Brotherly love, mutual respect fuel Tony and Cruz Pedregon

Tony Pedregon and Cruz Pedregon have proved that perseverance pays.

The two Funny Car owner/drivers have each tasted the fruits of NHRA POWERade championships, with Cruz capturing the 1992 crown as a rookie and Tony now a two-time champion after titles in 2003 and 2007. But the journey to their individual and collective success stories has been both triumphant and, oftentimes, tumultuous.

The third Pedregon brother -- Frank, the oldest -- also has had his share of ups and downs in professional drag racing with a circuitous résumé reflecting an on-and-off, checkerboard career path. Frank is now out of the sport, while Tony and Cruz make preparations for their 2008 campaign -- their fifth year together as co-owners and teammates of their tandem operation.

"Even when I was first getting into the sport, the thought of racing with my brothers was something I envisioned," said Tony, whose father, "Flamin'" Frank Pedregon, was one of the great showmen of the quarter-mile more than four decades ago, manhandling a string of wild, barely controllable altereds and gassers up and down the West Coast.

"After winning the championship in 2003 with John Force's team, the next step for me was to own my own team, and having the chance to do it with Cruz was a situation I had waited a long time for," Tony said.

"Tony and I have been very close our entire lives," said Cruz. "Sometimes you have to wait until the right circumstances line up before you can get to where you want to be, and it was a long time coming. Tony and I have a total team effort, and that's how we've always wanted to race."

Cruz's 1992 championship was a stunning display of consistency and performance, outdistancing Force in a dramatic late-season duel over the course of the last six national events. But Cruz has yet to repeat his '92 exploits, and since then, his career has gone through a series of fits and starts, including stints with Joe Gibbs Racing, followed by an abbreviated run with his own team, a year in the booth with ESPN in 2001, before finally signing his multiyear deal with Advance Auto Parts in 2002.

Tony's drag racing body of work was also a spotty affair, as he sought to establish himself in the fuel ranks in the early 1990s. He briefly raced in Top Fuel before piloting the "Geronimo" F/C of Bill Blomgren, and was the surprise choice of Force in 1996 to drive a second Castrol Mustang when the undisputed king of Funny Car racing expanded to a multicar team that year.

Tony's Quaker State Oil Chevy Monte Carlo -- tuned by veteran crew chief Dickie Venables -- carried him to the 2007 POWERade championship. Venables served as assistant to John Medlen while Medlen called the tuning shots for Tony at John Force Racing.

Brother acts in motorsports are anything but a rare commodity. Regardless of the series, race driving siblings are riddled throughout the pits and paddocks of major-league automobile racing the world over. But for Tony and Cruz Pedregon, it's their shared loyalty to one another and their mutual respect for what they have already accomplished in NHRA drag racing that makes their brotherly bond measurably stronger than a host of others.

"We consider ourselves very lucky to be out here doing what we love to do as a team," Tony said.

Added Cruz: "He's my little brother, and if you have to race with someone, he'd be the guy I'd want to race with the most."

Bill Stephens covers NHRA for ESPN.com