CAMARILLO, Calif. -- With the completion of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Season, Cruz Pedregon reflects upon his first full season as owner/driver of the Advance Auto Parts Funny Car Racing Team.
Pedregon finished in the number thirteenth spot with seven round wins throughout the season. Taking time out to answer the following questions, Cruz Pedregon is already thinking ahead to 2003.
How would you summarize the 2002 season for the Advance Auto Parts Funny Car Team?
I set my expectation level pretty high, maybe too high, for our first season and as much as I don’t like to refer to it as a “season of building,” the reality is- that’ s exactly what it was. Looking back it was an O.K. season. We had our flashes here and there - one was going to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals. We would have liked to have won some races, but we just didn’t really have any breaks throughout the season. For me, getting back into the car was good. I was ready to get back into the drivers seat after being in the broadcast booth for a year.
Were there any specific complications with the car that affected your overall performance?
This particular car was a 4.90 et car in the year 2000, so we were hoping to make it a 4.80 et car in 2002 - where the competition was. There were no major complications when the race conditions were cloudy and cool - we had one of the fastest cars under those type conditions. Complications came up when it warmed up and track became warm - that’s when we didn’t quite have the combination to figure it out, but that will change next season.
What was your most memorable moment (race) of the 2002 season?
The Atlanta race stands out first in my mind. We qualified with a 4.96et and we had Scotty Cannon first round. They set their car to run what they thought they had to in order to beat us and we ended up surprising them by running a 4.87 to their 4.88. Even though we went out next round – it was still a good event. The other event that stands out is the Englishtown event just after Atlanta. We had cool conditions in the 50/60 degree range and ran in 4.80’s effortlessly. We took out Tommy Johnson Jr. first round with a 4.86et. If the weather would have cooperated, we could have won either one of those two events.
What was your biggest disappointment during the season?
We were unable to work things out at critical times. Again, we didn’t see many breaks this season and not getting the car to perform consistently was disappointing. I’m not going to dwell on it too much because we have a new program for next season that will bring us well into the playing field.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as an owner and driver during this season?
I would have to say that going with the ‘experience is key’ philosophy is best. I think it is very important to have experienced individuals with proven success surrounding you - it makes a huge difference. I also learned that the team works best in a positive environment where winning is a common goal of the entire team.
Is there any specific run that you would have especially liked to have won throughout the season? Against who?
I would have liked to beat John Force in the semifinals at the U. S. Nationals in Indy – the biggest race of the year. That would have put us in the final round and, we felt we had a good chance of winning.
The Advance Auto Parts Team is now based in Indianapolis – How will this help your operation?
Having the team “live” with the car allows for more of a concentrated effort. Some things get overlooked when you’re constantly on the road, so having the team right there- working all the time - will be of great help. Preparation is key and having the car in a central location will allow the team to be at home more, in the shop more where they can be more focused. In terms of mechanics, Indianapolis is race central for all types of racing.
What are your personal expectations for the team entering your second full season?
With Rob Flynn and Dave Fletcher on board I am expecting to win some races. I know that we can jump right in the middle and be competitive.
Plans to relax during the winter season?
(Laughs) We will take a break around Christmas time and New Year – but this time is critical to us as we prepare and organize. It is a time for us to re-evaluate and make things better for the up coming race season. We are definitely more prepared than we were at this time a year ago. Going into the second season will be a little less stressful than our first year.
CRUZ PEDREGON 2002 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Points: 754 Round Record: 7-18 Season Best Elapsed Time: 4.811 (Indianapolis) Season Best Speed: 318.24 (Englishtown) Best Season Qualifying: 3rd (Englishtown/Indianapolis)
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