Cruz Pedregon prevails against John Force to win Funny Car title at Ennis

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Their tire-smoking Funny Car final from 1992 has assumed legendary status at the Texas Motorplex, where Cruz Pedregon and John Force added the latest chapter to their enduring NHRA rivalry Sunday afternoon.

As was the outcome 21 years ago, Pedregon prevailed against Force in the final of the 28th Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. And “The Cruzer” also made a major move up the point standings after two rounds of the six-event Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.

Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car world champion, covered the 1,000-foot distance in 4.106 seconds and 312.06 mph in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry en route to his fourth win of the season and fourth on the Motorplex’s all-concrete surface. A 15-time world champion, “Brut” Force ran 4.220 seconds at 270.27 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after losing traction and sliding about three-quarters of the way down the track.

The outcome moved Pedregon from eighth to second among the 10 drivers eligible to win the 2013 championship, 51 points, three rounds of racing behind 2011 world champion Matt Hagan.

“To run a 4.10 at 312, which was our best speed of the weekend, really put an exclamation point on this event,” said Pedregon, owner, driver, and tuner of his hot rod. “We were really taking Force serious, as we all should.

“I thought it’d be a Cinderella [ending] for him to win this because he’s friends with [Motorplex owner] Billy Meyer. But it’s great for our team. We were kind of just hanging around, hanging around and we gained momentum as the race came about. It wasn’t the prettiest event for us, but outside looking-in, it looked good.”

“John is still a feared man. My heart rate was up a mile a minute, just because you’re racing John Force. Lot of respect for John. Great champion. Glad we beat him.”

That side-by-side “pedal-fest” win in 1992 helped propel Pedregon to his first world championship, after which Force reeled off 10 consecutive titles.

“It’s funny, of all the memorable events that I’ve had racing, that ’92 final round against John Force still gets talked about to this day,” Pedregon said. “People are older, but that one race was probably the signature [event] — and maybe John’s — of our careers.”

Meanwhile, Doug Kalitta broke a 71-race Top Fuel winless streak dating to 2010 with a victory over Shawn Langdon, a result that left the two tied atop the standings with 2,251 points.

The finalists leapfrogged Fort Worth’s Spencer Massey, who slipped to third but only two points behind after a semifinal loss to Kalitta.

Driver of the Mac Tools dragster, Kalitta covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.842 seconds at 320.43 mph to notch his 34th career win. Langdon ran 3.896-seconds at 291.32 mph in his Al-Anabi Silver dragster.

“You know, I’m just praying that the win light’s going to be on in my lane on every run,” Kalitta said. “Just a good day. It will be a great confidence builder for me and all my guys. After a while, you start wondering if you can win again in one of these things.”

Two-time world champion Jason Line drove to victory over Shane Gray in the Pro Stock final, exiting Texas with his 31st career Wally trophy and an eight-point lead over four-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“The points lead is a big deal,” said Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. “From where we were two months ago, to leave here as the point leader is a small miracle, for sure.”

Line covered the quarter-mile in 6.590-seconds at 211.16 mph. Gray’s numbers in the Gray Motorsports Camaro were 6.595-seconds at 210.44 mph.

And the Pro Stock Motorcycle final went to three-time reigning world champion Eddie Krawiec, who scored his first win of the season and 21st of his career at the expense of Matt Smith. Krawiec covered the quarter-mile in 6.951 seconds and 191.87 in his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson VRod. Smith ran 6.913-seconds at 194.55 mph on his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell.

“This weekend I was riding great but I wasn’t racing great,” Krawiec said after his “lucky” first win at The Plex. “If we can continue to improve, I think you’re going to see our Harleys sitting up-front.”

John Sturbin is a senior writer at RacinToday.com. He can be contacted at jsturbin@racintoday.com.

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