CARRILLO LIVING ON CLOUD 9 AFTER STRONG TOP FUEL PERFORMANCE AT PHOENIX
Things aren’t supposed to happen this quickly.
In only his second Top Fuel start, Greg Carrillo qualified No. 16 and then did the improbable by upsetting multiple-time world champions Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown before having his Cinderella day end at the Arizona Nationals, Feb. 25, with a loss to Scott Palmer in the semifinals.
“We raced a lot of Sportsman races and we won a lot, but Top Fuel is the elite class, and we are on Cloud 9 about going rounds,” Carrillo said. “The cool thing is that I was able to race my friends in Tony, Antron and Palmer. These guys have been close friends of mine for years.”
Carrillo spent years racing in the Super Comp and Super Gas ranks winning multiple national events and NHRA division titles. He made his Top Fuel debut last year at the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver. He qualified but didn’t win a round. Carrillo grew up in Brighton, Colo., near Bandimere Speedway. He now lives in Phoenix.
“I made the move to Top Fuel because of the marketing challenge, and I won a lot of races in the other classes and I just wanted to go race Top Fuel on our own,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo has a 17-year-old Murf McKinney dragster. Carrillo’s longtime friend, Glenn Mikres, is Carrillo’s crew chief.
“In 2007, I was going to come out and race in Top Fuel,” Carrillo said. “In 2008, I had everything together to go Top Fuel racing then the economy caved in. I had a brand-new truck, brand-new trailer, four engines. I had everything to go big time in Top Fuel. When the economy crashed, I parked everything. I parked it in the shop and took the key out of the ignition. When the economy started coming back, I took my car to Murf and made a few updates on it. I took my cylinder head program and sold it, and I took my clutch program and sold it and got all the new stuff. Then, I said let’s go racing.”
Carrillo said he did some testing at Wild Horse Motorsports Park prior to the race in Phoenix.
“My plan was to come back and race (at the Arizona Nationals),” Carrillo said. “The field could have been intimidating because of the cars that were there, but we were ready for the challenge with the 19 cars that were there. I don’t want to go to a place where you can just walk in and qualify, that’s not a challenge. I told the guys let’s see what we are made of. Guys who drive for Schumacher can only bring eight brand-new pistons to the starting line and we also have eight to bring. They also put their fire suits on the same way we do. If we want to run with these guys, we have to get out there and mix it up. It was an incredible feeling to get the win against Tony (Schumacher), but he’s an incredible racer and a world champ and most importantly he is one of my longtime friends and that’s what it boiled down to for me. I was racing against my friend. It wasn’t about beating Tony Schumacher, the legend, it was just about finally getting to race against my friend in Top Fuel. We used to mix it up in my Sportsman days.”
After knocking off Schumacher, Carrillo beat Brown, but he never once thought about boasting.
“My team went out there (against Brown) and Glen Mikres and I had a strategy that we thought would work out,” Carrillo said. “Make no mistake, I went to that race to try and win. We went into that round, we knew we had lane choice, and we knew how to get down the track and I wanted to put pressure on him to get down the track. Turning on those win lights is like climbing a steep mountain. When you go to bed and know that you’re racing Tony Schumacher, you’re not thinking about who is next. I was focused about doing my job and moving on.”
In the semifinals against Palmer, Carrillo’s dragster had trouble and he was defeated.
“We knew Palmer was deadly consistent and if I could get him on the tree, we might get the win light, but we were dropping too many holes and we couldn’t get the job done,” Carrillo said. “I have to congratulate Palmer for making the finals. We have been good friends and low-buck racers, and I was very happy for him.”
Although Carrillo had immense, unexpected success in Phoenix, he isn’t making any plans yet to return to the track.
“You go from the high of beating Tony and Antron, and now we are just going to get back out there when we can,” Carrillo said. “We do not have a timetable right now. It’s going to be tough to sit out, but you have to race Top Fuel smart. You can’t race Top Fuel stupid. Greg Carrillo Racing will never go to the race track without everything we need to have to be successful. I’m not going to put my team out there without enough parts to win. I’m going to go out there and try and win. I’m going to go to the starting line and know I can win today.”
Carrillo’s day job is he does event marketing for Mobile 1 motor oil.
“We use the Mobile 1 products in the Top Fuel car,” Carrillo said.
Asked whether Mobile 1 was going to sponsor Carrillo’s dragster, he had this response.
“We’re definitely going to show them what we can do and see if they want to be a partner,” Carrillo said.