JR Carr has been a steady competitor in the PDRA’s Extreme Pro Stock division since joining the series in 2017, but a standout performance has escaped him prior to this season. But with a brand-new RJ Race Cars-built 2020 Camaro, Carr raised more than a few eyebrows when he qualified No. 1 and won the event – both first-time accomplishments – at the PDRA Carolina Showdown at Darlington Dragway in early June.
“I’ve had wins in other series, but this series is tough,” Carr said in the winner’s circle. “I’m not an eighth-mile guy. They had to kind of convert me. Tommy and Judy [Franklin, PDRA co-owners] and Tyler [Crossnoe, series director], they’re good people and they do a great job. These are top-notch cars. The competitors, they want to tear your head off every time you line up. This is just a brutal deal. We won today, and I’m tickled pink.”
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #158, the State of Drag Issue, in July of 2020.]
Carr’s gamble to move to a new car for the season started paying off immediately. He and crew chief Frank Gugliotta had one of the quickest cars on the property at the season-opening East Coast Nationals at GALOT Motorsports Park, then fired off a string of mid-to-low-4-second passes to win at Darlington.
“We could’ve been wrong on the new car,” Carr admits. “There were no promises, no guarantees, but knowing what we’d learned before and how we did things different, it was very rewarding. It helped our confidence tremendously because [Gugliotta] made a change and the car reacted. As long as I drove good, the car just went straight as an arrow.”
In addition to RJ and Gugliotta, Carr praises his crew – Jason Hughes, Rich Purdy, Gary Farrell, and Carr’s wife, Teri – for their contributions to his program’s newfound success. He also acknowledges the quality products he uses from manufacturers like Ram Clutches, CP-Carrillo, Maxima Oil, Jesel, Total Seal, Precision Racing Suspension and Liberty’s Gears.
“The car is just one of those pieces that fell into place,” Carr says. “Not to take anything away from any other part of the car: the suspension, the motor, the transmission, the clutch, the tires. Everything has to be happy – or close to happy – or you can’t have that performance. It was a full package there, and that’s not easy to do.”
With the new car bringing a breath of fresh air to Carr’s operation, Gugliotta balances out the newness with his years of experience with Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars. Known as “The Flying Meatball,” a nickname he picked up as an IHRA Pro Stock driver in the early 2000s, Gugliotta has been with Carr for eleven years. Carr credits their similar upbringings – Carr on his father’s onion and potato farm in Washington and Gugliotta working for his family’s construction company in Maryland – for helping to create a strong partnership.
“He’s so driven,” Carr says of Gugliotta. “We both are a lot alike as far as how we grew up. Our dads were pretty strict – you work and go to school and work, and that’s it. He took over his dad’s business, I took over mine. We’ve both had a lot of pressure and stress most of our lives. We understand each other very well and we know what it takes to be successful at something. There really are no excuses. You just keep working on it so you can eliminate all the things that can hold you back.”
With seemingly nothing holding back Carr from continuing to rack up accomplishments in PDRA Extreme Pro Stock, he’s looking to build on the foundation he laid at the first two races.
Two major milestones – the elusive first official 3-second pass and the 2020 PDRA world championship – loom in the distance. Carr is solely focused on the near future, though, as record conditions likely won’t come around until the fall, and the way this season is shaping up, the championship probably won’t be decided until eliminations at the World Finals at Virginia Motorsports Park in October.
“We’re going to do our best to focus on a race-by-race basis and not get ahead of ourselves or worry about what the weather’s going to be in Virginia at the end of the year because right now, it doesn’t matter,” Carr says. “It honestly doesn’t matter until we get there. The goal is always just to do the best we can do.”