Let's face it, there seems to be something to the old expression, "Ladies First." In this case, it's NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders, the only lady currently competing in the highly competitive class. Erica was the first team to qualify number one right out of the gate during the NHRA season opener earlier this year in Pomona and she did it again during the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk. That made her the first to grab all the available points and the bonus money to start off the new season of qualifying for the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge.
K&N Horsepower Challenge and NHRA Pro Stock Driver Erica Enders
The jam-packed schedule for the NHRA event in Norwalk, Ohio originally had the normal four professional qualifying sessions planned, two during Friday's festivities. Once again, Mother Nature had a say in that and due to constant on and off again rain, the complete day and on track activities for all classes were cancelled.
That left two sessions for Saturday, in addition to the running of the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge. Originally, the eight teams in the Challenge would have run the first round as a part of the third session. Since not one professional category had been down the track during the event, NHRA officials made some schedule adjustments, which allowed the Pro Stock teams to get in a session first, prior to the first round of the Challenge.
"We thought we might still get at least one round in one Friday, but the rain just kept on coming," she explained. "The round we got before the Challenge was beneficial. When we got up there, we just wanted to make sure we got down the track for qualifying purposes. We may have been a slight bit conservative."
New Orleans based Enders, who was number eight in the challenge by winning the fan vote, has had a very strong entry as of late. She managed to nail the number three spot with a 6.591, just behind Rodger Brogdon's 6.587 and Jason Line's 6.598.
Round one of the K&N Challenge was held during the second and final session of Pro Stock qualifying, so while the other teams were just looking to improve and get their race day setups, the eight teams in the Challenge had that and more on their plates.
"We knew going into the Challenge we had to be on," she continued. "We were paired with Jason Line and he's not only a great driver but they have tremendous horsepower."
Ender's team stepped it up for the session and not only did she send Line back to the trailer in round one of the Challenge with the .009 margin at the stripe, she also took her ZaZa Energy Cobalt right to the pole position when she put a 6.585 up on the board. That ET also took away the track Pro Stock ET record set just a short time earlier by Brogdon in session number one.
While Enders wasn't able to pull out a victory in the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge, she was quick to point out how much being a part of the elite race meant to her. "I was very honored to be a part of the race," she said. "K&N does a great job with it. All those drivers in Pro Stock are so appreciative of the fact that K&N puts it on in the first place. For my fans to come through for me like that and to get me into this race, I just can't be thankful enough."
"It was unfortunate that we were unable to actually earn a position based on actual points, due to my limited schedule last year," she continued. "Coming into this season with Cagnazzi and having a competitive car and team, hopefully we will solidify a spot in the Challenge for us next year. My guys have given me an awesome car all year long. We win together and we lose together. It is absolutely the best team atmosphere I have ever been involved with."
Enders is already on her way. With the number one qualifier at the Norwalk, Ohio event, she grabbed the maximum 175 points along with the cool $3,000 bonus check from K&N Engineering.
After several back-to-back weeks on the road, the Pro Stock teams get the holiday weekend to spend with their family and friends before heading to the next event on the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle schedule, Route 66 Raceway, in Joliet, Illinois July 9-12 and the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
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