By Lee Elder
CONCORD, NC (April 29, 2018) – Nobody beats Cruz Pedregon 93 straight times.
Pedregon, the former Funny Car champion, beat John and Courtney Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final Funny Car quad to win the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Raceway. It was Pedregon’s first win after 92 straight events without one.
“This is for all the single car people,” Pedregon said.
Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel, Erica Enders won in Pro Stock and Jerry Savoie won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Pedregon’s last win was at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, a track that is no longer on the schedule, in 2014. He was in a quad with Courtney Force, John Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. John Force took the runnerup spot. The win was Pedregon’s 36th career Funny Car victory, but Pedregon said it ranked first among his wins.
“Probably number one,” he said. “I had to rebuild the team … not having the right people caught up with me. I have the right people now.”
Pedregon’s .032-second reaction time was the best of the bunch in the finals. His elapsed time was 4.059 seconds, his speed 310.84 mph. Force’s reaction time was third best at .090-second and his time was 4.098 seconds.
For Torrence, the third time was charming. He won his third straight four-wide event and his third race of the 2018 season. Asked what his secret was for winning on four-wide venues, he claimed not to have one.
“I don’t have a secret,” Torrence said. “I didn’t know which lane I was in. I double-bulbed and I apologize for that. I’m from Texas and we just bow our necks and get it done.”
Torrence’s time in the final was 3.813 seconds, his speed 326.56. Doug Kalitta was the runnerup at 4.010 and 278.12. Also in the final quad were Clay Millican and Terry McMillen.
Enders, a Texan driving a car borrowed earlier this month from Jerry Haas, won the Pro Stock final with a stellar reaction time, .014-second. She completed a 6.535-second, 212.73 mph pass. She beat runnerup Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha and Drew Skillman in the final. Nobile’s reaction time, .095 negated his 6.520-second pass, which was quicker than Enders’.
Enders won for the first time, “…since Epping of last year and before that, it was two years. I am stoked!,” she said. It was just Enders’ second win since the NHRA changed the rules in Pro Stock to mandate fuel injected engines. She became the sixth winner in Pro Stock this year.
Savoie beat runnerup Andrew Hines, Matt Smith and Scotty Pollacheck in the final of Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Savoie said, “At my age (59), to win one of these (trophies) they don’t know what it takes to get here.” His previous victory was at Brainerd in 2017. Savoie’s elapsed time was 6.784 seconds, Hines was next at 6.873.
The weather conditions appeared to catch some of the teams in a quandry. In addition to Hagan’s boomer, other teams suffered mechanical problems and the NHRA Safety Safari got a great deal of track time to complete cleanup efforts, especially in the early rounds. On the other hand, there were some spectacular races. The second round of Pro Stock had all four cars get timed at 6.4 seconds and the four cars were within a single car length at the finish.
The first round saw surprises that has made the four-wide brand of racing unique. In Top Fuel, Brittany Force, Tony Schumacher, Leah Pritchett and Antron Brown all lost. After the wackiness that was the Top Fuel session, the Funny Car session was full of pre-race lane changes, but the craziness continued. Matt Hagan lost in the first round when a major engine explosion blew the body on his car into pieces. Hagan was not hurt. There were lanes changes in Pro Stock’s first session, too and former champs Greg Anderson and Jason Line were both knocked out in the first round. Eddie Krawiec, who started the day as the PSM points leader, went out in the first round, too. Only two riders that started the weekend in the top 10 of Pro Stock Motorcycle made it to the final round.
Unofficially, Steve Torrence passed Tony Schumacher in the NHRA Countdown standings in Top Fuel. Jack Beckman held on to the lead in Funny Car but Hagan’s early and spectacular exit allowed Courtney Force and J.R. Todd to boot him from second place to fourth. Defending Pro Stock champ Bo Butner finished with the points in that category but teammate Greg Anderson fell out of second place, replaced by Chris McGaha. Andrew Hines knocked Krawiec out of the lead in PSM.
Robert Hight advanced through the first round of Funny Cars but even he had to pedal his car to get down the track. He said, “Anything can happen. You can’t see the other cars. Sometimes it’s nice to win like that.”
NOTES: Jason Line, who normally drives a blue Chevrolet for KB Racing in Pro Stock, drove a red Chevy at zMAX. It was a car previously driven by other KB drivers.