This isn’t the role Marc Caruso likely envisioned for himself when the 2020 drag racing season started, but the role of talking head has gone quite well for him during some unprecedented times.
Caruso and his daughter, Camrie, have taken to Facebook Live during the COVID-19 pandemic, talking with sponsors, partners, manufacturers and racers during their daily “Quarantined with the Carusos” show.
It has caught on quickly and Caruso has enjoyed the escape it has provided while racing is on hold, both for himself and those who are watching.
“This is uncharted territory for all of us,” Caruso said. “It’s been a lot of fun. Camrie and I are spending quality time together, and that’s been great. We’ve had great responses from fans and sponsors reaching out, and it’s just been a cool thing.”
Like everyone, this sudden stop in racing came as a shock to Caruso, who had hired drivers to pilot his Pro Mod “Rodfather” early this season while rehabilitating his back injury from a crash last year in Bristol.
The most recent race was a thriller for Caruso, as Alex Laughlin drove the blown ’68 Camaro to the winner’s circle at the inaugural Drag Illustrated World Doorslammer Nationals presented by CTech Manufacturing.
That gave the team a $50,000 payday and plenty of momentum, a run that started when Tommy D’Aprile drove the car to the final at the U.S. Street Nationals in January. The team appeared on a good path heading to Gainesville when everything came to a screeching halt.
While Caruso continues to juggles the uncertainty of his own family business during this time, he thought it was important to do his part to keep things moving forward in drag racing.
If nobody could race, that meant talking to sponsors like Lucas Oil, NGK, Noonan Engineering, Simpson and others, sharing stories with guys like Mark Micke and Todd Tutterow, and doing whatever he could to promote his partners during this trying time.
“I feel like I owe it to them and I want them to continue to feel like their investment in us is worthwhile,” Caruso said. “At the end of the day, I want them to say they certainly got their worth working with the Carusos. I don’t want to let anybody down and I want to make sure we’re covering all the bases. It’s become like a virtual midway.
“It’s also been a great way to stay in contact with all our drag racing family, and that’s huge. Drag racing is like one huge campground at the races, and this allows us to keep that going a little bit.”
In the process, Caruso has learned new things about his sponsors, all while doing it in a relaxed atmosphere that feels like the polar opposite of an infomercial.
That was important to Caruso and his daughter as well, as the daily shows have often turned into great storytelling sessions. In way, it’s become race therapy for the Carusos, their guests and everyone watching.
“We’re trying to make it so it’s not a commercial,” Caruso said. “When we had Mark Micke on, we asked him to tell his greatest drag racing story and that went over great. It was pretty awesome.”
Caruso has plans to expand the show as well, adding a “Storytelling Saturdays” episode from his father’s garage, which will focus on the family’s vast and successful history in the sport.
“My father (Joe) has been drag racing since he was 15 and he has a picture of every car he’s had in his garage at home,” Caruso said. “We’ll do a show live from his garage, have him pick a car or two and talk about them and those stories.”
It’s not actual racing, but it’s a great trip down memory lane and it also keeps drag racing in everyday conversation, which is important for Caruso.
His family business has been affected by the public health crisis as well as it continues to be a difficult time for everyone.
It also has Caruso hopeful racing will resume in June at the Gatornationals. The goal will be continue to have Laughlin drive at NHRA events, while Caruso plans to drive at PDRA races in Pro Boost.
Norwalk being added back to the revamped NHRA Pro Mod schedule was meaningful for Caruso, and when racing does resume, he’s hopeful the team will pick up right where they left off during their magical weekend in Orlando.
“Norwalk is near and dear to our heart, so I was happy to see that,” Caruso said. “We’re trying to keep the momentum of drag racing going with our show, but I don’t think you could have scripted the start of the season any better for us. It felt great and we’ll just try to keep it going.”