- Bill Stephens
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It had always been the dream of Cruz Pedregon to race alongside his brothers. As a youngster growing up in the sport of drag racing, traveling from track to track with his father, "Flaming" Frank Pedregon and brothers Tony and Frank Jr., Cruz never forgot the feeling of togetherness and comaraderie that made each experience so memorable.
This year, Cruz has moved closer to that boyhood dream by aligning his Advance Auto Parts Funny Car team with that of his younger brother, Tony, who will be campaigning his own nitro Funny Car sponsored by Quaker State Oil after eight years with John Force's Team Castrol.
"This is something I talked to Tony about last year," said Cruz on Friday as he was preparing for the first national event of the 2004 season, the K&N Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., next weekend.
"The time seemed to be right for us to put something together that would be beneficial for both of us. He had a great deal at John Force's team, but he wanted to have more control of his destiny and I wanted to have the chance to race with him. We've put together a great team and I expect us to be right in the thick of things this year."
For the first time in recent memory, a two-car Funny Car team will be under the same umbrella with two different owners and two different sponsors. Unlike the Whit Bazemore-Gary Scelzi situation in which both drive for Team Schumacher, and of course the Force-Eric Medlen-Gary Densham triumvirate, which falls under the JFR team banner, the Pedregons will each be at the head of their own team but will race as a two-pronged unit. And that opens the door to some potentially delicate scenarios involving team orders. According to Cruz, it won't be an issue.
"Tony knows I expect to race on the up-and-up whenever we face each other and I expect him to. That's not going to be an issue. It's what the fans want, it's what our sponsors want and that's the way we'll do it. In fact, that was something that Tony had a problem with in the past when there were team orders and he knows I'd never ask him to go back to that arrangement."
Tony and Cruz have a tightly-knit relationship while rough waters continue to swirl around Tony's involvement with his oldest brother, Frank. When asked if the three brothers may at some point all race together, Cruz is hopeful, but focused on the "now."
"There's no telling what could happen down the road. It's almost a necessity to have at least two cars on a team to compete for the championship but economics make it a lot more difficult to add a third car. Right now, I think Tony and I have what we need to race for the championship and that's our goal. We'll see where the chips fall and, who knows what could happen in the future."
Is blood thicker than nitro? We're all about to find out.
Bill Stephens covers the NHRA for ESPN and ESPN.com.
Tony and Cruz Pedregon will each be running their own operation but will operate under the same umbrella.