Cruz may not know how to get it, but he knows what he wants, and crew chief Danny DeGennaro delivers.
six races, you can’t win the title without
the ball bouncing your way a few times.”
If Pedregon performs as well in the
crucial Countdown races as he did in
2008 and 2010, a third championship is
within reach – even though he went
winless through the first half of the year.
“We can do it,” he says. “I’m not
saying we’re the best team out there, but
we’ve gotten where we are by doing things
our way. I can’t put my finger on any one
thing and say, ‘ That was it.’ All I’ve done
is pay attention to what a lot of smart
guys I raced with in the past used to do.
As I started overlaying our old runs on
the computer, I thought, ‘You know,
we’re really not that far o;.’
“I give Danny a lot of credit because he’s
trusted my judgment. When something
works, it’s not whether it’s my idea or his
idea. We all put our heads together and,
in the end, I make the final calls – I mean,
it’s my car, right? What I want is a team
that has no ego, that doesn’t worry about
who gets the credit.
“This is the way I’m racing from now
thing is maintenance. Are the heads
prepared right? Are the right connecting
rods in there? Are the blocks in good
condition? Sunday morning, we have
enough clutch packs to go all four rounds,
enough heads to go all four rounds. We
could blow up every run and stick a whole
new engine in there if we had to. I don’t
have to answer to anyone; there’s no high-
pressure owner breathing down my neck.
We do o;-the-wall stu;, make up rules
as we go along. And I’m not afraid to
blow my car to smithereens if I have to.”
As the season passed the midway
point, Pedregon and his Snap-On crew,
led by crew chief Danny DeGennaro and
assistant crew chief Scott Wible, lay fourth
in the Full Throttle standings, with final-
round appearances in Gainesville and
Englishtown. “And it’s not like we got to
those finals and had to find five-
hundredths or a tenth somewhere,” Pedregon adds. “We had
lane choice for one of them. We lost both to [season-long points
leader] Ne;, but if we’d maintained what we’d been running up
to that point, we could have won either one. We were good for the
first two or three rounds. We need to be good for all four rounds.”
After winning the championship in 2008, Pedregon didn’t
even make it into the Countdown the past two years. “I used to
dread this time of year,” he says, “doing the math after every
round, keeping track of everybody’s points, figuring out how far
behind I was, and thinking, ‘ Who do we have to stay in front of?
Are we going to get in?’ Well, this year, we’re getting in.
Winning races verifies what you’re doing and we haven’t done
that yet this year. But we’re right there; we’ve been in every race
In 20 years of fuel racing, Pedregon has learned how it feels
to win – and what it’s like to lose. In ‘92, he won five races in a row
to overcome Force’s huge lead and win his first championship.
But from 2000 to ’08, he won just a single race (Las Vegas, ’06).
“You look at every champion over the last few years, and they
got some breaks somewhere along the way,” Pedregon says. “I
know I sure did. Now the whole thing comes down to the last
on. If I’m dependent on one crew chief,
one, I’ll have to pay him an extraordinary
amount of money, and two, what
happens when he isn’t available? What if
he decides he doesn’t like me anymore?
It’s like [World of Outlaws star] Sammy
Swindell told me a long time ago: You
never want to be too dependent on any one
person. So he became a setup guy. Now
he’s in his 50s and still winning races.
That’s exactly what I plan to do.”
“I’ve paid attention to
what a lot of smart
guys I raced with in
the past used to do”
TEAMMATES...UP TO A POINT
Neither Pedregon brother expects much help from the other
Cruz Pedregon is part of a two-car
team with his younger brother,
Tony (LEFT) – but not really.
“If you ask me, the whole
race in two full years and has struggled so far
two-car-team thing is
overrated,” says Cruz, who,
like Tony, is a two-time NHRA
Funny Car world champion
– Cruz in 1992 and 2008
and Tony in 2003 and ’07.
Tony is the second most
successful driver in Funny
Car history (behind John
Force) but he hasn’t won a
“The problem with two-car teams is that if
every single part on both cars isn’t exactly the
same, you can’t compare data,” Cruz says,
“and trust me, no two cars are ever exactly the
same. It’s not just that I run a Toyota body and
Tony runs a Chevy [RIGHT] . It’s everything. I
don’t care what multi-car team you’re talking
about, one car always runs better than the
other ones. You get two crew chiefs together,
and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, the two cars are exactly
the same except for ‘blank.’ Well that ‘blank’ is
huge. It changes everything.
“But that’s not the main problem,” Cruz
says. “The problem is that no two crew chiefs on
the same team ever tell each other everything.
Why would they? They’d have to be insane.
They’re trying to beat each other. They’re
fighting for their jobs. And who wants to help
the other guy kick your ass? No one.”