COMMERCE, GA – May 5, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Two-time Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon believes that a number of changes he has recently made to his 10,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry are about to lead to an impressive turnaround.
While it is still early in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, Pedregon also knows there is no time to waste facing off against the elite competition in the Funny Car class.
Pedregon made strides two races ago in Charlotte, finishing as the runner-up at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, but expects even more success as the season picks up. That includes performing well at Atlanta Dragway at the upcoming 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15.
Pedregon was the No. 1 qualifier at Atlanta one year ago and has one victory, coming in 1998, in two career finals at the event.
“There’s always urgency,” said Pedregon, who is currently 12th in points. “I had a sense of urgency at the very first race. The key is not to panic and to just race within yourself. We have a fast car that we feel can rack up a lot of points in a short period of time. We’re making progress. It’s a bit of a slow start, slower than we anticipated, but the car is making some nice runs and it’s starting to respond. I’m excited about the remainder of the season.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1 with qualifying shows on Friday and Saturday and three hours of finals coverage on Sunday. It the seventh of 24 events in 2016 and Pedregon knows the time is now to make a move toward the top 10 and a playoff berth in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
The final spots aren’t decided until September, but early struggles have created a hole in a class loaded with talent and world champions. Pedregon, who has 35 career wins but none since 2014, started slow with only one round win in first four races.
But Pedregon didn’t stand pat and has been constantly working to find the solution. He found something in Charlotte, trailing only Tim Wilkerson in the final round quad. Pedregon suffered a first-round loss in Houston a week later in a razor-thin defeat to Ron Capps, but recent performances lead him to think that things are looking up.
“We’re just a run or two away from making great runs and in Charlotte we put it all together in critical moments,” Pedregon said. “Just taking advantage of the track conditions was key at Charlotte. I like more difficult track conditions, where it’s a little hotter and a little slicker track. It suits our set-up and, yes, we can carry over what we learned. Vegas was our first sub-four second run of the year and we were able to carry that onto Charlotte and, even though we weren’t able to show it, even onto Houston. We’re on the right track, definitely.”
That ability to perform in warmer weather has been encouraging, especially with where the season is headed. Pedregon ran 3.982 in Las Vegas and 3.995 in Charlotte, which has been the welcome sight after the frustrating start.
But it has only caused the veteran Pedregon to push harder and find solutions. He has left no stone unturned in the process and strongly believes it is about to pay off.
“It’s frustrating but to see the potential we have based on the changes we made, we’re excited,” Pedregon said. “Anytime you don’t change anything and stay stagnant, the competition passes you by. What we’ve been working on I think will put us back near the top and keep us there for a long time to come.
Anytime you make changes you lose the predictability of the race car and how it responds to changes. It’s been frustrating, yes, but the changes have been necessary and we’re starting to see good results as a result of those changes.”
Pedregon will need round wins to move into the top 10 and they will have to come against top competition that comes in the class, including defending event winner Tim Wilkerson, who has two wins this season and shares the points lead with Courtney Force, who won in Houston.
Other stalwarts in the class include defending world champion Del Worsham, three-time Atlanta winner Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Capps, Chad Head, Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria and longtime rival John Force, who has seven wins at Atlanta Dragway.
“It’s a track that I like,” Pedregon said. “I like the challenge of the heat. You start to get into the hot part of the season in Atlanta and I prefer to race under the more difficult conditions. I kind of tend to enjoy the challenge of that. Plus, it separates some of the really fast cars and brings them back to earth a little bit, so I enjoy that, too. I just like the atmospheric conditions there. It seems to suit my set-up.”
In Top Fuel, Brown raced to his second victory of the 2015 season when he defeated Leah Pritchett in the Atlanta final one year ago, finishing off his year with a world championship. He has tallied four victories at Atlanta, the most of active Top Fuel drivers, but defending his Atlanta title will not be easy. Points leader Brittany Force picked up her second win of the season in Charlotte, while others to watch include Texan Steve Torrence, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has yet to win the Southern Nationals, three-time event winner Doug Kalitta, who won in Houston, Terry McMillen, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, 2014 Rookie of the Year Richie Crampton and Shawn Langdon.
In Pro Stock, Line outlasted his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro teammate Greg Anderson in the 2015 final in Atlanta. This season, Line and Anderson have dominated thus far in the redesigned factory hot rod class, splitting the first six races. Line has three of those wins and the points lead, but the competition will be tough in Atlanta. Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson are the only other two active drivers with wins at Atlanta Dragway, while two-time and defending world champ Erica Enders, Drew Skillman, Bo Butner, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha are also expected to make a push for the Wally at Atlanta.
The sleek new Pro Stock cars feature fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category will hit the track for the third of 16 events this season. Eddie Krawiec is the current points leader and will look to hold off a talented field that boasts plenty of championship level talent. That includes teammate and reigning world champion Andrew Hines, a two-time Atlanta winner who won last weekend in Charlotte, and three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, who has four wins at the track. Others gunning for the Southern Nationals Wally include Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, 2011 event winner LE Tonglet, Hector Arana Jr., Chip Ellis and 21-year-old rookie Melissa Surber.
The race will also feature plenty of thrilling action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series, which makes its third stop of 2016.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta will feature two rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 13 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 14, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA SOUTHERN NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is southeast to northwest.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 13-15, 2016
FRIDAY, May 13 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 14 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:45 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 3:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 15 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, May 13, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, May 14, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 15, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 4:30 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock, Hector Arana, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Antron Brown, 6, TF/PSM; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.732 sec. and 328.86 mph by Doug Kalitta, May ’14.
Funny Car – 4.010 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, May ’15; 320.58 mph by Courtney Force, May ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.493 sec. by Erica Enders, May ’14; 213.00 mph by Jason Line, May ’14.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.794 sec. and 197.54 mph by Eddie Krawiec, May ’14.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Brittany Force, 464; 2. Doug Kalitta, 463; 3. Antron Brown, 445; 4. Steve Torrence, 417; 5. Clay Millican, 355; 6. J.R. Todd, 316; 7. Tony Schumacher, 295; 8. Leah Pritchett, 291; 9. Richie Crampton, 275; 10. Terry McMillen, 259.
1. (tie) Courtney Force, 439; Tim Wilkerson, 439; 3. Ron Capps, 417; 4. Robert Hight, 404; 5. John Force, 384; 6. Jack Beckman, 379; 7. Del Worsham, 376; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 339; 9. Chad Head, 303; 10. Matt Hagan, 280.
1. Jason Line, 689; 2. Greg Anderson, 610; 3. Bo Butner, 508; 4. Drew Skillman, 399; 5. Chris McGaha, 339; 6. Allen Johnson, 318; 7. Vincent Nobile, 262; 8. Erica Enders, 257; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 255; 10. Alex Laughlin, 220.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 232; 2. Andrew Hines, 197; 3. Hector Arana, 154; 4. Chip Ellis, 135; 5. Jerry Savoie, 108; 6. LE Tonglet, 107; 7. Michael Ray, 104; 8. Matt Smith, 93; 9. Angelle Sampey, 92; 10. Jim Underdahl, 84.