Cristian Cuadra has slowly made a name for himself in NHRA’s Pro Stock ranks.
On Saturday at the Arizona Nationals near Phoenix, he made history.
Cuadra clocked a 6.552-second time at 210.24 mph to become the first Mexican-born driver to capture a No. 1 qualifying position in NHRA history.
“It feels really special for me,” said Cuadra, who made his run Friday, and it held up. “My dad (Fernando) didn’t qualify, and (Fernando) Jr. is struggling a little bit. But I think if I’m No. 1, they can also be. That makes me really, really happy. Of course, you’re always nervous that you’re No. 1 and everybody is watching you. It is a weird feeling. I always dreamed to be in that spot, and today is the day.”
Cuadra, who drives a 2023 Ford Mustang, gets his engine power from Elite Motorsports. He will face Alan Prusiensky in the first round. 
This is Cristian’s 52nd career Pro Stock race, highlighted by his runner-up finish at the Las Vegas Four-Wide race last spring. He finished eighth in last year’s final points standings.
“When I was born, my dad was drag racing in Mexico,” Cristian said. “When I was three months old, my dad took me to the racetrack, so I was there since I was a baby. In 2003, he started racing Pro Stock, and I was four years old at that time. Every time I came, I was playing with the tires, and I always cleaning the car. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be doing this. I had the opportunity to do it. The business is doing really good, thank God. I’m here. This is what I love, and it has been really, really good.”
Carrying the Mexican flag to this type of honor in the sport of drag racing is something that isn’t lost on Cristian.
“I’m really, really proud that we are making history,” he said. “That’s why we are here because we wanted to make history for our country. It is hard for a Mexican (born) driver to come up here and drag race because the economy is different. We have really good drivers over there in Mexico. I learned to race there. I started racing Super Street in Mexico, and the first year that I raced, I won the Super Street championship. It means a lot to me to be able to do this, and I’m really proud of my team.”
Looking ahead to race day, Cristian is trying to stay amped down.
“I need to be calm,” Cuadra said. “Usually, I get nervous, and I’m trying to learn how to control my nerves. I always talk to Erica before my run because she’s always telling me to relax, and also (Elite Motorsports owner) Richard (Freeman) has been a huge help. I think I’m ready for (race day), but I’m just thinking in my mind that I’m No. 16 qualifier.”