SONOMA, CA July 26, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Cruz Pedregon is an avid boxing fan and the two-time Funny Car world champion feels like he’s been knocked down on more than one occasion during what has been a frustrating 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
But the 35-time event winner is determined to land a knockout punch or two at some point this season in his 10,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools/WIX Filters Toyota Camry. With time running out before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins and Pedregon currently outside the top 10, he hopes that spark comes soon and is eyeing this weekend’s 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway to get his season on track.
“My favorite fighter was Muhammad Ali (and) I feel like this time right now for me and our team is like Ali-Frazier 1,” said Pedregon, who is currently 12th in the Funny Car points standings. “Joe Frazier hit Ali with a big left hook right on the chin and (knocked) him down. Ali took a breath and got right back up and that’s what we have to do, just take a deep breath and get up, and keep fighting for these round wins and points.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised by the FOX national broadcast network for the first time. It is the 15th of 24 events during the 2016 season and the track is a favorite for Pedregon, who is a two-time winner in Sonoma.
Getting back in the winner’s circle is a chief priority for Pedregon, who has suffered through a winless stretch dating back to Englishtown in 2014. He advanced to a final round in Charlotte earlier this year but has struggled to build consistency, falling in the first round in eight of the past nine races. What’s added to the disappointment for Pedregon is knowing his car is capable of performing at a much higher level.
“The most frustrating part about the entire thing is just not having the runs we all know we are capable of running,” Pedregon said. “We are a 3.90s car, we are a 3.80s car, and we just haven’t been able to completely show our full potential. It also frustrates me for our team. I have the best group of guys I’ve ever had work on my car. There is no quit in them and even when they are frustrated like me they put their heads down and work harder because they want to win, they want to show people what we have here and I think that speaks to the core leadership on our team.”
Pedregon is prepared to go down swinging and will again bring his best effort in Sonoma, determined to get his season turned around. He is currently 188 points behind Alexis DeJoria for the final spot in the Countdown to the Championship, something he is well aware of heading into the second of three stops on the famed Western Swing.
Only three races follow the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals before the Countdown to the Championship begins and Pedregon, whose career has been highlighted by numerous pressure-packed performances, is eager to try and rise to the occasion one more time.
“Every qualifying session, every round of racing means something,” Pedregon said. “If you feel as if you’re under pressure people tend to tense up and lose focus and miss their mark. You can control only what you can control and that’s all you can do. (In) 1992 I won five straight races to clinch a title and in 2008 I won four. That’s not because I felt the pressure of needing to win, it was the mentality of going out and everyone doing the same routine over and over, like chopping a tree down. I believe in my team and in my race car.”
But Pedregon knows he has to build major momentum in Sonoma and his first victory in more than two years would go a long way in building that. It has to continue the next weekend in Seattle as well, but Pedregon is ready for the challenge.
Standing in his way is a loaded Funny Car field, topped by points leader Ron Capps, who has four wins in 2016. Others to watch include 16-time world champion John Force, who won last weekend in Denver to start the Western Swing and has seven career Sonoma wins, defending event winner Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., reigning world champion Del Worsham, Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, Robert Hight and Tim Wilkerson.
But Pedregon is only focused on improving his own performance and fighting as hard as he can to earn a win in Sonoma.
“Our mindset for these next few races is first, figure out the little things that (are) happening to us and get them straightened out,” Pedregon said. “Second is just going out and running how I think our Snap-on Tools/WIX Filters Toyota is capable of running. I know we have a fast car, everyone knows we have a fast car, it’s just these little things jump up and happen to us and it’s frustrating. We go out to each qualifying session with the goal of top five in mind and we will fight for each round to get into the Countdown.”
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown raced to the winner’s circle for his fourth victory of the year in 2015 en route to his second Top Fuel world championship. Brown has three wins and the points lead in 2016, along with four career Sonoma wins, but will have to ward off a host of talented drivers, including Doug Kalitta, who has three victories this season and five in Sonoma. Others to watch include back-to-back 2016 winner Shawn Langdon, two-time 2016 winner Steve Torrence, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who won for the first time in 2016 last weekend in Denver, J.R. Todd, Richie Crampton, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen and Brittany Force, who is also a two-time winner this season.
Points leader Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson, who is in second, have dominated in Pro Stock. Line, a three-time Sonoma winner, has raced to seven victories in 2016 while Anderson, a four-time Sonoma winner, has six. Catching up will be difficult in the redesigned Pro Stock class, which features fuel-injected engines, flat hoods, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters and shortened wheelie-bars. Those looking to knock down Line and Anderson include Chris McGaha, who raced to his first career victory at Sonoma last year, Allen Johnson, who won in Denver, Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Bo Butner and two-time and reigning world champ Erica Enders.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec defeated Jerry Savoie in the final round a year ago, and holds the points lead in 2016 on the strength of three victories. His teammate, reigning world champion Andrew Hines, has won back-to-back races, is second in points and is a two-time event winner in Sonoma. Savoie, a Louisiana alligator farmer, has raced to two runner-up finishes this season and others to watch in the two-wheeled category include recent Englishtown, N.J., and 2004 Sonoma winner Angelle Sampey, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana, Matt Smith, LE Tonglet, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana Jr. and Scotty Pollacheck.
Eight qualified Pro Stock Motorcycle racers also will be gunning for the winner’s check and trophy in the highly-competitive NHRA Pro Bike Battle at Sonoma Raceway. Krawiec is the defending winner of the all-star bonus event.
The Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
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 how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
As part of NHRA’s ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Funny Car class, legendary Funny Car drivers Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Ed “The Ace” McCulloch will be honored during pre-race ceremonies.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, July 29, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 30, at 1:10 and 5 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 31.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are admitted free on Saturday, July 30, in general admission areas with a paid adult (advance only). For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
TOYOTA NHRA SONOMA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 15th 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. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 15 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 29-31
FRIDAY, July 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 30 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:15 p.m.
NHRA PRO BIKE BATTLE AT SONOMA RACEWAY at 1, 3 and 4:50 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 31 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, July 29, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, July 30, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 31, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Chris McGaha, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Antron Brown, 4, TF; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Eddie Krawiec, 3, PSM; Jason Line, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.707 sec. by Antron Brown, July ‘15; 329.10 mph by Dave Connolly, July ’15.
Funny Car – 3.921 sec. by Jack Beckman, July ‘15; 325.77 mph by Matt Hagan, July ‘15.
Pro Stock – 6.499 sec. by Chris McGaha, July ’15; 213.00 mph by Shane Gray, July ‘15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.785 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, July ’12; 198.79 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
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) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sonomaraceway.com.
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 1,145; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,088; 3. Steve Torrence, 982; 4. Brittany Force, 953; 5. Tony Schumacher, 916; 6. Shawn Langdon, 800; 7. J.R. Todd, 799; 8. Clay Millican, 681; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10. Leah Pritchett, 553.
1. Ron Capps, 1,120; 2. Courtney Force, 998; 3. Jack Beckman, 976; 4. Matt Hagan, 881; 5. (tie) Robert Hight, 877; Del Worsham, 877; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 855; 8. John Force, 821; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 793; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 733.
1. Jason Line, 1,548; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,466; 3. Bo Butner, 955; 4. Allen Johnson, 885; 5. Vincent Nobile, 758; 6. Drew Skillman, 753; 7. Chris McGaha, 661; 8. Shane Gray, 658; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 613; 10. Alex Laughlin, 595.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 742; 2. Andrew Hines, 633; 3. Angelle Sampey, 534; 4. Jerry Savoie, 500; 5. Chip Ellis, 386; 6. Hector Arana, 375; 7. LE Tonglet, 364; 8. Matt Smith, 290; 9. Steve Johnson, 268; 10. Michael Ray, 262.
Source: National Hot Rod Association