They say it is like riding a bike.
Success on the race track, that is.
And although it has been a while since Cruz Pedregon last sat atop a Funny Car ladder, on Friday it was just like old times as the veteran paced a sloppy first day at the 40th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Bandimere Speedway.
Pedregon, flexing his muscle for the first time since inking a new partnership with Dodge in the offseason, drove his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the provisional No. 1 on Friday with a 4.002-second pass at 317.42 mph.
“It feels great. I didn’t think it would hold, to be honest. I felt like we showed our hand and let everybody see that there was some race track out there,” Pedregon said. “We all just missed it in the first run and I figured everybody would come back the next run and figure it out, but we kept reading the scoreboard and hanging in there.
“I’m happy for Dodge and Mopar and for what they do for the sport. This is my first time onboard with Dodge and I want to pay them back for their investment. They have supported us throughout the year. We’ve had some ups and downs this year, but I think the needle is pointing up and the Snap-on Dodge is starting to come around.”
Ron Capps was second-quickest on Friday with a 4.005 at 316.97 mph, followed by Bob Tasca with a 4.008 at 317.49 mph. John Force (4.051) and J.R. Todd (4.101) rounded out the top five.
The night session was in stark contrast to a dud of a first round as none of the Funny Cars made it down the track under power. Matt Hagan led the first session with a 4.324 at 232.43 mph, while Pedregon was last after round one before rebounding in session two.
“I feel bad for the fans after the first run, not a lot of cars made it down, but as I told one of our Snap-on guests, it is like baseball, everybody was swinging for the home run and they all struck out,” Pedregon said. “I think everybody got back to reality during the second run and made some good passes and we were one of them. This race track has been really good to me through the years and it is good to have a Friday like this.”
If his time holds, it will be his first No. 1 since Chicago in 2015.
Pedregon is also seeking his first top qualifier mark since taking over crew chief duties for his own team earlier this year.
“I’ve had to do it myself (this year) out of necessity. When I am in the car, I don’t really think about it. I think about the car and whether I made the right decisions, but generally I don’t get any more or less satisfaction doing it myself,” Pedregon said. “I’ve had some great crew chiefs through the years and they have taught me a lot. But I am just happy for the team. These guys (put in) a lot of hours. They work late and I’ve not done a lot early in the year to reward them and give them a good car. So I am happy for them.”
While Pedregon expects times to dip further on Saturday, he hopes that he can continue this momentum, especially at a track that is known as one of the toughest to tame.
“Really, if you look at the times, we are running close to what we were running in Epping at sea level. It is really incredible the fact that we’ve all figured out how to run good up on the hill, as we call it,” Pedregon said. “I think the evolution throughout the years of the cars is great. It used to be we would be three-tenths slower, then we were two-tenths slower and now we are running close to what we run at sea level. It is really a credit to the teams.
“We will see if it holds. It will go up incrementally, everybody will get a little quicker. Tomorrow night there are going to be some three-second runs, I just hope we are the best three-second run tomorrow.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019