Pro Stock’s Enders Has The Energy To Claim Historic First Victory At The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals
The first career win seems like an elusive goal for every NHRA driver who hasn’t yet visited winner’s circle. Pro Stock pilot Erica Enders is currently trying to push her way through that boundary.
I’ve worked ... and I know it’ll all pay off soon.
With two runner-up finishes and two No. 1 qualifying positions this season, Enders has shown she drives one of the baddest hot rods in competition right now, yet she hasn’t been able to get her hands on one of the 60th anniversary special edition pewter Wally trophies.
She hopes to turn that trend as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the Seattle area for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 5-7 at Pacific Raceways, the final stop of the Western Swing. Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
The lone female competitor in Pro Stock, the first win is so close she can taste it. A first victory would give Enders historical status in NHRA drag racing, as she would become first female to win in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock category. One of only five women to compete in the 200 mph class, Enders is by far the most successful woman in Pro Stock history and she hopes that this year she will add her name to the list of 11 females like Shirley Muldowney, Angelle Sampey and Ashley Force Hood who have broken barriers for women in NHRA Drag Racing when they became the first women to win in Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Funny Car, respectively. Winning in the professional category has been something she has dreamed about since she was just eight years old.
“Winning is something that I’ve been doing for a long time, but to be able to be the first woman to win in Pro Stock is something I’ve hoped to achieve since the first time I let the clutch out,” said Enders, who won many races in NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League competition and in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman ranks before moving to the professional level. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and I know it’ll all pay off soon.”
Like the women who came before her, Enders has no problem being a woman in a man’s world. She enjoys being able to compete on a level playing field with the guys but doesn’t see herself as a woman and her competitor as a man on the race track. Once she is strapped into her race car she is just competitor hoping to cut a perfect light, hit the shift points, keep it in the groove and cross the finish line first.
“I’ve never seen myself as any different just because I’m a woman,” Enders said. “I worked very hard to gain the respect of all of my competitors and at the end of the day we’re all racers working toward the same goal, and that’s to win. The fact that I am a woman just gives me an opportunity to hopefully put my name in the NHRA history books and lead the way for other female competitors to come.”
This season has been a bit of a homecoming for the 27-year-old Houston native who rejoined Cagnazzi Racing at the beginning of the 2011, the same place she began her professional driving career in 2005. For her, there is no other team she would want to be a part of when she collects her first win.
“I can’t say enough about my ZaZa Energy team,” Enders said. “It’s nice to be back with Cagnazzi in a car that is capable of winning week in and week out and a team that I can count on, on and off the track.”
Enders sits comfortably in seventh place in the points standings as the regular season nears its end, but the battle to make it into the top 10 is extremely tight. Ron Krisher sits in the 10th position but Larry Morgan and Ronnie Humphery are within two rounds of taking over the final available spot for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Mike Edwards holds the series lead in Pro Stock, followed by Jason Line and Sonoma winner Greg Anderson. Rookie Vincent Nobile has been strong as has Allen Johnson in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
Top Fuel has been dominated by series leader Del Worsham’s Al-Anabi Racing team for most of the season but as we embark on the final three races of the regular season most eyes are looking toward the bottom of the points standings. David Grubnic and his Kalitta Air dragster currently holds down the final spot for the Countdown but he’s nowhere near safe. Terry McMillen is only 10 points behind in 11th and Bob Vandergriff is within two rounds of making the cut. These three drivers will spend the last three races of the regular season battling it out for the chance to become the 2011 champion. Behind Worsham at the top are Spencer Massey, Sonoma winner Antron Brown, defending world champ Larry Dixon and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, a four-time winner at Pacific Raceways.
Funny Car has its own battle for 10th heating up. Defending event champ Wilkerson, who posted a runner-up finish at Sonoma, Calif. last weekend, is sitting in 10th place just a little over two rounds of eliminations ahead of Johnny Gray and his Service Central Dodge Charger. Don’t count out Tony Pedregon just yet either; he trails Wilkerson by 95 points. As the regular season draws to a close, the competition to get into the Countdown has the potential to be as exciting as the battle for the championship at the end of the year. Pre-race favorites in Funny Car include series points leader Mike Neff, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Sonoma winner Ron Capps and 15-time world champ John Force, a seven-time winner at the Seattle drag strip.
NHRA’s Season-Long 60Th Anniversary Celebration Rolls Into The Great Northwest
Cacklefests, Legends meet-and-greet highlight Aug. 5-7 race weekend
NHRA Legend Gary Beck, a hometown favorite of fans in the Pacific Northwest, will take center stage for NHRA’s 2011 pit stop at Pacific Raceways for the 60th Anniversary season running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Set in the shadows of Mt. Rainier, Pacific Raceways has always boasted one of the most spectacular backdrops of any track on the 22-race NHRA circuit and this year’s race (Aug. 5-7) – featuring the NHRA Legend meet-and-greets and autograph sessions, and the always-popular Cacklefest on Sunday during pre-race – will additionally boast one of the more entertaining on-site experiences for NHRA fans.
“(NHRA Founder) Wally (Parks) created NHRA for the hot rod enthusiasts and the 2011 season, our 60th Anniversary, will be a year-long celebration in their honor,” said NHRA president Tom Compton. “Fans, accustomed to an up close and personal experience with the stars of the sport through our open pit environment, will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the stars and see the cars from throughout the 60-year history of the sport.”
NHRA’s featured Legend, Beck, is an obvious choice for the Seattle market. Beck, a Seattle native who won 19 Top Fuel races and two world championships (1974, 1983), is a proud member of NHRA’s list of 50 Greatest Drivers of all-time.
Jerry “The King” Ruth is another renowned NHRA pilot and local legend being featured at Pacific Raceways, which was his home track throughout his career. Other legends who will be recognized during the weekend are Dick Kalivoda, Herman Peterson, Frank Hall, Jim Green, Gordy Bonin, Rob Bruins, Wayne King, Hugh Tucker, Hank Johnson, Bucky Austin, Randy Bradford and Twig Zeigler.
The NHRA Legends will be present for autograph sessions and meet-and-greets throughout the weekend at the car corral, which is located adjacent to the staging lanes and behind the starting line grandstand. Autograph sessions are scheduled directly following the first pro session of qualifying Friday and Saturday and after first round of eliminations Sunday. The car corral will feature vintage street hot rods and Cacklefest cars that will be participating in a Cacklefest Sunday morning during prerace ceremonies. Some of the street rods that will be included are a ’41 Willys, ’39 Plymouth, ’28 Ford and ’66 Mercury. The “Eagle Electric” AA/FD, “Corvette Specialty” B/D and the “Assassin” AA/FD are just a few of the Cacklefest cars featured.
The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, Aug. 5-7 at Pacific Raceways, will mark the 14th stop in a year-long celebration that will pay homage to the evolution of the hot rod, the impact of the sport’s legendary racers, and the lifeblood provided by the many millions of loyal and passionate NHRA fans.
The celebration will continue throughout the year as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series winds its way from Seattle to Dallas, Indianapolis to Pomona, and most everywhere in between. NHRA drag racing fans from across the country will be treated to special events designed to give them the chance to personally interact with the men, women and vehicles that have made the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series the great sport that it is today.
O’REILLY AUTO PARTS NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 24th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, the 14th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport’s current stars.
WHERE: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is located 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7.
FRIDAY, Aug. 5 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 6 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Aug. 7 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS: Cory McClenathan, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Bob Glidden, 6, PS; Joe Amato, 5, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Warren Johnson, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.802 seconds by Tony Schumacher, July ’08; 322.19 mph by Schumacher, July ’10.
Funny Car – 4.056 seconds by Robert Hight, July ’08; 304.39 mph by Hight, July ’08.
Pro Stock – 6.556 seconds by Mike Edwards, July ’09; 211.03 mph by Edwards, July ’09.
Top Fuel - 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car - 4.011 sec. by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10, Reading, Pa.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June ’11, Bristol, Tenn.
Pro Stock - 6.495 sec. by Rodger Brogdon, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (253) 639-5927. Tickets also are available online at extremetix.com.
GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $41; Junior (6-12 years), $10; Saturday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 and under), free in general admission/ pit areas each day.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $46; Junior (6-12 years), $15; Child (5 years and under), $5. Saturday: Adult, $59-61; Junior (6-12 years), $20-22; Child (5 and under), $10-12. Sunday: Adult, $59-$62; Junior (6-12 years), $20-$22; Child (5 and under), $10-$12.