Route 66 Raceway
Runner-up finish leaves Enders on threshold of drag racing history
ZaZa Energy driver Erica Enders continues to inch toward NHRA drag racing history.
Sunday, Enders came within three feet of her first Pro Stock victory, falling just short of beating Greg Anderson in the finals of the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. Had she won, Enders would have become the first female ever to win a Pro Stock race.
The 27-year-old Houston native and her Cagnazzi Racing Chevrolet were a potent combination in Chicago, whipping through three rounds of eliminations before meeting No. 1 qualifier Anderson in the final round. She cut a solid reaction time of .031 seconds and ran a 6.659-second, 206.89-mph pass but fell .009 seconds short of history.
Still, Anderson was impressed – and maybe a little intimidated -- by how well Enders and her ZaZa Energy team have performed lately. In the last three races, Enders has reached the finals twice and earned a No. 1 qualifier.
"At least for one week, we held the girl off from winning a national event," Anderson said. "But don't get me wrong, it is going to happen this year, and maybe many times. She is doing a fantastic job. I was scared to death running against her in the final. She's the real deal."
Enders also reached the finals in Chicago in 2005 before falling to Anderson's teammate, Jason Line.
"Definitely an eventful weekend, but nonetheless, we come back to Chicago like in '05 and fall again to a Summit car," Enders said. "But that's all right. They know we're here."
Enders, in fact, had the fastest elapsed time in three of the four rounds Sunday. She beat Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson in the first round with a pass of 6.638 seconds at 207.53 mph. In round two, Enders beat past Pro Stock champion Mike Edwards with a run of 6.647 seconds at 203.31 mph.
Then in the semifinals, Enders earned a bit of revenge on Line, knocking him out with a pass of 6.665 seconds at 206.76 mph.
And she did it all on a hot, slippery race track, a good omen as the Pro Stock division heads deep into the summer months.
"I had a good feeling when we rolled in here Friday, and so did my crew chief, Dave Connolly," Enders said. "I can't ask for much more than what we've got. We've got a great, consistent race car. And the really cool part is we did it on a hot race track. That gives us a lot of enthusiasm going into the next few summer races."
Enders' stellar weekend helped her in two points chases. First, she moved up a spot to seventh in the Pro Stock standings – and is only 21 points out of sixth place. Second, she's the leader of the K&N Horsepower Challenge points standings, based on qualifying. Enders leads Line 330-320 after two events for the 2012 Challenge.
Clearly, Enders and the ZaZa Energy team are on a roll.
"I can't be more excited about what we've got," Enders said. "I'm in love with my team; they're great guys, they treat me awesome, they're confident. That gives me confidence, having a great race car under my butt and having guys who really care about me. That makes all the difference in the world."
The ZaZa Energy team had a little extra work to do after her semifinal win over Line. The parachutes were late coming out, and as Enders slowed the Chevrolet Cobalt down, a brief fire flashed out of the header pipes.
"I run the 'chute button on my steering wheel, but I had to go up to the roof and manually pull them that time," Enders said. "I had to get on the brakes pretty good to get it shut down. We had a big header fire, and it took a minute to get it put out. That burned up a bunch of wiring on the car but the guys got it back together for the finals."
Enders and the ZaZa Energy team now head to the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 22-24, at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, where Enders will again try to become the first female to win an NHRA Pro Stock race.
"We've got nothing to hang our heads about," Enders said. "It was Greg's day. Kudos to him. We've got nothing to be ashamed about, and I can't wait for Denver."
By: cagnazzi racing