BRISTOL, Tenn. — Rolling into her sophomore year in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, Camrie Caruso had a nagging feeling.
After shooting for the stars — seeking wins and a championship — during her first season of Pro Stock competition and coming up short, Caruso felt an impending need to deliver on her promises.
Luckily, she only had to wait two races to put her KB Titan Racing machine in the winner’s circle.
The 25-year-old collected her first national event Wally during the Arizona Nationals on March 26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and became the second female in series history to top a Pro Stock field — reigning champion Erica Enders was the first.
Two months later, Caruso tasted victory again during the inaugural Pro Stock All-Star Callout at Route 66 Raceway, defeating Cristian Cuadra, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Aaron Stanfield on her climb up the specialty-event ladder.
Though the accomplishments had very different implications — the national triumph led to championship points and the callout battle resulted in a bonus check — she ranks their meaning equally.
“(Arizona) meant a lot in a team aspect, because it was the first win for KB Titan as a joined team,” Caruso said, referring to the merger between KB Racing and Titan Racing that took place during the offseason.
“To know that I could win with them meant a lot, because I didn’t want to hold them back.”
As she puts it, most of the guys on her crew have been “doing this since I’ve been born,” so to finally prove herself behind the wheel and bring the team a Wally brought a welcome sense of relief.
However, other than her Arizona triumph, the early season has been a bit of a struggle for Caruso — at least on paper. She has made four first-round exits and enjoyed one semifinal finish in the opening six races.
Despite the rough patch, the New York native is still bubbling with the same optimism she carried during her rookie year.
“Just because we didn’t win the championship last year, it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to. We had so much to learn last year,” Caruso said. “This year, we have a huge team behind us. It’s just so different.”
The 25-year-old feels she has plenty of laps under her belt after spending a full year on the circuit, but with all the changes she’s facing this season, it almost feels like a rookie endeavor all over again.
Having a deeper bench of drivers — including Greg Anderson, Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky and Matt Hartford — and a new engine program has given Caruso plenty of items which to adapt.
“I was really worried coming on to a big team, because I was like, ‘We’re still the newbies.’ But it’s been awesome. I have all the crew guys I had with me last year, so that’s made it a little easier,” Caruso said.
At this point in the season, she’s not overly concerned with her championship standing, although she’s not far off the pace in sixth. She is 250 points behind teammate Glenn, who leads the standings.
“I don’t want to say it’s testing time, because it all matters, but the Countdown (to the Championship) resets everything. We have so much time to move and jumble around,” Caruso said.