Red-hot Enders relishes her two chances to win in Norwalk

Thanks to the fans who voted her in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, ZaZa Energy drag racer Erica Enders has two chances to win this weekend at the fifth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

The Challenge is a special race-within-a-race for eight Pro Stock drivers, with seven earning their spots based on qualifying points since last year's event. The final spot is reserved for the winner of a fan vote, and Enders learned she received that very special honor last Sunday in the middle of her best day of the 2011 season.

Pro Stock Driver Erica Enders
Pro Stock Driver Erica Enders

Photo by: Ted Rossino

"Coming off a weekend like Bristol and having a car that's as competitive and consistent as our ZaZa Chevy, I'm excited to go to Norwalk with two more chances to win," Enders said. "My fans are great, and I'm so pumped they voted me in the K&N Challenge. We're going to try our hardest to give them something to cheer for in Norwalk."

Enders was a runner-up in Bristol after winning three elimination rounds – two on holeshots – before ultimately overpowering the racetrack in the final. Still, Enders and her Cagnazzi Racing team have earned dividends from their recent spate of strong runs, improving the speed and consistency of the ZaZa Chevrolet Cobalt.

"Momentum is huge, and we've got to keep it going," Enders said. "We've got to hold on to our positive attitudes and keep working hard. We've got a great ZaZa team, and we all get along well and work well together. Not only do we work well together, but we're friends.

"We'll be fine. We won't dwell on missing out on that win in Bristol. It's in the past. We'll figure out why we shook the tires, fix it, and move on. We do know we were fast, and we've got to keep that going."

The winner of the 27th K&N Horsepower Challenge will earn $50,000, with $10,000 to the runner-up and $3,000 to each of the losing semifinalists. Plus, a $25,000 NHRA bonus is available to any driver who can win the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday and take the Pro Stock national event title during Sunday's eliminations.

The third and fourth rounds of Pro Stock qualifying count as the first two rounds of the Challenge, with the finals considered an extra run for the money. Enders is slated to open against No. 1 qualifier Jason Line, who earned the top spot based on qual;ifying points since last year's event.

"Going off of how we've run in the past few races, we've got a decent shot at doing well in the Challenge," Enders said. "It's the seven toughest drivers in the class, because they're the seven guys who consistently qualified the best over the past year. It's one of those races where you've got to earn it every round with a great reaction time and a flawless run. We've got our work cut out for us.

"But we've got a great race car, and I'm going to drive my butt off."

As part of the K&N Challenge, a fan will be paired with each of the eligible drivers in a random draw, with the fan paired with the Challenge victor winning a 2011 Ford Explorer XLT.

"The Challenge adds a lot of extra excitement," Enders said. "K&N puts it in as a race for the Pro Stock drivers who have done well, and to be a part of that is pretty cool. I'm looking forward to it. I was in it once before in 2006, so I'm excited to have a picture from this year's event to hang on my wall when it's all done. It means a lot to me, and I'm happy to be a part of it."