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NHRA’s Cruz Pedregon: Fastest member of Raider Nation

Updated April 7, 2017 - 12:19 pm

It seemed like the place to get away, a 10,000-rpm, nitromethane-fueled “respite” from all things Raiders, if that was one’s goal.

Alas, the first thing I was told at last weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: “You gotta check out Cruz Pedregon’s Funny Car.”

The oil catch can was silver and black, with a silver and black decal. CRUZER it said in a Raiders-style font, in a Raiders-style shield.

If the two-time Funny Car champion from Torrance, California, had his way, there would be a Black Hole instead of a run-off area at the far end of the track.

“The Raiders are a cornerstone franchise — like the Steelers, Patriots and Cowboys. I really didn’t like seeing them have to play in a baseball stadium,” the drag racing veteran said about the team’s impending move to Las Vegas. “They deserve a really nice, modern stadium where the fans can go and enjoy Raider football, so I’m glad they’re going to get that opportunity.

“I’ve been a devout Raider fan since the Jim Plunkett-Tom Flores days. As a kid, I fell in love with their colors, their bad-boy image and the whole “Just Win, Baby.” And, of course, Al Davis, who was like the Godfather. And to top it all off, they were big winners.”

Pedregon said he has been to Raiders training camp, before the Toyota Nationals at Sonoma, California.

“It’s nice to see them on the right track for the first time since Jon Gruden,” he said.

In the manner of the Raiders in last season’s playoffs, Pedregon was eliminated in the first round in Las Vegas, with Jack Beckman assuming the Houston Texans’ role.

Schumacher’s 300th

He grew up the son of Chicago bookmakers. So with 298 owner victories to his credit, and three of the four Nitro class finalists his drivers, Don Schumacher knew the odds of leaving Las Vegas Motor Speedway with No. 300 were in his favor. Tommy Johnson Jr. won the Funny Car final. Antron Brown won in Top Fuel. Don Schumacher, whose drivers have won 16 NHRA titles, left The Strip with No. 300.


 

“A lot of years, a lot of things have gone past all of us, we age, we fight our battles, we come out here to try to do the best we can — not only for our sponsors, our teams, but also for our sport and the fans,” a reflective Schumacher said in the media center. “No. 1 are the fans. Without the fans, none of us would be out here.”

Virginia is for Gragson

A rookie NASCAR Truck Series season that mostly had been fits and starts suddenly looks much more promising for Noah Gragson. The teenager drove fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch’s Toyota to a fourth-place finish at Martinsville, Virginia, last weekend.

“We never quit all day,” the youngster wrote on his Twitter account. “From getting wrecked to battling back to a fourth-place finish. I had so much fun running the top (of the track) on restarts.”

White flag

Bellator Mixed Martial Arts and the NASCAR Cup Series, which both have sponsor ties with Monster Energy, are in talks to combine fisticuffs with select NASCAR races, hoping to boost attendance and attract new fans. But as Kyle Busch and Joey Logano’s pit crew showed after the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, that already has been tried.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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