It’s been a rough season for NHRA Funny Car driver and past champion Cruz Pedregon, including failing to make the Countdown to the Championship playoff.
But Sunday, Pedregon recorded arguably one of the biggest high points of his season — if not his career — and got tons of notoriety for it (over 400,000 views on NHRA.com as of late Monday).
You see, Pedregon was making what appeared to be a routine run in Sunday’s first round of eliminations of the Toyota NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his car went into full frontal wheelie mode.
That’s right, one minute the Southern California native was horizontal, looking at the finish line ahead … and the next, he was staring straight up at the sky.
“I think I wheelstood longer than the Wright Brothers flew through the air,” Pedregon joked afterward with Susan Wade of CompetitionPlus.com.
While blowovers (the term when a car goes backward and rolls over) in NHRA competition are rare, the masterful job Pedregon did to keep his car under control is something drag racing fans will be talking about for a long time.
Also, give credit to the chassis — and especially the wheelie bars at the back of Pedregon’s car — as they kept potential disaster from happening.
Fox Sports 1 analyst — and Cruz’s younger brother — Tony Pedregon was in awe at what his sibling did. And he’d still likely be as amazed even if they weren’t related.
“That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen a Funny Car do,” Tony Pedregon said during the live broadcast. “That car came up and then came down, he didn’t overreact and he maintained the steering in that car.”
Perhaps the best part of the whole episode is the man nicknamed “the Cruzer” not only regained control, he also went on to win that first round race with Robert Hight.
“Thankfully, when I landed, I was going straight,” the older Pedregon brother told Wade. “I turned on the win light, and all I could do is shake my head because I had just got a three-for-one deal: I survived, got the win-light and didn’t get hurt.”
Unfortunately, too much damage was done to Cruz’s car from the wheelie — NHRA rules do not allow for a replacement car or body to be used on race day — that he wasn’t able to race Funny Car points leader Ron Capps in the quarterfinals.
You’ve heard of the expression “car control” in racing? A picture of Pedregon’s face should be next to that definition the next time they print a dictionary.