If the NHRA needs an ambassador in corporate circles, it has a staunch ally in Snap-on Tools Chairman and CEO Nick Pinchuk.

He looks forward to gathering with the company’s 600 guests at Route 66 Raceway so much that when the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule for the next season is published, he marks the date on his calendar. In the past, he has arranged his travels to Asia around this race weekend, and this time he was fresh from a trip to London. And he made an impassioned speech for the sport during Funny Car qualifying Saturday.

“I travel all over the world, and I just got back from London. And I can say this: that this is the greatest country in the world, without question. And there’s no more American sport than NHRA. It’s got the qualities: power, ingenuity, teamwork, and other things that have made America great. So we invest in this [sport]. Power’s rolling down the strip – 11,000 horsepower,” Pinchuk said in a Q&A session for the crowd with track announcer Joe Castello.

“You can go in the pits and you can see ingenuity and teamwork with Snap-on Tools, fixing and rebuilding engines. And we enable courage by investing 27 years with Cruz Pedregon, one of the most courageous drivers. We feel really privileged to be here,” he said. “I encourage everybody to come out here every time they get near and NHRA event, ‘cause it’s a great event. I wouldn’t miss it.”

Pedregon was 11th in the order after the third qualifying session and before racing was suspended at 5:08 p.m. because lightning was detected within 10 miles of Route 66 Raceway. After a three-hour hold, Pedregon improved to eighth place and will lane choice for the fifth time in nine races. He’ll line up against No. 9 Tim Wilkerson.

Before coming to last weekend's event in Chicago, Pedregon had been in the shop at Brownsburg, Ind., making use of time there before this four-races-in-four-weekends stretch began this weekend. Be racing in Sunday’s runoffs

He said, “We've been prepping and building parts, getting ready for back-to-back races and getting the Snap-on Funny Car [with his El Demonio body] where we want it. This is an important race for us each year because it's considered the 'home track' for our primary sponsor, Snap-on, who hosts around 600 guests here for the race each year. And, it's always fun to have the Chairman and CEO Nick Pinchuk visit the pit and see how we put the company's tools and tool storage to work here at the track. He's a big fan of the sport and long-time supporter of my racing career."

It was been an exciting initiation for new hospitality director Jeff "Gypsy" Mohr, whose honed his skills with Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, starting in 2003. Team Manager Caleb Cox called Mohr’s hiring “a bold free-agent move.”