(Richard Muir photo)

InnerView: Cruz Pedregon

Two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon is on a mission to earn a third series crown but a first as his own crew chief. And so far he’s keeping pace with his better-funded but not necessarily better-equipped rivals. What he has to say about his privateer operation might be surprising. And he definitely has some eyebrow-raising comments in our latest InnerView. Read on as Pedregon reveals his man-crush, discusses his inner battle to balance safety and envelope-pushing, envisions what “retirement” from driving might lead to, and hears the echoes of Orange County.

: The John Force, Don Schumacher, and Connie Kalitta teams claim a budget of $4.5-5 million per year for their Funny Cars. We hear yours is half of that or less.

CP: I'm about half that and proud of it.

: How are you able not only to compete with but beat those guys using half the budget?

CP: We're not lacking in equipment, quality of any equipment. We just have to be frugal and smart with every dollar we spend. I'm not saying it’s easy. It can be very challenging at times, but we make it work. If an owner were to invest in this team, and let's say he had a typical scenario... you had an owner who commanded a return on his investment and a driver to pay and a crew chief – a normal working arrangement – it wouldn’t work. The way I'm able to make it work is I'm all of those guys in one. I pay myself a modest salary, and I rely on winnings to put me where I need to be. I rely on the winnings for my paycheck. So when I go up there and race these guys, I'm racing for my food on the table, so to speak.

: So actually, not just anybody could make your set-up work. It would have to take someone with experience.

CP: That's the challenging part. These are the cards I was dealt. I made a decision a long time ago that if I was going to race that I would have to be good at it, because you can’t go to a corporation and tell them, 'I want to finance my hobby or finance my dream.' You have to produce. You have to provide them return on their investment. And the only way I know how to do that is you have to have results. I thought, 'I'm going to make this work one way or the other.' And luckily, through work and experience and I guess you could say all the things I've been able to accomplish, we've been able to make that happen.

There aren't too many guys who would want to do it [his way]. You'd have to have a desire to do it. You have some uncertainty there, but I think the challenges I have are what drives me. That's the motivating factor, the uncertainty. People, when they don’t have, they make do with what they do have.