half of the field in 14 events this season and his best is No. 3 in Las Vegas, which like Denver, is also an altitude track.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it would hold up,” said Pedregon. “I thought we’d showed out hand and let everyone know what was possible. We kept hanging in there. I’m happy for Dodge and Mopar. I went to the Mopar Block Party last night and really enjoyed it. I’m grateful for the investment they’ve made, and how they’ve supported us. We’ve struggled at times this season, but I think the needle is pointing up. The Snap on Dodge is running better.
“When you think about it, we’re running close to the same numbers we ran a couple of weeks ago in sea-level in Epping. Guys have figured out how to run up here on the mountain. It used to be that we were three-tenths slower. Now we’re within a half a tenth and that’s a credit to the teams.”
Pedregon historically has run well in Denver with a pair of wins two decades apart in 1993 and 2013. This season, he’s added the role of crew chief to his duties but insists that he takes little added pleasure from his dual role.
“It’s no different, honestly,” he says. “I actually wish that [former crew chief] Wes Cerny was still out in front guiding me. I do it out of necessity and I generally don’t get any more or less satisfaction out of tuning the car myself. I’m happier for the team and the long hours and hard work they’ve put in. At times, I haven’t done a good job so it’s nice to reward them.”
Much like Pedregon, Capps and Tasca are set up nicely to run in the threes tomorrow should the anticipated cool down come to fruition. John Force also made a competitive run with a 4.051 in his Peak Camaro while teammate Robert Hight, the current Funny Car points leader, ran a best of 4.14 in his Auto Club Chevy. Reigning world champ J.R. Todd, who won his first event in Denver in Top Fuel, ran a best of 4.101 in his DHL Toyota.
Matt Hagan, the leader after Q1, smoked the tires in his special edition Dodge Charger SRT widebody. Top ten pros Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson, and Shawn Langdon will also be seeking big gains after missing the set-up on both of Friday’s runs.