JOLIET, Il. – Given his choice, Cruz Pedregon would rather be a leader than a follower every time.
That’s why when it came time for the first two rounds of qualifying for the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals on Friday, Pedregon put his best foot forward as soon as he can.
The former two-time NHRA Funny Car champion raced to the provisional pole in his second run down the drag strip at Route 66 Raceway, setting a track record in the process with a run of 3.966 seconds (at 315.64 mph).
How quick was Pedregon’s run? Just .07 of a second short of his all-time career-best run (3.959 seconds).
“We were expecting these big numbers, but you never know, these cars are so touchy,” Pedregon said. “We were nervous (with other cars behind him) because we obviously wanted to be No. 1.
“That’s a great way to start, but we have another night session (Saturday). … There may be some cars tomorrow that may have something to say, so we’re not counting our chickens just yet.
“We’re going to come out here tomorrow and establish a good baseline in the first run and come out and see if we can’t fire off another good run.”
Pedregon has wound up as the No. 1 qualifier three times over the years at Route 66, but has not come away with a win. He hopes to change that Sunday.
“I would put Route 66’s surface at No. 1 or No. 2 (on his personal list of favorite tracks) as far as flatness and smooth as ice,” Pedregon said. “It’s a good track.
“It’s smooth, there’s no bumps or rebounds and all that kind of stuff. Whoever laid this pavement out when it was built 15 years or so ago, did a great job.
“We give it a little extra knowing we’re here than somewhere else.”
Chad Head qualified second (3.991 seconds at 318.17 mph), followed by Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.003 at 316.15), Courtney Force (4.012 at 318.32), Ron Capps (4.014 at 315.78) and John Force ((4.020 at a session-best speed of 321.58 mph).
There will be two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday, leading up to Sunday’s final eliminations.