“December 16, 2016 was the first time I got in a Cup car,” he said. “It was a 997 car, and I just fell in love with it.”
Fast forward to the weekend of June 28-30, 2018, when Carazo made his first appearance in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama at Watkins Glen International. He drove the No. 27 NGT Motorsport Porsche in the Gold Cup class for 911 GT3 Cup cars built between 2014 and 2016.
It was an inauspicious debut, to say the least. Carazo crashed during practice in tricky conditions when it started raining while he was on slick tires. That prevented him from competing in the first race of the weekend doubleheader.
He crashed again in the second race while attempting a pass in the esses.
“That, for me, was a big shock,” Carazo said. “It was a big eye opener. I said, ‘All right, these guys are very aggressive. I’ve got to be careful doing these races. I’ve got to play smart.’”
Since then, he’s played it very smart. Carazo competed in eight more races over the course of the 2018 season, finishing on the Gold Cup podium three times. At the same time, Carazo’s teammate and fellow Puerto Rican, Victor Gomez IV, was dominating the Gold Cup season en route to the 2018 title.
Coming into 2019, Gomez moved up to the Platinum Cup class and Carazo signed on for the full Gold Cup season with NGT Motorsport.
“We started out this year with the championship in mind, but more on a learning basis,” Carazo said. “Try to learn everything and see if we could learn and get some wins along the way. Since the start, we got first and third place that first weekend (at Barber Motorsports Park).
“Then, we got two wins in Mid-Ohio and from there, me and the team have been working. The team has been working with me and teaching me everything, just getting me driving a championship season, driving very safe, consistently and trying to be as fast as we can in a safe way. It’s been great.”
Great might be an understatement. Heading into this week’s season-ending doubleheader at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Carazo has finished on the Gold Cup podium in all 14 races thus far. He’s won 10 times and will clinch the 2019 championship just by starting the first race of the weekend Thursday night.
Carazo is quick to credit NGT Motorsport and team owner Ramez Wahab for his performance this year.
“Ramez, he just knows his stuff,” Carazo said. “He’s great. The team knows their stuff. Every one of the mechanics, everybody here knows their stuff very well and they’re great at pushing you on. Sometimes, you come in in an off mood, because you’re not always at 100 percent.
“If you come in at an off mood, everybody cheers you up and says, ‘Hey, come on. You can do this. Get in the car, have some fun and be safe.’ They always tell me, ‘Remember, you’re here to have fun. This is not so you can be bummed out all day.’ Some weekends when you’re a little bit off pace and everything, they just keep pushing you and say, ‘You can do this.’
“Also, Ramez has been the one who has taught me the most in the time I’ve been racing. I’ve only been with him a year and a half, and he has taught me the most in that year and a half. He has been always pushing me. He does it in a fatherly way.”
Carazo plans to follow the same route as Gomez, moving into the Platinum Cup class for 2020. And he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him.
“Next year, we have the Platinum championship in sights,” Carazo said. “We’re going to race there and try to learn as much as I can. If we get a podium or two along the way, that would be great. I know it’s very competitive and great guys racing. I’m not sure who’s going to race (in Platinum Cup) next year, but they’re going to be fast drivers.”
The 2020 season is as far into the future as Carazo is looking, more or less.
“I’m looking towards next year and taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I would love to be able to become a pro driver, become a factory driver. I’m doing everything I can to do that.”
The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama wraps up its 2019 season with a pair of 45-minute races at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta as part of the Motul Petit Le Mans race week. Race #1 will be Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the second race at 10:10 a.m. ET Friday.