Rookie sensation Camrie Caruso drove the Sand Haulers of America Chevrolet Camaro to the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot Friday at the 33rd annual NHRA SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park. Caruso took off with a great 6.547 second pass at 209.39 mph to lead the Pro Stock field. The first-year driver from Denver, North Carolina, had to wait as five pairs of cars ran behind her. For her efforts Caruso picked up three qualifying bonus points and will be in the back of the pack tomorrow for the second qualifying session.
“It was really exciting,” said Caruso in the Houston Raceway Park media center. “I didn’t know what I ran until I got out of my Chevrolet Camaro. It felt so smooth, and I wasn’t expecting to be that quick. I am so thankful for my guys and everyone on this Sand Haulers of America team. I am not sure if it will hold up through tomorrow. We are going to be looking to improve.”
As a rookie driver competing in just her fifth professional NHRA national event, Caruso has confidence in her team and her personal skills.
“I really like to upset the apple cart,” said Caruso. “I am quite excited for it to be honest. Everyone is a strong competitor out here and it will be tough for the rest of this event and season. I am looking forward to the challenge. I always have confidence in my car and my team because they do a great job. One of our goals in Q1 at every race is to get a good A to B run. We can improve off that. I wasn’t expecting Non. 1 but I will take it.”
Caruso’s team is led by veteran Pro Stock driver and tuner Jim Yates and is the only Pro Stock team racing Titan Racing Engine power. The combination of Titan Racing Engine power which has qualified Caruso for every event and steered her to two quarterfinal finishes already this season combined with the tutelage from Yates has made Caruso a tough competitor.
“I think it is awesome to be the only car out here with Titan Racing Engine power. It goes to show you it is OK to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. When I first met Jim he told me my goals were too high,” said Caruso, who had one win in Top Alcohol Dragster before making the move to Pro Stock. “I asked him under the tower were we ready to go to No. 1. He was like how about we just go down the racetrack. I told him we have to aim higher than that. I always aim way higher than I should. At the shop before PRI I told Jim I wanted to win the championship and win races. He told me that could happen in maybe five years. I told him I would not take that answer.”
With two more qualifying runs tomorrow, Caruso will enjoy this moment and focus on the task at hand pursuing her first Pro Stock victory on Sunday. The third-generation driver continues to share the success with her team. The youthful confidence has served her well through four races and into the SpringNationals.
“I have a great team and I am lucky to have them behind me. If we can’t aim for the championship, I don’t see the point of being out here,” added Caruso.