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After Seasons-long Drought, Cruz Pedregon Returns To Winner’s Circle at Charlotte

When I was just a kid, I was drawn immediately to Cruz Pedregon. Splashing onto the scene as part of a massive (at the time) two-car team sponsored by McDonalds, Pedregon was an immediate hit with the fans. His fiery-but-relatable personality instantly put him in the spotlight, and he seemed to relish the attention, earning the NHRA world championship in his first full year behind the wheel of a nitro Funny Car in 1992. While it would take him over a decade and a half to do it again, including taking a year off from driving duties, Pedregon would return to the pinnacle of the class in 2008 when he won his second world title.

Since then, wins have been hard to come by for Pedregon, but his loyal fan base and never-say-quit attitude have allowed him to maintain sponsorship deals that have kept him on the track despite his limited success. He would win his 35th career race in 2014, tying him with the legendary Don Prudhomme for 5th on the all-time professional wins list. It would take him until this past weekend to secure win #36 and take sole possession of 5th place from The Snake.

Pedregon entered the NGK Spark Plugs 4-Wide Nationals in the midst of a 92-race drought, but as always, he attacked the event with everything he and his team had. Crew chief Aaron Brooks and their talented team of crewmen worked all weekend to stay on top of the drastically-changing weather conditions and keep the Snap On Tools-sponsored Toyota Camry in position to win, even when the competition was stacked with the biggest names in the class, such as the final quad, which featured 16 time world champion John Force, his daughter Courtney and seventeen time event winner Tommy Johnson Jr, who is always a threat to win.

Cruz’ Camry was up to the task of taking on the tough competition, putting up a solid 4.05 elapsed time at 310 MPH to take the win over John Force’s 4.09 at 307. Behind Force, Johnson lifted early or suffered parts failure and slowed to a 4.14 at just 275 MPH to take third and the younger Force coasted through after smoking the tires early. The Snap On Crew celebrated on the line, happy to have the weight of such a long drought lifted from their shoulders. Force left Charlotte in 8th place in points following the win, putting him in solid shape to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship in 2018.