National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
April 11, 2013
SCOTT SMITH: Now we will get started with Cruz. Cruz is coming off the event in Las Vegas which saw him race to his 31st career Funny Car victory and first of the season. He is third in the points, which is the highest in points he's been since the 2011 season.
Cruz, for those of you that don't know, is not only the driver but listed as the crew chief of the car and along with his crew is deeply involved with the tuning of this car.
Cruz, how special was that win not only for you but for your entire crew with the way you guys are doing it this season?
CRUZ PEDREGON: You know, it's strange because I look back at the excitement level the I still have here. It's Thursday. My guys had to drive, what, 2,000 miles, they're still all excited.
I would say emotionally and everything like that, this probably ranks among the top in my career because it's early in the season. It was a huge win, like you said, early in the season. It was a challenging racetrack, 120 degree track temperature. We were consistent. We really haven't shown that consistency on Sunday. We've always been kind of a really good qualifying car, but then we would fade away.
I figured one of the challenges going into this season was to work on that consistency. We did it in Vegas on Sunday. So I was just so happy for the team. The short turnaround time, everybody answered the bell, did their job. It was just awesome.
SCOTT SMITH: We'll open it up to questions for Cruz Pedregon.
Q. How hard was it for you to concentrate as a driver after not being able to back up the car in the final round?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, it was very hard because it's all I thought about. It actually flashed through my mind, What a way to end the day. We had such a good day going. I wouldn't say I was any favorite going into that round. Courtney was running so well, she had lane choice.
I couldn't put it in reverse. Man, I was disappointed. I was already conceding, we lost. I thought for sure there's no way these guys are going to be able to push this car back in time to stage without holding up Courtney. Last thing I want to do is hold her up. She deserves it.
As they started pushing the car back, I said, Wait a minute, we're getting close. I had all those thoughts going through my head. Then we got behind the line. Wait a minute, I look over, they're still like back there doing their thing with the body up. That's when I knew I better get it together here because it's showtime, let's get it on and forget about all this other stuff.
It was difficult. But then I took a couple deep breaths, and after that it was a regular race for me.
Q. Cruz, you had a special situation because you have experience as a driver, experience as a broadcaster. What are your first memories about growing up in motorsports, your first recollections as a kid?
CRUZ PEDREGON: My first recollection as a kid was going to the races and watching my dad race, watching him put on this crazy space-looking suit and put on the helmet with all the equipment. Those are my first recollections.
It was an unbelievable feeling. Even as a kid, I was probably two, three years old, it all started there. I didn't know I liked it so much. But I grew up with those feelings and those images.
So, yeah, I always think back to those times.
Q. As far as going from the car to the booth and back to the car, can you talk about what skills and traits and attributes you needed to get you through both those things? Completely different applications in a lot of ways.
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, you know, I'll tell you something interesting. I found that it takes the same concentration level to speak as it does to climb in a car and drive it. I was thinking, Shoot, this is no problem. All I have to do is talk about a sport I love. When you go live, you have to concentrate.
So we use relatively the same, I don't know, skill. Concentration is concentration no matter what. You have to put together some sentences that are somewhat concise. You can't say everything you want to say. You have to choose your spots. There's a certain amount of concentration.
I found a lot of it parallel with driving. Just to see it from a distance, I actually needed a little break I think just to kind of put things in perspective. I got to see a bunch of other teams.
I don't know, I can't put my finger on it but I think it did me good to take a break, regroup, and I came back a year later and started racing again.
I didn't really care (indiscernible) at the time. I thought, I am going to really miss a year. Luckily for me there's been plenty of years to make up for the year that I lost.
Q. What exactly is it that you're doing this season compared to last year that has you in third place in the championship and in a great position to fight for the title?
CRUZ PEDREGON: You know, we just put it together. I think it was just a matter of time. In 2011 we had a great car, not a great car, a good car. And then in 2012 I decided, you know, I needed to gather up a better engine combination. I want to run fast, like 320 like some of the other cars, I could do it without hurting the engine. I hired Lee Beard, who came onboard and brought over some different thoughts.
We changed the camshaft, the fuel system. I knew it would take a while to pick up that new setup to match it with my clutch combination. So it's almost like we took 2012, I don't want to call it a test year, but we didn't really come on till the end of 2012.
I would say what we've done is we've improved our engine program, already a great clutch program, and now you're seeing the results of that here.
I think we're going to keep sharp, keep working. But I think you will now see the best we have. I'm looking forward to the rest of this season. I think, you know, I'm confident that we're going to be in at least every race, not to say we're going to win every race, that's hard to do, but I think we're going to have something to say about who wins the races from here on out.
SCOTT SMITH: Cruz, what are your thoughts going into the Four-Wide Nationals? It's something that I think race fans need to see and need to experience just the sheer horsepower. What is it like for you as a driver going into that event?
CRUZ PEDREGON: It's exciting. Here is my emotions in years one, two and three. I think this is our fourth year going there, if I'm not mistaken. First year, didn't know what to expect. Unknown enthusiasm, unknown excitement. It was the 'wow' factor.
Second year, I was on the fence. I'm thinking, Man, is this going to be something we're going to do all the time. I was on the fence.
Third year, I loved it. I loved it last year. We went to the final. We were in the final four. We lost to Robert Hight by not even half a car length. I noticed the enthusiasm was back.
I think they've honed in the schedule, how to turn the cars around. I think the fans are kind of getting it. I would say this is the peak of excitement going there the fourth time.
Hey, it's exciting, 'cause like Courtney was saying earlier, you can't focus on one opponent. You're going, Wait a minute, there's this guy. Hold on a second, I got to race that guy, too? You start thinking a little bit.
When you get up there, there's just another tree to look at, just making sure everybody is staged. After that it's a regular race again.
So it's exciting. If I wasn't racing in it, I'd love to get up there in the top part of the grandstand about half track and watch it because I think it would be pretty cool.
SCOTT SMITH: I don't think we have any further questions. Cruz, thank you very much for your time this afternoon. We'll let you get back to work.
Thank you, members of the media, for joining us today. We will hopefully see you all in Charlotte coming up on April 19th through the 21st for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals there at zMAX Dragway.
CRUZ PEDREGON: Thank you very much, guys.
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