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Erica Enders-Stevens Rebounds in Phoenix to Capture Her First NHRA Pro Stock Win of 2013

Erica Enders with Wally after Phoenix win

Erica Enders with Wally after Phoenix winPHOENIX, AZ — While Danica Patrick made women’s history in Daytona, KLR Group driver Erica Enders-Stevens rallied back from an early exit last weekend to claim her 5th career NHRA Pro Stock win at the 29th annual Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway outside of Phoenix.

Driving the Cagnazzi Racing-powered GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt from the number seven qualifying position, Erica advanced over Shane Gray in the first round before facing number two qualifier V. Gaines. With identical elapsed times of 6.533 seconds, Erica out-drove Gaines, posting a .033 reaction time to his .074. With the holeshot win, she advanced to a semi final matchup against 2-time champion Jason Line.

With lane choice in Line’s favor, Erica’s pass of 6.563 @ 212.19 mph bested Line, who shook the tires early and ended his run with a 6.619 @ 212.76 mph. She would advance to face Mike Edwards, whose Camaro dominated qualifying, claiming the number one spot for the second race in a row.

Yet in the final it was all Erica. Scoring a massive .053 second jump, she nailed her 2nd holeshot win of the event, beating Edwards to the finish line by over 10 feet with a 6.538 @ 211.99 to his 6.520 @ 213.74.

“Going into the final we knew we had to pull out all the stops,” said Erica. “The way we started this year, it was a gut check to see if we could get back to last year’s performance level.”

During last weekend’s Winternationals in Pomona, Enders-Stevens’ number three qualifying advantage was cut short by a crushing engine failure during the first round of eliminations, allowing Kurt Johnson to claim the win light.

But with Sunday’s win, Erica has rebounded to 2nd place in overall Pro Stock points with 155, trailing Vincent Nobile’s 171. She also joins Nobile as the first Pro Stock drivers to capture a Wally in the new NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and the second woman, alongside Funny Car driver Courtney Force.

Enders holeshot on Mike Edwards in Phoenix

History-making year a career-best one for Enders

POMONA, CA — KLR Group driver Erica Enders hopes to repeat next year what her good friend Allen Johnson did this year.

In 2011, Johnson finished fourth in the Pro Stock points standings. This year? Johnson won the championship.

Enders finished fourth in the 2012 title race and is pumped to get next season started so she can try to complete the second half of Johnson’s accomplishment.

“We’ve got a great organization, a great team, great horsepower,” Enders said. “Next year is only going to be better. I’m really excited to get home for a few days, take a deep breath and then start testing as soon as we get back from my honeymoon.”

Enders ended 2012 with a semifinal appearance in the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway on Sunday. She had a career season, winning four races and grabbing two No. 1 qualifiers all while posting her best finish in the points standings.

Plus, after she became the first woman to win in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class – in Chicago on July 1 – boyfriend Richie Stevens proposed. Enders’ wedding is December 7, after which she will honeymoon in Hawaii.

“It’s been a great year,” Enders said.

She qualified No. 5 in Pomona and won two rounds to run her season won-loss record to 38-19. Enders beat Shane Gray in the first round, leaving first with a .020-second reaction time and then making a pass of 6.517 seconds at 212.26 mph. Gray slowed to a run of 11.826 at 75.25 mph.

Enders had another solid light in the second round against V Gaines, .022, and made a pass of 6.528 seconds at 212.43 mph, getting the victory when Gaines tripped the red light.

That matched her up against Vincent Nobile, when she maintained her consistency on the Christmas Tree with a .023-second reaction time. But Nobile got to the line first after a pass of 6.543 at 211.49 mph, beating Enders’ lap of 6.542 at 211.86 mph.

The semifinal finish was her 11th in 22 races to go along with seven final-round appearances. Her best previous finish in the points standings was sixth last year.

“I expected more – at the risk of sounding unappreciative,” Enders said. “But this is our livelihood, this is what we do, how we make our living. We had our sights set higher than where we finished, but at the same time, we finished ahead a lot of big names.

“I’d hoped to finish the year on a little bit higher note, but any way you look at it, this year has been tremendous. I’ve got a great group of people around me, and for that I’m really thankful.”

Her GK Motorsports team is a finalist for the NHRA Full Throttle Hard Working Crew award which will be given out at the NHRA Awards Ceremony on Monday night. Enders’ team won the award last year.