In what was billed as the final NHRA Arizona Nationals 2022 NHRA Rookie of the Year Camrie Caruso wrote her name into the record books winning her first Pro Stock race at the historic venue. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was also the site of her first career round win last season when the rookie driver defeated Cristian Cuadra in the opening round. Today as the No. 8 qualifier Caruso outran veteran Deric Kramer, Cuadra, Arizonian Matt Hartford and finally former world champion Bo Butner in her Powerbuilt Tools Chevrolet Camaro to secure her first professional victory in just her 21st start. She also became just the second female to win a Pro Stock NHRA national event joining five-time world champion Erica Enders on the short and exclusive list.
“Honestly, everybody from Powerbuilt Tools, Tequila Comisario, and all my marketing partners contributed as well as my awesome team at KB Titan Racing and my teammates to this win,” said Caruso in the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park media center. “It was a great day of racing. It was awesome. And I’m just thankful and blessed to have the team and the partners that have supported me. I have to thank my mom and dad and Papa for all their support too.”
Last year in her rookie campaign Caruso raced to her first final round in just her fifth professional race, a record for Pro Stock rookies. Today capturing the win in just her 21st professional start was an accomplishment Caruso had been working towards for two seasons.
“I’m just excited and thankful,” said Caruso. “I was really hoping we’d start the year off with a good bang. My crew chief Dave Connelly has had a great track record with younger drivers and new drivers in the class. Going into PRI in December we were nervous about how everything was gonna go down with the team merger and they’ve been behind us ever since and working with all of them and having teammates to lean on and like Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn and Kyle Koretsky. It’s been way better than I could have ever imagined.”
The final round versus Bo Butner lined up the No. 8 qualifier beside the No. 11 qualifier. It was a battle between KB Titan Racing and Elite Motorsports, two of the fiercest rivals in Pro Stock. Caruso was looking to secure the first win for newly formed KB Titan Racing with a victory. The second-year driver was not thinking about that but rather just concentrating on doing her job.
“I’m not gonna lie I wasn’t really sure if I won or not until I pulled off the racetrack because I like to just focus on going straight,” confessed Caruso. “I don’t really look around, but it was so awesome. I just went up there and tried to make it just another round and tried my best to do my job because I knew the guys were going to do theirs.”
In the second round racing No. 1 qualified Cristian Cuadra Caruso made a mistake unintentionally lighting both her pre-stage and stage bulbs almost simultaneously. Cuadra did not stage his Corral Boots Chevrolet Camaro within the seven second rule and was timed out leading to a disqualification. It was an added bit of drama but as Caruso stated immediately at the top end it was simply a young driver error and no gamesmanship.
“I just took too much of the first bulb and then as soon as I put my line lock on it moved a little bit and turned on both bulbs,” said Caruso. “Then we were in. It wasn’t intentional. I did go over and say I’m sorry and that it wasn’t intentional at all. I don’t like to really play starting line games because I probably messed myself up to be honest, I’m still new at this and you know, we’re thankful for the win. But it was just a mistake.”
The win in the second race of the season moved Caruso up to number two in the Pro Stock point standings. This is the highest the 2022 NHRA Rookie of the Year has ever been. She finished the regular season last year in the Top Ten but this year with a new team and established teammates Caruso knows there are lofty expectations.
“I need to hold up my end of the bargain because my KB Titan teammates always hold up theirs,” said Caruso. “I was a little worried this season just because they’ve had so much success already together. And then the whole KB Titan team is extremely successful. My teammates all have wins and number one qualifiers and championships. I just wanted to be able to hold up the name and do good for all of them.”