Fond memories of Phoenix have Enders fired-up for Firebird
PHOENIX (Oct. 10) – ZaZa Energy Pro Stock driver Erica Enders will celebrate an anniversary of sorts at this weekend's 27th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Enders qualified for her first Pro Stock race at Firebird in 2005, squeaking into the field in the No. 16 position. That race was in February that year, so the anniversary celebration has been an extra few months in the making.
Still, Enders smiles when she thinks about that first race. She was a successful Junior Dragster and Sportsman racer before her transition to the professional level with Cagnazzi Racing in 2005 and her first pro venture was a whirlwind.
"Phoenix was a lot of fun," Enders said. "We had missed the show in Pomona, so it was nice to come back at the next race and qualify – even though we were on the bump."
Because she qualified No. 16, Enders had to race the No. 1 qualifier in the first round. That happened to be her current boyfriend, Richie Stevens.
"They made a big deal out of it because we were the first two Jr. Dragster racers to turn pro," Enders said. "And then we had to race each other. But he beat me. He still reminds me of that every chance he gets."
Enders' memories of Phoenix go deeper than that weekend.
"I've been going to Phoenix forever," Enders said. "We raced Jr. Dragsters there because my family is from Phoenix, and we'd always go there for a vacation/race weekend. I've been going there for a long, long time."
She won the Jr. Dragster national race at Phoenix in 1999, and then won a special "Race of Champions" event that put Jr. Dragsters racers of all ages against each other that same weekend.
"Every race we entered that weekend, we won, so that's pretty cool," Enders said.
Enders would love to repeat that success this weekend in Pro Stock. She's gunning for her first Pro Stock victory, which would cement her best season as a pro.
Currently, Enders is fourth in the Countdown to the Championship standings, having reached three final rounds and three semifinal rounds in 2011. Plus, she's qualified No. 1 twice and continues to hold the Pro Stock national speed record of 213.57 mph set in Gainesville earlier this year. Overall, she's qualified in the top of the Pro Stock field at 12 consecutive races.
The 2011 championship may be out of reach after an incredible start to the Countdown by Jason Line, but Enders and her ZaZa Energy team will fight for their best finish ever until season's end.
"Mathematically, we still have a chance," Enders said. "If I won the next three races and he didn't qualify … well, OK, that's not going happen. We're all just racing for second place right now. If we can't have No. 1 on our car for next year, we want No. 2 on the side. We're going to race really hard for the best number on our window next year."
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m., Friday, and 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. All action will be covered by ESPN2.