Pedregon Drives Camry To NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Victory In Charlotte

Cruz Pedregon finished off a dominating performance in his Snap-on Toyota Camry by defeating John Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Courtney Force in the Funny Car finals to win the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, Sunday.
Pedregon won all three of his four-car quadrants during the day after qualifying sixth on Saturday. The win snapped a personal 92-race winless streak for the two-time Funny Car world champion.
“Our Snap-on Camry was really good all day,” said Pedregon, who passed the legendary Don Prudhomme for fifth-place all-time with his 36th Funny Car win. “We had three really good runs and earned lane choice for each of the last two rounds. This might just be the sweetest win of my career. It shows you can be a single, independent team with no attachments to the big teams and if you hire the right people and have the funding you can win out here.”
Pedregon’s win was the third for a Camry in Funny Car competition this season and he became the fourth different Toyota driver to win an NHRA Nitro race in 2018, joining J.R. Todd, Doug Kalitta and Richie Crampton.
Kalitta narrowly missed earning his second win of the season as he won his quadrant in each of the first two rounds before falling to Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel finals. Kalitta had previously won the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona.
Todd saw his two-race Funny Car win streak come to an end as he was eliminated in the second round when he smoked his tires while leading through the early portion of the race. He eliminated teammate Shawn Langdon in the first round.
After qualifying third, unpredictable track conditions sidelined Antron Brown in the first round after spinning the tires just before the 330’ mark. Each of the top three qualifiers were eliminated in the opening round as track surfaces ruled the early going. Richie Crampton’s day came to an end in the same quadrant as Brown.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Atlanta next weekend for the NHRA Southern Nationals at the Atlanta Dragway, May 4-6.
Top Fuel 
NHRA Toyota Charlotte Results
Qual/Finish
Doug Kalitta
Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
6/Finals
Antron Brown
Matco Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
3/Rd. 1
Richie Crampton
Kalitta Air/DHL Toyota Top Fuel Dragster
14/Rd. 1
Funny Car 
Car
 
Cruz Pedregon
Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry Funny Car
6/Winner
J.R. Todd
DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car
4/Rd. 2
Shawn Langdon
Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry FC
13/Rd. 1
 
2018 Toyota Wins (5)
Top Fuel (2): Doug Kalitta, Pomona; Richie Crampton, Gainesville
Funny Car (3): J.R. Todd,Las Vegas 4-Wide, Houston; Cruz Pedregon, Charlotte 4-Wide
Notes:
– Today’s win is the first of the season for Cruz Pedregon and the 36thof his Funny Car career. He also won each of his two preliminary rounds.
– With his victory today, Cruz Pedregon passed Don Prudhomme for sole possession of fifth place in all-time Funny Car wins.
– Today’s win was the third of the season for a Toyota Camry Funny Car and the fifth overall win by a Toyota driver. In addition, Cruz Pedregon became the fourth different Toyota driver to win this season in NHRA Nitro competition, joining J. R. Todd, Doug Kalitta and Richie Crampton.
Driver Quotes:
 
Cruz Pedregon, Snap-on Toyota Camry Funny Car: 
 
Tell us about your day:
“Our Snap-on Camry was really good all day. We had three really good runs and earned lane choice for each of the last two rounds.”
 
How did it feel to get back to Winner’s Circle after 92 races?
“Well, 92 is a lucky number for me because that’s when I won my first Funny Car world championship back in 1992. I had no idea that was the number. When I pulled up in the final and saw Tommy Johnson Jr., i said to myself didn’t we already race him twice today? That’s a Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) car, one of these runs he’s going to get us. Then I saw John and Courtney and I said to myself, ‘man we’ve got our work cut out for us’. I just didn’t want to finish fourth.  So I was going to do everything I could to not finish fourth and we got the win.
I didn’t believe my ears when Caleb Cox, our team manager, got on the radio and said we’d won. I said, ‘I might have a little wax in my ears so I need to make sure I heard that right.’ It’s still a little bit surreal. I still can’t believe that we won this race. It’s pretty cool.”
Talk about how the team has been improving throughout year and the balance and how competitive it is in Funny Car:
“Our performance has really been a lot better than we’ve shown. The pressure that I’ve been feeling is that even though the car is on the upward swing, it’s been more consistent and we’re qualifying in the top half every week, but we still didn’t have anything to show for it.  When we won the first round today, it was like ‘oh man, at least we got that win.’ Then after we got the next one, it crossed my mind that we have a chance to win this thing.”
We’ve had five different Funny Car winners in six races this season. That’s a great accomplishment. I saw J.R. Todd this morning at driver intros and congratulated him for winning the last two races. They’re a fellow Toyota team in the DHL car. It shows that the DSR and John Force cars don’t have all the answers. We can stick our nose in there and mix things up with them.
The car we won in today is actually a DSR chassis. I called Don this winter and told him I needed a chassis. It was a very different chassis and we had to modify the cage and we didn’t debut it until Houston and let me tell you, it’s a good car. Thanks to Don. He’s a businessman and he sold us a car and it works really good. We have another one on order and I think I will be able to afford to pay for it now.”
Talk about the groove that you and your crew chief, Aaron Brooks, have seemingly found this year and all the changes that have taken place:
“When I signed with Snap-on in 2010, I had a team where everyone had left me, all the crew and the crew chief. I had nothing until Snap-on came on board and sponsored me. Within a year, we were winning races. We really had something going on then.  I was tuning the car, but really my plate was full. But by 2014, we started to win fewer races and by 2015, we just hit the wall.  There was some technology going on in Funny Car that we weren’t privy to and we fell behind as a team. So we had to regroup as a team. I went and hired Aaron, who was crew chief of the Lucas Oil team, who was hungry and very dedicated.
I needed to bring in someone like Aaron who could take over my team and run it the way it needed to be run. There was just too much to do for one guy. I was driving and I was tuning and just fell off the pace. So I had to bring in some new people and, thankfully, this year, we were joined by Glen Huszar, who has a lot of years with DSR and Kalitta, as the assistant crew chief on the car. So it’s been a one-two punch. Aaron’s been a great asset. Last year was frustrating because he had his ideas and I had mine, but we kept our heads down. Aaron weathered the storm of my ranting and craziness and today we had a car that just won a race. It just goes to show if you stick with good people that they’ll make you look good.”
Compare this win with the first victory of your career:
“This one ranks right up there. Believe it or not, but I was thinking, man, maybe I’m not destined to win again. Part of the make-up in my personality is that I don’t want to do this unless I’m competitive.  To be out here racing is a lot of work and a lot of stress. I have a seven-year old daughter and the travel is tough. What motivates me is having a good running car that people respect. This is like going back to my first win. This might just be the sweetest win of my career. It shows you can be a single, independent team with no attachments to the big teams and if you hire the right people and have the funding you can win out here.”
Doug Kalitta, Mac Tools Toyota Top Fuel Dragster: “It was a great weekend for the Mac Tools Toyota team. We were so close to our first Four-Wide win, but came up short, but still a solid race for our team. We picked up some valuable points, and I feel confident about our chances going into Atlanta.”
 
J.R. Todd, DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car: “We had a DHL Camry capable of winning the whole race. We just didn’t do the best job of negotiating the track conditions. We ran well in the first round, but still had to back it way down from what we were set up to run. We were dealing with marginal track conditions in the second round and we clearly didn’t back it down enough like the two winners in our quad. We went out there and spun the tires. It’s frustrating because we know this facility is good. Looking back on it, we probably would have done some things different. It’s just a product of what we’re dealing with in track prep now. We’ve got to figure out how to race on it.”
Antron Brown, Matco Tools/Toyota Top Fuel Dragster:“We were out there pushing. We expected the track conditions to be good as the track was cooler. We were going for it – a .72 or .73 and figured that would be good enough to get the job done. To our surprise we didn’t even make it to 330’ and we started to smoke the tires. I did a quick pedal and the track didn’t have the traction we expected. I immediately let off and the tires kept spinning and it backfired and blew up. It was just one of those deals that you have to get used to the way the track is prepped now. We know the track prep is less and now we have to treat it knowing the track is not as good as it used to be. Everybody knows it, now everybody has to get prepared for it. You could see all these other teams having the same problems. The number one, two and three qualifiers were all  gone after round one. The hardest part is we’re pushing hard and wanting to run well. We’ll just suck it up and try to get better with it. This racing is a challenge and if it was easy, then everybody would be doing it. A lot of the big hitters went out early today, but a lot of the mid-level teams had some good runs. They hit it right and we just hit it wrong. We all have to adapt to it.”
Shawn Langdon, Global Electronic Technology Toyota Camry Funny Car:“We have bad luck right now. Unfortunately, first round we broke a throttle cable. We felt good about today. We had some changes in the car that we felt was going to turn it around, so we could be able to compete for the win today. It is part of drag racing. You have to take the good with the bad. We know we have a great team. We just have to get out of this funk. We will go to Atlanta next week and do the best we can to get the gremlins out of the race car and turn this around.”
 
Toyota Drivers
Top Fuel 
Points  Behind Leader (503)
2018
Wins
2018
W-L 
Career 
Races
Career
Wins
Career 
W-L
3. Doug Kalitta
401 (102)
1
9-5
471
44
612-420
5. Antron Brown
362 (-141)
0
7-6
388
65
683-320
9. Richie Crampton
263 (-240)
1
5-5
85
8
80-76
Funny Car 
(466)
3. Todd
403 (-63)
2
9-4
182
12
176-165
8. Pedregon
274 (-192)
1
4-5
550
36
549-474
9 Langdon
269 (-197)
0
4-6
214
14
251-197
 
 
Toyota Drivers NHRA Charlotte Four Wide Eliminations Round-by-Round
Funny Car
Rd. 1 Win-Loss
Rd. 2 W-L
Finals W-L
Cruz Pedregon
W 4.156 (1st)
W 4.055 (1st)
W 4.059
J.R. Todd
W 4.031
L 4.435
**
Shawn Langdon
L 14.795
**
**
Top Fuel 
 
 
 
Doug Kalitta
W 3.762 (1st)
W 3.809 (1st)
L 4.010 (2nd)
Antron Brown
L 4.872
**
**
Richie Crampton
L 10.437
**
**

 

Toyota Racing PR/Photo NHRA Media

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