Cruz Pedregon Rises to No. 1 in Qualifying in Six Years
Cruz Pedregon led the Funny Car field in Saturday qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway. (Photo NHRA)
MOHNTON, Pa – For the first time in more than six years, Cruz Pedregon is number 1 in Funny Car qualifying, as the veteran took first place on Saturday to close qualifying at the 36th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA National Championships featured by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No.1 in the 14th of 20 races of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the first race of the countdown to the championship playoffs.
Pedregon last qualified in 2015, but that changed in the final qualifying session on Saturday, as he completed a 3.875-second run at 326.00 mph in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Snap- On Tools. This is the 62nd career qualifying number for Pedregon, who is aiming for his third career victory at Maple Grove Raceway.
“I didn’t even realize it was so long ago,” said the two-time Funny Car champion. “We were stable and knocked on the door. John Collins, my team leader, really thought there were great rewards and that it would pay off to get that No.1 spot and be on the right side of the ladder. Sometimes in winning these races you have to get on the right side of the scale and avoid the big hitters, until the last laps. This is how it worked. The car really reacted, and it really reacted in the last six races. The car is so consistent. I don’t know if I have ever driven a car as regular as this one. It’s not easy to drive, but it’s okay for sure.
Robert Hight qualified second with his pass of 3.883 seconds at 330.39 mph on Friday, while Indy winner Tim Wilkerson moved up to third with a run of 3.884 seconds at 332.67 mph. Points leader Ron Capps is fifth with a jump of 3.896 seconds to 328.66 mph.
Force remained No. 1 in Top Fuel, but slashed its already impressive time, dropping from 3.660 seconds to 334.07 mph in its 11,000 horsepower Flav-R-Pac dragster. That gives Force an incredible seven consecutive No.1 qualifiers, nine this year and 29 for his career. She had the fastest run in each of the three qualifying sessions, giving the team a lot of confidence going into the race. She became the first driver since 2007 to have seven consecutive No.1 qualifiers and the first in Top Fuel history to have seven consecutive No.1 spots in the same season.
“It’s a pretty exceptional record to have,” Force said. “But, really, looking at today and yesterday, this Q2 race that we had today, to be able to step it up was pretty exceptional. It was a big race for us and it’s the race that I’m passionate about. The most. But we had three solid passes and that’s pretty remarkable. I’m proud of this team and I can’t wait to start this countdown. We’re all excited and we’re all excited, and we all deliver. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.
Points leader and three-time reigning world champion Steve Torrence remained second after his 3.692 second pass at 327.19 mph on Friday and Clay Millican is third thanks to his 3.696 second pass at 322.65 mph from the first attempt also.
After his impressive victory last weekend at the U.S. Nationals, Enders stepped up on Saturday in his Chevrolet Camaro Melling Performance / Elite Motorsports, qualifying No.1 with a 6.524 second run at 209.56 mph. For the back-to-back reigning world champion, this is her first No.1 qualifying this season and the 23rd in her exceptional career. It also sets her on a good path ahead of the eliminations, where she will open the race against veteran Larry Morgan.
“We’re going to need all the points we can get (in the countdown) and those qualifying points will definitely be important. They did it in our previous championships and we’ll take whatever we can, but having a great race car for Sunday definitely gives you confidence, ”Enders said. “After the Friday night session, we felt like we left a few on the table, so we felt like there were more. I really feel like we’re all clicking. We have our work to do and the competition is tough, but I’m ready to get down to business.
Points leader Greg Anderson qualified second with a 6.530-second run to 209.79 mph on Saturday, while Aaron Stanfield’s 6.534-second pass to 209.88 mph puts him third.
Sampey remained No. 1 in Pro Stock Motorcycle, but improved on his Mission Foods / Vance & Hines Suzuki on Saturday, taking first place with a 6.745 second run at 196.64 mph. This gives her the No.1 position for the second time this season and the 53rd time in her career and she will open the race against Jianna Salinas. After a final round appearing to Indy, Sampey will look to finish the job this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.
“It was a great start to the weekend and I’m excited because it’s the same bike I’ve had all year,” said Sampey. “This bike was able to do that from Gainesville to here, it was just me that wasn’t riding it well. I’m starting to get used to it and I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the bike, and it shows. My teammate Eddie (Krawiec) did so well at Indy, qualifying # 1 and winning the race, and I’d like to follow in his footsteps this weekend.
Points leader and reigning world champion Matt Smith moved up to second in the final qualifying session with a run of 6.750 seconds at 201.91 mph. He set the speed record earlier today at 202.09 mph. Eddie Krawiec was third with his 6.763 second run at 201.67 mph since Friday.
The eliminations will begin Sunday at 11 a.m. at the NHRA Mopar Express Lane National Championships presented by Pennzoil at Maple Grove Raceway.