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BAYTOWN, Texas -- By the end of the second qualifying session Friday night, Cruz Pedregon had heard all he wanted to hear about Robert Hight's quest to equal him and two other drivers with five consecutive victories in one season.
"To heck with Robert," Pedregon said. "That's the way I look at it. Records are made to be broken, but it's a big deal for me to be in that little statistic [with John Force and Don Prudhomme]. I want us to keep it exclusive."
|Cruz Pedregon, right, hopes younger brother Tony can defeat Robert Hight in Sunday's first round at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.|
Pedregon said earlier this week he was coming after Hight, and it looks like he meant it. Pedregon enters Sunday's O'Reilly Spring Nationals (noon ET, ESPN3) as the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car.
"If Robert gets there, he deserves it," Pedregon said of the record. "He's got a great car. But we're going to do all we can to stop him, and we have a good start so far."
Pedregon is off to a good start in 2012 with two top qualifying efforts and one final-round appearance. He's usually at his best late in the season, but he credits his solid start to hiring veteran crew chief Lee Beard as the tuner on the Snap-On Tools Toyota.
"Lee has really been a breath of fresh air," Pedregon said. "We are so fortunate to have a guy here with his talents. He has exceeded my expectations. He's a true professional from top to bottom. He's brought a lot to the table.
"Lee and I work well together. We got together for the first time 20 years ago [Sunday], so winning this one would be special."
Pedregon also hopes it happens so he can keep Hight from becoming the NHRA's latest version of Five Time. That hasn't happened since Force (Hight's teammate and father-in-law) did it in back-to-back years in 1993 and 1994.
Pedregon did it in 1992 when he won his first championship. Prudhomme won the last five events of 1975 and added wins in the first two races of 1976 for a seven-victory streak over two seasons.
Pedregon has a 20-year rivalry with Force and the other drivers at John Force Racing, but he has a little added incentive this weekend with Hight's streak on the line.
"Even though I get pumped up, you still have to have the car," Pedregon said. "And our car is coming around. I can feel it. It's a car that should have won the last race [at Charlotte], but the driver [me] let us down there. We are at a point where we can run with anybody."
To heck with Robert. That's the way I look at it. Records are made to be broken, but it's a big deal for me to be in that little statistic [with John Force and Don Prudhomme]. I want us to keep it exclusive.” -- Cruz Pedregon
One reason Pedregon likes his chances is he knows it's much harder to keep a winning streak going now than it was when he had five victories in a row.
"It's a credit to Robert that he has a chance at this record," Pedregon said. "There are three times as many good cars now as there were 20 years ago, so what he's done is spectacular.
"Even so, we believe we can beat him. But we have to do it, not talk about it."
Pedregon faces veteran racer Gary Densham in the first round, but Pedregon should win that one easily.
Cruz could get some help from his younger brother on Sunday. Tony Pedregon, who won a championship at John Force Racing in 2003, is matched up against Hight in the first round.
"We're helping Tony, and his car is virtually identical to mine," Cruz said. "But I don't want to help him too much or I'll have to beat him."
Hight qualified sixth when he had the best pass of the third round Saturday morning at 4.14 seconds and 309.56 mph. But he had problems on his last run and joined all the Force drivers with a difficult day in the heat.
Now it's all about four rounds of racing Sunday to see if Hight can join some legends. The only way Cruz and Hight could face each other would be in the final round.
"We will go to bed tonight and feel good," Cruz said. "But tomorrow it'll be back to being nervous and trying to make the right calls. I think we can do it."
Don Schumacher Racing's three Top Fuel drivers are pretty much racing themselves these days for victories, with one clear exception -- Morgan Lucas.
Lucas earned his fourth No. 1 qualifier spot in six events this season. The DSR boys have won four of five races this season (three for Spencer Massey and one for Antron Brown). Lucas is the only non-DSR driver to get a victory when he won at Gainesville in March.
"It's nice to put a little parity in there," Lucas said. "I think the fans like to see it. I know John Force built a huge fan base when he was winning every race he went to, but there are fans who root against you just because they want to see someone else win.
"Maybe we get to be that driver this season to challenge those [DSR] guys at the end of the year. I feel like we're closer to that than we were in the past. Maybe we're the dark horse."