NHRA Arizona Results, Updated Points: Camrie Caruso Scores Controversial First Win in Pro Stock
Pro Stock sophomore Camrie Caruso made NHRA drag-racing history Sunday at the Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, beating Bo Butner in the final round. But the second woman (behind five-time champion Erica Enders) to win in the Pro Stock class had a controversial road to her first pro victory.
In the second round, Caruso faced No. 1 qualifier Cristian Cuadra, who Saturday evening had written his own footnote in the record book as the first Mexican driver to lead a field into eliminations. As they went to stage, Caruso lit both staging bulbs, not an illegal move but not the best of etiquette. Once the first driver turns on the second staging light, the other has a maximum of seven seconds in which to stage. In the split-second confusion, Cuadra was timed out and not permitted to make the run.
His father, teammate, and car owner Fernando Cuadra Sr. was angry on the starting line as his son’s car was removed, and he claimed incorrectly that her move was illegal and said his son “is educated by my family to be courteous, and this is discourtesy. It was a good show. Didn’t happen.”
Dave Connolly, Caruso’s crew chief, said his driver simply made an innocent mistake: “It was just an accident on Camrie’s part. No harm intended on that one. She just took too much of the first bulb and got ‘em both.”
Caruso agreed. “Honestly, I took way too much of the first bulb. I went in extremely early to the second bulb. I would never do that intentionally to anyone,” she said. “I definitely didn’t mean to do it there.” She called Cuadra “a great racer” and said it would have been a “tough race . . . if we would’ve gone.
“As soon as I put my line-lock on, it moved a little bit and turned on both bulbs. Then we were in,” she said. “It wasn't intentional. I did go over and say I'm sorry and that it wasn't intentional at all. I don't really like to play starting line games, because I probably messed myself up, to be honest, I'm still new at this and you know, we're really thankful for the win. But it was just a mistake.”
She recorded her personal-milestone victory in the second final-round appearance, again at a racetrack that was marking its final NHRA event. Caruso was a finalist to Enders last spring at Houston Raceway Park, where the land has been sold to expanding commercial interests.
‘We said if we all do our jobs, we win the race,” Caruso said. Acknowledging that she’ll be participating in next week’s edition of the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge bonus race, eligible to win $7,500 and three points toward Countdown supremacy, she said, “We’re going to give it our all to win both.”
But at the moment she crossed the finish line, she said later, “I'm not going to 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. 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.”
She’s the 19th woman to win in a pro category, and she dedicated her trophy to “Papa Joe” Caruso, her grandfather, who was home in New York this weekend.
“I'm just excited and thankful. 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. I need to hold up my end of the bargain, because my KB Titan teammates always hold up theirs.”
For his part, Cristian Cuadra, who also was first to put a Ford Mustang at the top of the order for the first time since “Dyno Don” Nicholson did so at the 1977 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, had a productive weekend.
“It’s crazy. Everything starts with a dream,” he said in a happier moment of the weekend. “I was a kid and saw my dad racing, and I wanted to be in that spot. You meet the people at Elite Motorsports to help make the dream come true. My heart wants to go out of my chest, and I feel really, really happy. That’s why we’re here. We want to make history for our country. Now my next goal is to try and get a Wally. That's something important for me. We want to make history in Mexico, and we're already making it.”
Meanwhile, Enders—the 46-time winner and reigning and five-time Pro Stock champion on the verge of 440 career round-wins—has blanked in the season’s first two races, dropping out in the first round at both Gainesville, Fla., and Phoenix.
Robert Hight Tops Nemesis Ron Capps in Funny Car Final
The Funny Car final round came down to a pair of three-time Camping World Drag Racing Series champions: the current one and the one who thought he should be. Ron Capps had won the 2022 crown by merely three points last fall, and Robert Hight felt robbed by the Countdown points system.
And there they sat at the starting line, each ego wanting to be supreme even this early in the season. Although Capps downplayed the offseason tension between himself and Hight, saying that Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock set the performance bar and expressing respect for the John Force Racing team, Hight said he still “had a bone to pick” with Capps. That presumably is because Capps said he was becoming annoyed by Hight’s Countdown complaints in the off-season and telling Hight to “get over it.” But Hight also acknowledged Capps’ expertise and said he was looking forward to racing him again.
Hight might feel better about doing that again after he defeated Capps in Sunday’s final on Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park’s 1,000-foot course.
“I won my first round of racing here. I hope this isn’t the last race here,” Hight said, “but if it is, we’ve got the Wally [trophy].”
Hight admitted that “qualifying did not go well.” This was the third time in a calendar year that he did not make a qualifying pass quicker than four seconds. But every time that happened and his numbers were subpar, Hight has won. He aid those tough victories “are the ones you love. That’s where you dig down after qualifying and you just never give up on that team.”
Hight and Capps will meet again in six days at the Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. Both earned their first berths in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. Hight secured his berth by knocking off No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III, another keen rival, in the second round, and Capps set up the rematch by besting Blake Alexander in the quarterfinals.
Justin Ashley Clears that First-Round Hurdle Sunday
Justin Ashley overcame his first-round pitfalls, delivering a Top Fuel victory in a match between the class’ best “leavers” from the starting line. Ashley defeated Shawn Langdon to complete a day in which he bested three champions (Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, and Langdon) with a combined 13 titles and the tour’s most recent winner (Gatornationals champion Mike Salinas).
But a curious statistic popped up about Ashley’s 2022 season. He had seven first-round exits in 22 races. That’s roughly one-third of the season that he didn’t make it past the first round—yet he had a campaign that was the envy of much of the class. He led the standings after four of the six Countdown races and went to three final rounds during the playoffs, winning one. He advanced to seven finals altogether. He started the season with a victory at Pomona, Calif., and challenged for the championship until the final day of the season and was the No. 4-ranked driver.
Then he started the season at Gainesville, Fla., two weeks ago with a first-round loss. After that, he told Autoweek, “This speaks to the resiliency our team. Although we had more first round losses than we would’ve liked, our overall expectations and goals never wavered. No matter what happened during the race, once it was over, we immediately shifted our focus to the next one.
“It comes from experience. (Tuners) Mike Green, Tommy DeLago, and others have championship-winning experience, and they know better than to let early-round losses snowball. We learned as a group and moved onto the next one. Obviously, consistency is key and there was a point in the season from Topeka to CHA where we made it to at least the semi-finals five races in a row. So, an odd statistic—but there’s more consistency than it suggests.”
NHRA Arizona Nationals
Sunday's final results from the 38th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The race is the second of 21 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Justin Ashley, 3.705 seconds, 329.34 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 3.732 seconds, 329.58 mph.
Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.930, 328.62 def. Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 5.534, 136.80.
Pro Stock -- Camrie Caruso, Chevy Camaro, 6.592, 210.31 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.593, 209.23.
Competition Eliminator -- Bruno Massel, Chevy Cobalt, 7.043, 185.28 def. Ralph VanPaepeghem, Bantam, 7.301, 181.64.
Super Stock -- Brad Burton, Pontiac Firebird, 9.332, 136.75 def. Kyle Rizzoli, Chevy Cobalt, 9.085, 139.88.
Stock Eliminator -- Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu Wagon, 12.125, 94.65 def. Tony DeFrank, Chevy Camaro, 19.726, 65.29.
Super Comp -- Thomas Bayer, Dragster, 8.938, 163.08 def. Brandon Dolezal, Dragster, 8.942, 180.45.
Super Gas -- Chris Bishop, Chevy Corvette, 9.966, 154.67 def. Bill Dennis, XLR, 9.926, 166.46.
Top Sportsman -- Sammy Gonzales, Pontiac Grand Am, 7.157, 192.49 def. Lance Abbott, Chevy S-10, 6.895, 193.16.
Top Dragster -- Chad Axford, Dragster, 6.808, 193.32 def. Dylan Hough, Dragster, 6.650, 202.48.
Round By Round
Final round-by-round results from the 38th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the second of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Shawn Langdon, 3.716, 331.28 def. Antron Brown, 3.702, 332.34; Brittany Force, 3.682, 336.23 def. Josh Hart, 10.780, 59.32; Mike Salinas, 3.715, 333.25 def. Clay Millican, 10.164, 83.11; Doug Kalitta, 3.760, 327.59 def. Rob Passey, 11.283, 70.74; Austin Prock, 6.455, 96.71 def. Jim Maroney, Broke; Leah Pruett, 3.729, 331.04 def. Buddy Hull, Foul - Red Light; Steve Torrence, 3.735, 328.62 def. Krista Baldwin, 3.846, 314.17; Justin Ashley, 3.741, 329.67 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.879, 160.33;
QUARTERFINALS -- Torrence, 3.737, 331.85 def. Prock, 3.768, 327.59; Pruett, 3.725, 333.74 def. Force, 9.864, 73.42; Ashley, 3.743, 330.80 def. Salinas, 3.750, 332.34; Langdon, 4.007, 318.54 def. Kalitta, 6.511, 125.11;
SEMIFINALS -- Ashley, 3.740, 327.82 def. Torrence, 3.743, 305.84; Langdon, 3.719, 331.85 def. Pruett, 3.761, 326.79;
FINAL -- Ashley, 3.705, 329.34 def. Langdon, 3.732, 329.58.
ROUND ONE -- Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.922, 319.45 def. Jim Campbell, Toyota Solara, Broke; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.906, 327.66 def. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.923, 328.38; Chad Green, Mustang, 4.618, 178.80 def. Bobby Bode, Mustang, 5.046, 150.53; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.962, 285.11 def. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 4.034, 305.77; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.178, 225.79 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, Broke; Ron Capps, Supra, 3.912, 324.36 def. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 7.591, 80.73; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.003, 315.27 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.031, 309.13; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 325.37 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.286, 219.26;
QUARTERFINALS -- DeJoria, 3.949, 323.35 def. Wilkerson, 4.678, 175.96; Green, 3.984, 323.97 def. Hagan, 4.962, 165.90; Capps, 3.982, 318.09 def. Alexander, Foul - Red Light; Hight, 3.936, 330.07 def. Tasca III, 3.966, 321.88;
SEMIFINALS -- Capps, 3.930, 322.73 def. DeJoria, 3.935, 323.35; Hight, 3.900, 329.34 def. Green, 3.955, 322.96;
FINAL -- Hight, 3.930, 328.62 def. Capps, 5.534, 136.80.
ROUND ONE -- Camrie Caruso, Chevy Camaro, 6.564, 210.57 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 24.425, 39.45; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.561, 209.26 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, Foul - Red Light; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.565, 208.17 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.569, 208.88; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.552, 210.24 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.636, 209.69; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.558, 208.55 def. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.616, 209.92; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.567, 209.49 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.624, 208.17; Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.562, 209.79 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 16.551, 50.35; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.574, 210.05 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.561, 209.88;
QUARTERFINALS -- Butner, 6.591, 208.17 def. Cuadra Jr., 6.607, 209.26; Caruso, 13.793, 62.23 def. C. Cuadra, Foul - Red Light; Koretsky, 6.589, 209.20 def. Anderson, 6.644, 209.43; Hartford, 6.559, 209.49 def. Stanfield, 8.201, 124.94;
SEMIFINALS -- Butner, 22.587, 34.08 def. Koretsky, Foul - Red Light; Caruso, 6.568, 210.41 def. Hartford, 6.566, 210.47;
FINAL -- Caruso, 6.592, 210.31 def. Butner, 6.593, 209.23.
Updated Points Standings
Point standings (top 10) following the 38th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the second of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series -
1. Steve Torrence, 168; 2. Mike Salinas, 157; 3. Leah Pruett, 155; 4. Justin Ashley, 145; 5. Doug Kalitta, 140; 6. Shawn Langdon, 128; 7. Brittany Force, 122; 8. Austin Prock, 109; 9. Antron Brown, 86; 10. Tony Schumacher, 84.
1. Robert Hight, 169; 2. Matt Hagan, 165; 3. Ron Capps, 157; 4. Alexis DeJoria, 154; 5. Chad Green, 149; 6. Bob Tasca III, 123; 7. J.R. Todd, 121; 8. John Force, 97; 9. Blake Alexander, 91; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 84.
1. Troy Coughlin Jr., 156; 2. Camrie Caruso, 149; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 133; 4. Matt Hartford, 130; 5. Mason McGaha, 129; 6. (tie) Greg Anderson, 128; Bo Butner, 128; 8. Dallas Glenn, 114; 9. Cristian Cuadra, 95; 10. Aaron Stanfield, 94.