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Five Minutes with Cruz Pedregon: What's on the mind of the former Funny Car champ

Cruz Pedregon answers why switch to Dodge after years with Toyota, why he's going to tune his own Funny Car and who he thinks (or at least wants) to win the NFL conference championship games this weekend.
20 Jan 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Feature
Cruz Pedregon

Cruz Pedregon won a race but failed to make the Countdown to the Championship in 2018. The former Funny Car world champion is taking over tuning duties in 2019 after going through two crew chiefs last season. He’s also switching to Dodge after years as a Toyota Funny Car pilot. All these changes haven’t tempered Pedregon’s confidence.

Why switch to the Dodge body now?

We like Dodge better. The timing was right, too. They just came out with the new body style, too, so there were a decent amount of bodies available to make the switch. So, that was one of the reasons and, for me, I think business-wise you got to go for the opportunities that are there. Dodge had an opportunity to be on the team, and so we talked with those guys—I mean, who wouldn’t wanna be a part of that team? 

All of our support vehicles will be SRT Durangos, which is just the hot rod of all hot rods in my opinion, so there’s something to that, too. I just think this enhances our whole program. Then, also, you really think back at the history of our sport: my dad started in the early '60s, his engine was a 392 Hemi, which is exactly what’s in these cars now, so for me, it has sentimental value.

You got your first win in four years in 2018 but missed the Countdown to the Championship. What’s your assessment of last year?

Well, my take away is yes, we did win the four-wide, which is awesome, and we had a great car there. But then we kind of deviated away from that. So, we made changes, and we did have a great car again in Charlotte, where I thought we were capable of winning.

Then the last two races, some things were done to my car that I didn’t know about, so what I’m focused on now is taking the best of what we did last year and utilizing that information and that setup into this season. I’m going to make calls myself. I’m the tuner, and I won’t have anybody to answer to. I’m going to trust myself to make the calls. I’ve done it before, I’ve won races.

I just think … last year, there were too many chefs in the kitchen. So, this year, there is one chef, and I make a hell of a steak.

You’ve mentioned changes made to your car that you weren’t aware of. Can you elaborate on that?

Well, when you set the cars up, there’s a lot of little things that go into the setup of the car and, you know, some things were … I didn’t find this out ’til the end of the year at Pomona. We weren’t using the same formula. Let’s put it that way. We deviated from what we did it in Charlotte, for example.

And, like, that was our signature race down the stretch. Our car ran 3.90 flat. I think three times around 3.90 and, all these runs, we’re shutting off at 900 feet. On one of them, I ran a 4.1, I shut it off at 600 feet because I think the car moved over.

So, for me, that was the setup I anticipated running through to the end of the year. Like I said, I’m not going to get into, like, mechanical specifics, but things got changed unbeknownst to me, so in actuality, it was probably a good thing because it made me realize that I need to do this myself.

What constitutes a successful season for Cruz Pedregon in 2019?

The main thing is to make sure our guys are put in positions where they can be successful. I want us to have solid team chemistry that the guys bond and, you know, we have a few new guys and so, for me, the number one thing is to get the car mechanically as close to 100 percent as possible.

I want us to get down the track three or four times during qualifying while being in the top five and having a car that can win rounds again. There’s no reason why we can’t do that. I think we can be a top-five car. That’s all we’re interested in. I feel if we can do that, then life will be great.

Alright... Chiefs/Patriots and Saints/Rams on Sunday?

Well... I want to see the Patriots win. I want to see those guys continue. I'd like to see the Rams upset the Saints and then in the Super Bowl... and then, man I'd just like to see the Patriots win again just because I like the quarterback. That being said, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Chiefs and the Saints go to the Super Bowl either.