Score one for the women of the NHRA, as Erica Enders made history Sunday night at the O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals by becoming the first female to win an NHRA Pro Stock race.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Jeff Arend (Funny Car) also were winners at the rain-delayed NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Chicago. Courtney Force made a bid to make it two women in victory circle at Joliet, Ill., as she advanced to the Funny Car final before coming up short against Arent.
Enders drove her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt to a final-round winning performance of 6.627 seconds at 207.40 mph to hold off four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who trailed in the race in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.641 at 208.36.
Enders, one of only six females to ever compete in the 200-mph factory hot rod category, raced past Kurt Johnson, Vincent Nobile and Vieri Gaines in the first three rounds to advance to her seventh career final round. From there the 28-year-old Houston native led season points leader Anderson all the way down the track in the final round to finally get the victory she has been seeking since starting her Pro Stock career in 2005.
“It's awesome,” said Enders, who becomes the 12th female to win an NHRA pro category race. “I think that if I could have planned it, I would have asked to run Greg in the final. You know that he made it very clear that he didn't want to lose to me. He's a very competitive guy and I love him to death, but I couldn't wait to beat him. I'm glad [the win] came here in Chicago. I had my first final in Pro Stock here in 2005, and so it was nice to circle back around and get it done here.
“Pro Stock is tough. It will humble you in an instant. When you think you've got it figured out, you go to Bristol and blow all your [engines] up. I can't say enough about my guys [crew]. They're amazing and I love them.”
In Top Fuel, Brown raced to his second victory of the season behind the wheel of his Matco Tools dragster when final round opponent Steve Torrence fouled at the start in his Capco Contractors dragster. It was Brown's 33rd career victory and his third win at this track, as he claimed two wins here in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
With the win, Brown moved to second in the points standings, behind series leader Tony Schumacher, the event's No. 1 qualifier who was upset in the first round. Brown outran Morgan Lucas, David Grubnic and Shawn Langdon to advance to the final round.
On the way to his meeting with Torrence, Brown had to get by two-time event winner Morgan Lucas, David Grubnic and Shawn Langdon, respectively. The race against Langdon proved to be his toughest test as he posted a 3.794-second pass at 321.04 mph to Langdon's 3.803-second trip at 319.37 mph.
Veteran driver Arend claimed his first Funny Car win of the season and fourth of his career by defeating rookie Courtney Force in the final round. Arend powered to a performance of 4.131 at 309.20 in his DHL Toyota Camry to hold off the 24-year-old Force, who finished in 4.454 at 272.67 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang.