Fernando Cuadra Appreciates Return to NHRA

Fernando Cuadra prepares to drop the hammer at Epping, NH. (Photo Credit: Allen Saucier)

Fernando Cuadra prepares to drop the hammer at Epping, NH. (Photo Credit: Allen Saucier)

Fernando Cuadra knows what it’s like to have everything. He also knows what it’s like to lose everything.

Cuadra returned to NHRA competition at the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, NH with a renewed excitement after having to completely rebuild his business after a 2004 tsunami took away all he had worked for.

“I’ve had 14 years of life to regroup, and now I’m getting the chance to come back with this (Ken Black Motorsports) team,” he said. “I am very thankful. I have had the opportunity to regroup and recuperate my business. Now I get to come back to racing.”

Cuadra is the owner of the Corral boot company, a Mexico based company which produces “fashion forward cowgirl boots.” In 2004, however, his company was devastated when the tsunami in Indonesia levelled one of his supply factories, killing all 1,500 employees.

“We sold everything,” Cuadra said. “I wanted to sell everything and send as much money I could to Indonesia to help the families. Losing all those lives was the worst of it.”

In addition to selling off his entire Pro Stock racing operation, Cuadra sold many of his personal belongings.  Additionally, he put a big lien on his plane, which he had to keep in order to be mobile to try to regrow his business. He could not afford mechanics or a pilot for the plane. So, he learned to work on it himself and fly it himself. He then started the process of rebuilding his business.

Now, 14 years later, his company has rebounded to the point where Corral has a presence in 27 countries, and he and his sons have finally been able to return to NHRA competition. His sons, 19-year old twins, and a 22-year old, are working on his pit crew, and he said his oldest, Fernando Jr., hopes to compete in a Pro Stock next year as well.

Cuadra said he wasn’t sure what to expect when he climbed back into the driver’s seat. A 1,200 horsepower Pro Stock is not quite like riding a bike. He said after shaking the butterflies out on his first trip down the track in qualifying, he felt more comfortable. That being said, he knows he has to continue improving.

“My heart was really beating,” he said of his first trip down the track after a 14-year hiatus. “Being in this (Ken Black Motorsports) camp has helped me. They told me I didn’t lose much. But, that’s because I have great people like Jason Line helping me set up the car and a whole crew that is great.”

Cuadra said the feedback from teammates Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Bo Butner will be a big help to him as he tries to get back into the swing of things in his Pro Stock race car, whether it come in the form of razzing or constructive criticism.

“In the first round (of qualifying in Epping), I made all the mistakes you can make,” he said.  “I came back and they said, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this, and don’t do that.’

They told me to get ready and not get too excited. I appreciate it a lot. I know they are some of the best, and to have them helping me, I am really fortunate.”

Expectations could be tempered for a man who is coming off of a 14-year hiatus.  However, Cuadra said that once he shakes off the cobwebs, he expects to be as competitive as his KB Motorsports teammates, defending champion Butner, and multi-time champions Anderson and Line.

He said he wants to have a strong finish to this season so he can enter the 2019 season with sights set on a championship.

“We’re going to win a race this year,” he said with confidence. “It’s not me. It’s the car and the team that is behind me. They told me, be prepared to win. Then we will come race full time next season. That is the plan.”

Cuadra not only carries the Ken Black Motorsports banner into competition this week at Denver, but he also carries a small Mexican flag on his rear window. He said the support from Mexican and Hispanic fans has been something that he has been excited to see.

“There are a lot of Hispanics in the United States, and I am Hispanic, so a lot of them come in and wish me good luck and tell me they are rooting for me,” he said. “They see the Mexican flag on the car and say that I should not change my nationality. I was the first Mexican to race in all the events. There are other Hispanic drivers, but I am the first who lives in Mexico. It means a lot to have all of their support. I feel like I drive for myself and also for my fans.”

With his business rebuilt, Cuadra is excited now, for the opportunity to rebuild his racing career. If his racing rebound is anywhere near as successful as his business rebound, race wins, and maybe even a championship, are not unrealistic expectations.

tmjcovey@gmail.com'
Terrill Covey
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