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Cristian Cuadra Enjoys Milestone Moment as Pro Stock No. 1 Qualifier at NHRA Arizona Nationals

It was a weekend of firsts for the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock team this week at the 38th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals. Coming off of his first win of the season in his Camaro, Troy Coughlin Jr. won the first Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge during qualifying on Saturday while his teammate, Cristian Cuadra, picked up the first No. 1 qualifier of his Pro Stock career, and the first for his Leon, Mexico-based family. C. Cuadra is also the first Mexican-born driver to earn a No. 1 qualifier position in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.

It was hard to tell who was happiest about C. Cuadra’s milestone moment, the driver himself or the rest of the family including his Elite Motorsports teammates, his father Fernando Cuadra Sr., and his brother Fernando Cuadra Jr. The fact that F. Cuadra Sr. did not make the qualifying field for race day was of little consequence for the proud father whose excitement about his son’s solid qualifying performance far overshadowed any disappointment he may have felt about his own performance over the weekend. C. Cuadra’s Corral Boots Mustang powered him to the top spot with a pass of 6.552-seconds at 210.24 mph.

“I’m really proud that we are making history for our country,” said C. Cuadra. “It was a little weird for me because I knew I didn’t have a good reaction time. But I got up to the top end and looked at my time slip and realized, the reaction time was horrible but the time slip looks awesome. We have a really good team who has my back. They are helping me to learn how to drive and to learn how to stay calm. Thank you Rick Jones for the car you built. It only has two events and it’s already flying.”

Coughlin won the new race-within-a-race competition presented by Mission wherein the semifinalists from a previous event get a chance at redemption in a rematch during qualifying. Coughlin faced Dallas Glenn again after defeating him in the semifinals in Gainesville two weeks ago. He once again emerged victorious and then defeated Greg Anderson in the final matchup of the day. 

“To say I’m on Cloud 9 would be an understatement,” said Coughlin. “What an honor to be the very first winner of such a neat race. It’s exciting. Thank you to Mission for being a part of this. You picked a great sport.”

In eliminations on Sunday, the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock team faced some challenging first-round pairings including the NHRA’s “Pro Stock Marquee Matchup” featuring the current world champion Erica Enders and her JHG teammate Bo Butner. With the starting line advantage, Butner defeated Enders by two-hundredths at the stripe. 

C. Cuadra faced Alan Prusiensky coming from the No. 1 qualifier position for the first time in his Pro Stock career. Prusiensky cut a solid light against the driver of the Corral Boots Mustang, but C. Cuadra outpaced him early on and held on to the lead to turn on his first win light of the season. Not to be outdone, his brother, Cuadra Jr., also picked up his first win light of the season against Dallas Glenn. 

Elite Motorsports teammates Aaron Stanfield and Jerry Tucker faced each other in the first round of the day. Stanfield got a solid starting line advantage against Tucker and held on to it for the early-round win in his Janac Bros. / JC3 Energy Camaro. Coughlin, however, would end the day early after coming up short against Anderson.

In the second round of eliminations, Butner defeated his teammate Cuadra Jr. and would be the only Elite Motorsports driver to make it into the semifinals. C. Cuadra timed out at the starting line after his opponent Camrie Caruso double staged. Stanfield lined up against hometown favorite Matt Hartford, who resides just outside of Phoenix. While Stanfield cut a superior light on Hartford, he got out of it early giving up the round win.

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In the semifinals, Butner faced Kyle Koretsky who left too early and turned on the red light sending Butner into the finals where he would face Caruso and end the day with a runner-up finish. 

The Elite Motorsports team will head to Pomona, Calif. next week for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

This story was originally published on March 27, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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