National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
June 5, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We will now be joined by two‑time Funny Car World Champion, Cruz Pedregon. He's enjoying a resurgence for his team, he had two wins this season, two No.1 qualifying positions and he's currently in third in Funny Car. Cruz has been doing double duty this year not only as a driver, but deeply involved with tuning of the car.
We talked off and on this year but how fulfilling has your success been with the current structure of your team?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, it's very fulfilling, but I must point out, I've had the same role for the last, well, since 2010 actually. I've had two different guys with the title of crew chief; and not that I want all the credit.
But I know I have a lot of concern from a lot of fans and even some sponsors for that matter, that when we lose guys, whether other people hire them or whatever the case may be, that the car was going to change direction and maybe fall off performance wise, and I try to tell them, hey, guys, I make the decisions, I make the calls, and if nothing is going to change, we are going to keep on keeping on. So until we go out and do it, there's always that skepticism.
So for me it's very gratifying. It's a lot of work, first and foremost, a lot of work, a lot of hours, but at the end of the day, it's the position I've been in. I didn't ask for this position; it was just something that came about. I've been doing it a lot of years, so I'm actually having the best time of my life. I mean, the fact that I can do this, and I can have performance on the track is the best thing that I can think of.
Q. Are you a strong believer in momentum and how does that affect your team and the mood and that kind of thing, how important is it? Sometimes when it slips away, it becomes even more important. Can you kind of define that for us?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, I wouldn't say strongly but do I believe in momentum as far as our car seems to perform well no matter what part of the country we are in, whether it's sea level conditions or we are up in altitude or hot tracks or the cooler tracks, they all change and take a different setup.
We maintain that performance throughout the process here. We are nine races in into the 24‑race schedule, and so I wouldn't feel we have hit our stride yet but we've had some good races. Last week at Englishtown, I feel like that was our best performance race in three or four races and we came away with a second‑round loss.
So I think that the momentum side of the original question is, the cars that are kind of already nudging their way up near the top winning races, I think those are the cars that are going to be there for the long haul, and in that case, I think the momentum is‑‑ you may see one or two guys pop up from the bottom and can jump up there, but the Hagans, the Johnny Gray car, Beckman, certainly Khalid, and a couple others will probably be the guys that we are going to have to deal with down the stretch the rest of the way.
Q. Now that you've had two wins this season, how long did those wins last before you mentioned the work that you had to do to get right back at it?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Oh, man, I tell you what, it's really a confidence‑builder. It kind of gives you that confidence and what that allows to you do is it allows you to not be so careful and it allows you in your step and the car as a result benefits from that. Each win lasts us a few days. In fact, we go into these races now knowing that we can win and I know my guys feel pretty excited, bonus checks don't hurt, either. Wins definitely are a get well medicine without a doubt.
CRUZ PEDREGON: Remind them that we are not in championship at this point in time and we are trying different things and we are putting new twists and wrinkles into the system to that we can get to a point where we feel like we can enter the Countdown with the absolute best race car we can possibly race and to try to ensure that success.
So while we do care about the individual races and we do care that it was nice to be in the points lead and it's nice to be talked about in that respect, but at the end of the rainbow, I have to remind them, hey, guys, whether it's a different kind of blower or a new blower, a different request, whatever we are doing, especially the younger guys, they want to stay the same and keep doing it.
But what I try to make them realize is that some of these cars are catching up to us, and they can run right with us; why not make changes that can maybe put us a little ahead of these guys, or at least try to do that. That's always the goal.
I think we have a good group of guys and good mixture of veterans along with some younger guys that when it comes time to make the first qualify Friday, the guys have their head down and they are on attack mode.
THE MODERATOR: You talked about trying different things and making sure you're always moving forward. How has your car responded to the changes that you've made these past couple of races?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Actually very well. I'm pleased that we have been able to make the adjustments on the fly and not fallen off too much.
In fact, if you don't know any better, I would speculate, you would sit back and go, okay, these guys, they are just like everybody else, they fall off here and there but then they gather backup and then they go a couple good runs and then they fall off.
So I would say that internally, we know what's going on and the changes we've made. I would say we've had a pretty‑‑ I would say a fun, uninterrupted season so far.
No doubt the couple of qualifiers we were down, I think a little bit the top half of the field, those are little signs that I can see where it's hurt us a little bit. But I think when we get back to race day, we are right back on it. In fact, Topeka‑‑ here is a good example.
Topeka, our only first round lost of the season, while it was a broke piston that caused our demise. So it really was nothing that we were trying or experimenting with. It was just a broken part. I would say that we couldn't script any better, we would have a hard time doing that really, it's been good.
THE MODERATOR: Bristol is so unique, how much fun is it to race at that track?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Well, it's always fun to race there. It's a good‑looking place. They have got the mountains there.
You know, it's a challenge up there, though, because you have some altitude up there in the Eastern Tennessee hills. I like it because we are going to get some temperature which I think is a good equalizer. It's a great track, but again, the heat, coupled up with the altitude, it makes it a little challenging more than other places to race.
So you know, we look forward to it, and I think, really, we are starting a little mini‑stretch here, so you're going to really see some good races and points switching up a little bit here in the next, certainly that race, and then the three after that, three in a row or four in a row.
I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to getting busy here and getting this show on the road.
THE MODERATOR: How do you communicate that to your team? Do you have‑‑ your shop is braced out in Brownsburg, Indiana. Do you have a lot of your equipment set up and ready to go for the next four events? Are you working towards that, maybe even two months ago?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Oh, yeah. You know what the schedule is and you try to budget‑wise, you try to purchase the equipment necessary and hopefully our season thus far has been uneventful in terms of parts attrition, and knock‑on‑wood, we have not in any major issues, just routine maintenance.
So I think we are in pretty good shape. I heard Allen Johnson talking about your team and fatigue and that kind of thing, and that's always something we concern ourselves as owners. Fortunately we have the two rigs and we have the equipment that any of the other teams have, we have two drivers per rig, some we have three.
So I think other than getting out there and racing in the heat and hopefully not having any major damages when we have to go back to the shop and rebuild anything major, I think we are in pretty good shape. We have been doing this for a few years now so my team is pretty geared up for that.
Q. Entering a stretch like this, four in a row, seven of eight, what's the key to you and how do you approach that mentally and physically to not only get through it but get some positive results, as well?
CRUZ PEDREGON: So, business as usual. I'll go in there and spend 20 minutes or so getting the setup to the guys and they will go out there and implement it. Sometimes like I don't even take my fire‑‑ I leave them on and change my shirt and put my fire suit on, it's kind of funny.
Q. I guess when you're doing well like, this the season has been a success thus far, can you almost view it as a good thing where you've had a chance to go out there and race every week and keep this momentum going?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's easier for me, on one hand, it's harder because when you get in the car, you have to have a not‑think‑so‑much mind‑set. Out of the car, it's all about thinking. That's the only challenge.
But I think for me, I would much rather have it on my plate or have it on my shoulders than anybody else's, because I know what I put into it and I know that I can take a day off here, a day or two off here and there during the week to get my batteries charged or rested up or whatever the case may be.
So I feel like I can handle it and I feel like if it's not in my hands, then I would be wondering, in this business, hey, man, let's face it; I would have to be worrying about, A, is the guy focusing and doing the job; and B, is he planning on being recruited by somebody else to hire him away from me.
So you always have those things as an owner but when it's me, it's good and bad, I only have myself to blame, but at the same time, I can keep the focus going where I think it needs to be.
THE MODERATOR: We talked to Allen, and Cruz, your family, the Pedregon name, is one of the most famous names in drag racing, your father and your brothers. Talk about Father's Day weekend coming up in Bristol, and is there a favorite memory that you have with your dad at a track, or is it just overall being able to spend time with your family through the years and how drag racing has brought everybody together?
CRUZ PEDREGON: Yeah, that's a good question. The only thing I remember about my dad racing was we were real little kids and I didn't really get to enjoy his racing. He retired at a very young age, and he had five kids to raise. And he wanted to go into business and he just completely forgot about racing and didn't even talk about racing and my brothers and I were stunned by that because we thought it was the greatest thing in the world.
I lost my dad at 18 years old; he died in a plane crash at 41 years old. My memories of dad are very little racing and a lot about life and being there for us and teaming us right from wrong and how to take care of ourselves and try to take care of each other.
He taught us a lot of life lessons and I always have a heavy heart when we race on father's days for sure because if it wouldn't have been for the tough life lessons my dad taught us, who knows where we would be. Certainly wouldn't be racing and competing for championships and racing like we are now.
So I'm very, very grateful that I had my dad for a short period of time like I did.
THE MODERATOR: Cruz, thank you for joining us today. We'll let you get back to work and we'll see you very soon in Bristol.
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