CANDID CRUZ, BROOKS MAKE BIG CHANGES FOR 2018
If candor counts for anything, two-time champion Cruz Pedregon and crew chief Aaron Brooks are the Funny Car leaders. Consider some of their preseason confessions:
Pedregon: “We’ve done some analytics and the elephant in the room has been our inconsistent runs.”
Brooks: “Last year was a little bit of a beat-down. It made me feel pretty stupid for a while.”
Pedregon: “Talk is cheap, but I feel like we’ll be in the mix this year.”
Brooks: “I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the top five.”
Pedregon: “I feel confident that 2017 was the year we put money in the bank and this year is going to be the year we start to collect interest – and that’s on the track, performance-wise.”
Pedregon: “I’ve been eating right and working out this off-season. I wanted to make sure I did my part and we want to provide our sponsors with as light a car as possible. We put the car on a diet and we put me on a diet. If it makes us go faster – and it will – then it was an easy decision.”
The theme of the Snap-on Toyota Camry team is that it is making progress, working hard – through a diet that shaved 15 pounds from Pedregon, a key hire in Glen Huszar as Brook’s right-hand man, and deciding where the focus needs to be.
And both Pedregon and Brooks said the outlook for 2018 is much better. “It’s bright,” the team owner-driver said.
“We struggled last year, but we knew going into the year it was going to be a rebuilding year with a lot of changes,” Brooks said. “We have some more new guys who have joined the program, but we’ve gone over our Snap-on Camry from front to back and refined every part of the car. We feel good and feel like we’ve landed the right combination toward the end of the year and we’re starting off with that. We feel if we can gain the consistency, we feel like we should be able to be a top-five car.
“I think we have a good handle on where we are going with our program and our tune-up,” Brooks said. “I feel good, and I sleep a little better at night.”
Brooks is sleeping well, Pedregon is stylin’, and together they’re thrilled to have the veteran Huszar on board. Pedregon said his newest hire “has been flying under the radar a little bit. He’s worked with Tim Richards, and he won a championship in 2010 with Tommy DeLago [and Matt Hagan]. He really brings a previously missing element. We brought him in at the end of last year at Las Vegas and Pomona to see how he would fit in, and after the first weekend Aaron Brooks and I looked at each other like ‘Wow, we need that guy here.’ In big-time drag racing, you can’t have just one guy overseeing things. And with Aaron, Glen, and myself, I think we have three. I think good things are coming for the Snap-on Toyota this year.”
“Surrounding myself with the right people has been a missing ingredient for the last few years,” he said. “The truth is last year was a rebuilding year for us and it was a tough year, but Snap-on Tools stuck behind us and we just signed a new three-year deal through 2020, and of course, Toyota, who I go back with to their early days of midget racing. Having their track support helps puts us on a more level playing field with the bigger teams.”
This year is goal is no surprise: “Our goal this year is simple – to win. f we can get by that first round or two – once you make the semis, you’re in the game and the next thing you know you’re in the winners circle. Qualifying is one of the keys, and round wins will come if we’re consistent. That’s been our main focus.”
Brooks especially likes the idea of working with a familiar crew. That, he said, will contribute heavilty to that much-needed consistency: “It’s huge to bring back our management team intact. It’s hard to build consistency if you’re always changing people or changing parts. Consistency is the name of the game. Obviously, we want to win a race, then multiple races, and earn our way into the Countdown and try to win a championship. We have a good combination and a top driver, and I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the top five.”