ENDERS SEEKS DRAG RACING HISTORY AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS Schumacher and Medlen also qualifying leaders at Firebird International Raceway CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Sophomore Pro Stock racer Erica Enders is poised to make drag racing...
ENDERS SEEKS DRAG RACING HISTORY AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS
Schumacher and Medlen also qualifying leaders at Firebird International Raceway
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Sophomore Pro Stock racer Erica Enders is poised to make drag racing history if the 22-year-old can hold on to the No. 1 qualifying position she earned Friday night during the opening day of the 22nd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals.
Enders covered Firebird International Raceway's quarter-mile in 6.679 seconds at 206.48 mph in her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt, becoming the first female in class history to earn provisional low qualifier honors. Saturday's final two qualifying sessions will set the field for Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher and Funny Car racer Eric Medlen also led their respective fields at the $1.5 million race, the second of 23 on the POWERade Drag Racing Series. Schumacher ran a 4.459 at 330.97 mph in the heat of the day in his U.S. Army dragster. Medlen got the job done in Round 2 when he roared to a 4.707 at 321.96 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang.
Only six female racers have earned the No. 1 qualifier position before and none have done so in Pro Stock. Overall, Enders is just the sixth female to compete in the class since its inception in 1970.
"This is big because we had 10 DNQs early on last year and we were so disappointed," Enders said. "Then we got it together and started doing lots of things in the second half where I was the first female to do this or that. I think it's cool. We still want to be thought of as racers first but I don't mind being the first girl to do something."
After a slow start where she failed to complete her first run, Enders overcame the fact she ran early in the second session to post her big run.
"We just missed the set-up in Round 1," Enders said. "It made us all a little nervous going into Friday night because we were the third pair out. You know it's going to be the best session of the weekend and you have to trust the set-up you have because you don't have many cars ahead of you.
"My car was really loose in third and fourth gear. Thoughts of shoving in the clutch did pop into my head. But I stayed with it and we got the 6.679 so I'm glad I kept my foot in it."
Medlen also had a lot on his mind as he moved into the top spot in Funny Car.
"We're making executive decisions as we go down the track because we only have one of the new bodies so you sure don't want to blow it up or catch it on fire," Medlen said. "Everybody in this class is so close right now and we're looking for inches. I know the new car is quicker. I don't want to go back to the old body."
After running such a great number in the first Top Fuel session, anticipation was high that Schumacher would set the national record after it cooled off. But it wasn't meant to be as he slowed slightly to a 4.47. Even so, his two passes were the only ones in the 4.4-second range.
"We were going for the record, no doubt," Schumacher said. "We wanted to get those 20 (bonus) points right there. We just missed it, that's it.
"We tend to run better in the heat of the day. The facts are we put more effort into day runs because we race in the day. We don't race at night and we don't make many runs at night so it's not something we spend a lot of time on."
Qualifying continues Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m.