Cruz Pedregon took advantage of a series of upsets to climb back into the hunt for a third NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, capping a stirring day at the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas with a final-round victory over points leader Ron Capps.
Capps’ effort ended early when his NAPA Dodge backfired the blower at 300 feet and Pedregon had to pedal his mount to keep it in his lane further downtrack, but nonetheless took the win light for his 42nd career win, 37 of which have come in the Funny Car class.
The Funny Car championship battle was turned on its head with the first-round losses of points leader Matt Hagan, third-place J.R. Todd, and fourth-place John Force. Hagan dropped a cylinder against Chad Green and lost 4.00 to 4.08, giving Green his first career round win in Funny Car competition, J.R. Todd got loose and had to lift at halftrack against Paul Lee, and Force lost to Chris Morel.
Pedregon, gunning for his first world championship since 2008, made up significant ground, going from fifth place to third by winning his second race of the season. He trails second-place Hagan by just 25 points and Capps by just 83 heading into the bonus points-infused season finale in Pomona in two weeks. Capps leads Hagan by 78 points.
“Coming into the race I think [our championship chances] were pretty dim, to be honest with you, because I just didn't feel like the breaks were coming our way,” he said. “We were just losing some close races. And I thought, ‘Man, well, if we could just finish in the top five, I felt that was good. But after winning today, yeah, hey, we're, back in it.
"I was just kind of wondering where Capps and you shouldn't do that as a driver, and it spun the tires and I actually got on the throttle a couple times before coasting across because it was getting ready to do some crazy stuff there. I guess JC [crew chief John Collins] hit the [shutoff] button and shut the car off. and saved me and the car, I guess."
Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools/Socket To Cancer Charger started from the No. 7 spot in the field and raced past Tony Jurado with a 3.94, Chris Morel – who upset John Force in round one – with a 3.90 and tire-smoking Bob Tasca III in the semifinals with a 3.92 to reach his 80th career final.
Capps and the Dean Antonelli- and John Medlen-tuned NAPA Auto Parts/Pennzoil Dodge Charger worked their way to the final round from the middle of the pack, from the No. 8 qualifying spot. Capps’ first round was a huge hurdle in Tim Wilkerson, but a solid 3.915 got the job done. Capps and Co. then stepped it up to a 3.884 to defat low qualifier Alexis DeJoria’s 3.99. Capps then reached the final round, the 131st of his career, by besting tire-smoking Robert Hight with a 3.904.