The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway always seems to come at an opportune time for Funny Car standout Cruz Pedregon.

With the 28th annual edition of this event taking place April 24-26 just east of Houston, the timing once again seems to match up for a possible breakout performance from Pedregon and his 10,000-horsepower Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry.

A three-time winner at the facility, Pedregon has seemingly found his sweet spot year after year when the circuit visits the spring race at Royal Purple Raceway. Combined with his seven wins at Texas tracks (four coming at Texas Motorplex in Dallas), Pedregon is once again looking forward to racing in the Lone Star State.

“The Texas tracks have been good to me my entire career,” said Pedregon, whose last victory in Houston came in 2013. “I’m not sure exactly where to put my finger on it, but it seems like after a few races, we seem to get it together, and that’s no different this year. We feel like we’re getting right at the right time.”

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised live on ESPN2. It marks the sixth of 24 races during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and provides Pedregon the opportunity to knock out any final early-season cobwebs.

Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car world champion with 35 career victories, has advanced to the final round in Houston on six different occasions. Pedregon has also displayed a number of quick runs at Royal Purple Raceway throughout the years, posting nine No. 1 qualifiers, including a three-year stretch from 2007-2009 and back to back in 2012 and 2013.

With his prior successes at the facility, Houston is as good of a place as any on the Mello Yello Series circuit for Pedregon to break through on race day after showing plenty of potential in qualifying throughout the early part of 2015. He has qualified in the top five at three of the four events thus far this season, including a No. 1 qualifier in Gainesville, but it hasn’t carried over to Sunday’s eliminations.

Pedregon hasn’t advanced farther than the second round this season, currently sitting eighth in points, but the longtime standout believes it’s only a matter of time until that changes.

cruz-1“There’s no big adjustments we have to make,” Pedregon said. “We just have to race smarter, like we’ve tried to do, and minimize some of the self-inflicted wounds. The class is stacked, and we like our chances with all things being equal. We just need to cut it loose.”

As Pedregon mentioned, the competition in Funny Car is as talented as ever. Hight, the 2009 Funny Car world champ, claimed his second Funny Car victory in Houston when he defeated 2012 world champ Jack Beckman in the final round last season, and teammate and 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force has seven wins in Houston, the most for any driver in a Pro category.

But Force has not visited the winner’s circle at Royal Purple Raceway since 2002 and will have to get past a field that also includes two-time world champ Tony Pedregon, defending world champion and current points leader Matt Hagan, who won the first two races of the season, Gainesville winner Ron Capps, Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria, two-time Houston winner Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Charlotte winner Beckman, and Tim Wilkerson.

That’s an impressive mountain to climb at each event, but Pedregon is confident that he can be a major contender starting in Houston.

“So far, everything is right on schedule except for a few issues we have had on race day,” Pedregon said. “But I am confident that we will iron those out soon.”

In Top Fuel, Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champ, claimed his second career Houston victory in the Matco Tools dragster last year en route to six overall victories and has started this season with a win in Charlotte and is the current series points leader. Three-time Top Fuel world champ Larry Dixon has three career victories at Royal Purple Raceway, and eight-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher, who won his first race of the season in Phoenix, has two wins at the facility. Others to watch include Gainesville winner Spencer Massey, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, Steve Torrence, Las Vegas winner Richie Crampton, and four-time category runner-up Brittany Force.

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens claimed the 99th win by a female driver when she won at her home track last season, which helped propel her to her first Pro Stock world championship. Four-time world champ Greg Anderson has two wins in Houston and is looking to continue his early-season momentum following his victory in Gainesville, his first win since 2012. Anderson’s teammate, two-time world champ Jason Line, has also won twice in Houston, and Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray, Charlotte winner Larry Morgan, Phoenix winner and Houston native Rodger Brogdon, fellow Texan Chris McGaha, and two-time Houston winner Vincent Nobile all figure to be in the title mix.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its second stop of the 2015 season at Royal Purple Raceway. The race will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

NHRA Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, April 24, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 25, at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 26.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to or call Royal Purple Raceway, 281-383-7223. Tickets for children 13 and younger are free on spectator side with any paid adult ticket.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here