Strong start ends in heartbreak for ZaZa Energy's Enders
LAS VEGAS (Oct. 30) – ZaZa Energy driver Erica Enders made a fast start but still suffered a tough defeat in Sunday's Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, falling in the first round for only the third time all season.
Enders, one of the best on the Christmas Tree in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, had a reaction time of .007 seconds, getting an instant advantage of .033 seconds against Ronnie Humphrey. That's usually more than enough to trip the win light, but Enders' Cagnazzi Racing-prepared Chevrolet Cobalt then stumbled after the starting line. She shook the tires in first and second gear before coasting to a pass of 12.632 seconds at 68.01 mph as Humphrey went 6.665 at 206.76 mph.
"There's no time to think," Enders said. "You just react. There's no time to second-guess. I just do what I can to get the race car down the track. It wasn't happening today. It blew the tires off the car and took a hard right-hand turn. I pulled second gear facing the wall hoping to straighten it out. When I pulled second, it blew 'em off again. It was really slick out in the marbles by the wall, so I had no choice but to abort the run.
"They're going over the data and trying to figure out why that happened. It happened to us in Phoenix, and it happened to us here -- both times when it shouldn't have given the conditions and the data. We're going to stay and test tomorrow. We've got one more shot at it."
Enders last lost a first-round race in Norwalk, and she's won three rounds twice and two rounds four other times in the 10 races since.
But the feeling Enders had as she slowed in her run was like none of those races. It reminded her of the finals in Bristol in June, when she shook the tires against Mike Edwards.
"I had the same feeling in my stomach when I had to abort that run and watch Ronnie Humphrey drive away from me that I had in the finals in Bristol when we shook and I had watched Mike Edwards drive away from me," Enders said. "My heart fell through the floor, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. That was for all the marbles."
Enders lost ground in the race for second place in Pro Stock, as Jason Line clinched the championship in the category on Sunday. She's seven points out of fourth and one out of fifth as the season comes to a close Nov. 8-11 for the Automobile Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif.
"It makes us want to dig deeper. All of us are playing with so much heart. I'm blessed enough to have guys who want it as badly as me who work with me. The morale in the trailer is down right now, but we're going to dig deep, test tomorrow, figure it out and go to Pomona. We're going to swing for the fences. We need a trophy.
"We have to get it together for Pomona. I don't want a big number on my car next year."