The playoff atmosphere of the NHRA Countdown ramped up this weekend at zMax Dragway for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals. For Pro Stock rookie Camrie Caruso and the GESi Chevrolet Camaro they took it all in stride and made the most of racing close to their home in Denver, North Carolina. The second race of the six-race playoffs was another chance for Caruso to hold onto her position in the top ten and try at closing the gap on the veteran teams leading the points. The young driver and team owner has been a standout star all season and is making the most of her first Countdown experience.
“The Countdown definitely feels different than the regular season,” said Caruso, a third-generation drag racer. “Everyone is daggers out and you have to really work to keep your focus. The whole experience has been eye-opening. This is a tough category and the competition level in the Countdown only ratchets up the intensity. I am a competitive person and I am not going to back down. We are going to keep at it and battle over these next four races.”
After two days of qualifying Caruso powered her Chevrolet Camaro Pro Stock race car with its Titan Racing Engine power to the No. 8 qualifier position continuing her success of starting from the top half of the field. Her best run of 5.483 seconds at 209.69 mph set up a first round race with Cristian Cuadra.
In the opening round Caruso was the first off the line with a reaction time advantage of .020 seconds but her Camaro drove into dramatic tire shake as it overpowered the race track. Caruso was forced to push in the clutch and could only watch as Cuadra pulled away for his first round win in four tries against Caruso.
“That tire shake was instantaneous,” said Caruso. “It sucks but it is what it is. It has been a long time since we have had tire shake like that and I want to avoid it for as long as possible the rest of the season. It was intense inside this Chevrolet Camaro.”
The positives from the weekend outweighed the negatives for the driver many consider the front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Her qualifying efforts and the fact she has secured a No. 1 and raced to a final round show that she will be a star in the category. The driver continues to improve and her young team is maximizing their opportunities.
“We qualified in the top half again so we are moving in the right direction,” said Caruso. “I am proud of my reaction times and I have a lot of confidence. We are going to keep learning as a team and head to St. Louis for the next one.”