Erica Enders Reaches Second Career Pro Stock Final at Gainesville Young Chevy Driver Looking to Become First Female Winner in Class GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 19, 2006 - It seems like every time young Erica Enders steps out from behind the wheel...
Erica Enders Reaches Second Career Pro Stock Final at Gainesville Young Chevy Driver Looking to Become First Female Winner in Class
GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 19, 2006 - It seems like every time young Erica Enders steps out from behind the wheel of her Slammers Chevy Cobalt, she has eclipsed another standard for female NHRA Pro Stock drivers. The 22-year-old Texas A&M student was looking to become the first female Pro Stock winner after reaching the money round at today's ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. In the Pro Stock final, Enders slowed after severe tire shake forced her Chevy out of line and she lost to Tom Martino's winning elapsed time of 6.677 seconds at 205.80 mph in a Dodge. It was the second career Pro Stock final (Chicago 2 2005) for Enders, and she also had three consecutive No. 2 qualifying efforts entering this weekend's race.
"We had really bad tire shake on that last run," said Enders. "Sometimes when you pull second gear it will settle down a little bit, but I pulled second and it shook even worse so I shoved the clutch in. When I shoved the clutch in, the back end of the car just started wagging and I thought 'Oh no! We don't want a repeat of Bradenton (where Enders rolled her Chevy in a crash during testing last year),' but I got it under control. I'm just glad we kept the paint pretty."
Displaying her considerable driving talents, Enders got a hole-shot win over No. 2 qualifier Jason Line in Round 1, another hole-shot win over Rickie Smith in Round 2, and then defeated Ron Krisher in the semifinals in a battle of Chevy Cobalts. Greg Stanfield also made the semifinal in his Pontiac GTO.
"We had like a hundred people from Slammers here this weekend," said Enders. "They're based in West Palm Beach, so this is kind of like a home race for them. So it was a really great weekend to go to the final with all of them here. We kind of got to show our stuff a little bit.
"It's been a good start to the season. A final round and a couple of No. 2 qualifiers, but then we came here and we struggled a little bit during qualifying, which you know is going to happen. We're staying after to test to get things sorted out before Houston, which I'm excited to get to go home next week. That will be cool. The team's definitely got great chemistry and we're coming together. We're going to be a force to reckon with this year."
Three-time defending Pro Stock champ Anderson made a rare second-round exit in a loss to Stanfield. He came into today's eliminations with his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier, but his 6.670 e.t. at 205.80 mph wasn't quite good enough to get past Stanfield's Chevy with an elapsed time of 6.669 at 205.47 mph. Anderson still leaves Gainesville with the early-season points lead on the strength of two final-round appearances in the season's first three races.
"I keep telling everybody, I don't know why they seem to think it looks easy out here and these guys can't win," said Anderson. "If you make one little mistake you're going to lose out here, and that's what happened today. We made a mistake, I was a little bit late on the light, we were a little light in the clutch, and Greg Stanfield made a great run. He left the starting line on time like a driver has to do, and he kicked our butt. And that's just exactly how I tell you it can happen every day. You have to do your very best or you can't win out here. He did, we didn't, he won the round and we go home early."
Ron Krisher in the Valvoline Chevy Cobalt had a solid No. 6 qualifying effort and defeated Allen Johnson in Round 1 and Larry Morgan in Round 2 before facing off against Enders in the semifinals. He was a little too quick on the tree, however, and had a red-light foul of -.007 seconds.
"The run before, the car spun up a little bit on me and I didn't get a good light," said Krisher. "I was a little worried about it because she was running good lights. I only needed a .70 [light] to beat her, but who knew before we ran. We've been running good all weekend and we've figured out what we have to do. We don't have as much power as a lot of people do, but we can sure make this car fly."
In Funny Car, four Chevy Monte Carlos advanced to the second round but none could take that next step to the semifinals. Del Worsham in a Chevy had a great side-by-side second-round match with John Force, losing by a mere .009 seconds with a 4.818 e.t. at 318.58 mph to Force's 4.798 e.t. at 322.11 mph. Worsham's teammate Phil Burkart Jr. lost to Robert Hight's Ford in the second round, Cruz Pedregon lost to Eric Medlen in a Ford in Round 2, and Tony Bartone had a red-light foul in the second round against points leader Ron Capps in a Dodge. In the final Capps defeated Force with an elapsed time of 4.860 seconds at 316.78 mph after force crossed the center line and was disqualified.
"It's one thing to have to beat Gary (Scelzi) in Round 1, it's another to think about doing it after he just lost to your teammate in Round 1 at the last race," Worsham said. "They're way too good over there to lose in the first round very often, much less twice in a row, much less twice in a row to the same team. I knew we'd have a real battle on our hands, and I knew we needed to be on top of everything. It all had to go right."
With regard to his second-round match-up, Worsham said, "Hey, it's Force, it's Gainesville, it's everything you want. We've gotten John enough times to get his attention, so we knew they'd be set on kill. We just had to find a way to up the power and still keep it stuck. And I hoped the driver could keep up the good work too. The good news is we're right there. We've really had a great start to the season, way better than last year, and we've been good enough to win a round at every race so far. We're 3-3 after three races. All three loses have been so narrow, we know we're right there with the best teams out here. We're going to put four close ones together at a race soon, and maybe we'll win by a total of 12-thousandths or something. I don't know, but I know we're ready to bust through this second round deal and win. Just watch."
Worsham's teammate Phil Burkart Jr. has two semifinal finishes to his credit in the young season and now stands fourth in points heading to the next race in Houston.
"We're clicking pretty well right now," Burkart said. "We're making good laps, we're working well together, and we're winning some rounds. You always start Sunday wanting to win four rounds, but honestly the most important round of the day is round one. If you have any desire to be a top 10 team, you have to win that first one. It's stressful, and it's difficult, and when you do win it, it feels really good. With the competition we're facing out here now, to leave Gainesville in fourth place is an accomplishment this whole team should be proud of."
In the Sportsman classes, Peter Biondo from Maspeth, N.Y., drove his '00 Firebird to the Super Stock crown, and Mickey Whaley from Kinston, N.C., defeated Brenda Grubbs from Plant City, Fla., to win Stock Eliminator in a battle of '69 Camaros.
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit is the 19th annual NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park on March 31-April 2.