TOPEKA — Nobody has ever driven a Funny Car faster than Cruz Pedregon did Friday on the pavement at Heartland Park Topeka in qualifying first at the Dollar General NHRA Summernationals.
Pedregon, who led both sessions of qualifying, broke the track records in for lowest elapsed time (4.046) and top speed (315.56) under the Heartland Park lights.
Not that it was easy.
Pedregon had the top time in the opening session, 4.136, but that time was tied for 10th best by the time he lined up for a second qualifying run.
“I’m sitting there after the first run No. 1 and thinking, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool,’ but all the sudden we’re seventh or eighth by the second run,” Pedregon said. “We definitely had to improve and we answered the bell.”
Jack Beckman owned the previous track records, which were established in qualifying last year’s Summernationals, with an elapsed time of 4.054 and a top speed of 313.66.
“It was a great day for the Snap-on Toyota,” Pedregon said. “That’s a new body, the new Camry body, and it’s definitely given us that little extra we needed. We had a 5-year-old body design with the Solara, and even with that we were able to sit on the poll a few times.”
Of course, qualifying hasn’t been the bugaboo for the Pedregon. Carrying the momentum through to Sunday has proved to be his trouble this season.
“We haven’t been able to put it together on race day, but we’re definitely one of the quicker cars out there,” Pedregon said. “We just need to continue to do our jobs. Topeka has been good to me in the past and I love it here. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple good runs in here tomorrow and have another good day Sunday.”
If anybody can sympathize with Pedregon’s struggles, it’s the top Friday qualifier in Top Fuel, Antron Brown, who is closing in on his third pole in the last four years at Heartland Park but is still seeking his first win.
Nonetheless, he was happy with a top speed track record 324.98 miles per hour on the final qualifying pass.
“Our class right now is incredible with competition,” Brown said. “Anytime you can take a shot and land it – and you saw the low 80s that were out there, which shows how tight the field was – we just squeaked out about 0.004 seconds. It’s tough out there, but it feels good to sneak one out.”
Allen Johnson posted the best qualifying time in Pro Stock, bumping from fourth after the first pass to top spot under the lights in 6.618 seconds.
“We’ve got a great consistent car right now with the Mopar Dodge Avenger and we’re real happy with it,” Johnson said. “We’ve fought inconsistency the last few years bad, so we’re finally climbing that mountain and about to get settled on top and just have fun with it.”
Johnson, who won earlier this season in Las Vegas, has enjoyed success at Heartland Park, winning in 2009 and reaching the final in 2010.