Erica Enders-Stevens ready to become first female NHRA Pro Stock champ

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Erica Enders-Stevens has long idolized legendary Top Fuel Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney for being the first woman to win not just one, but three NHRA championships (1977, 1980, 1982), as well as former three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Angelle Sampey (2000-2002).

In Sunday’s 50th anniversary and season-ending AutoClub NHRA Finals, Enders-Stevens has the chance to become idolized herself, as she can become the first woman in drag racing history to win the Pro Stock class championship.

“It would be very awesome to be able to make history,” Enders-Stevens said. “It would just show any other female that maybe even had a little bit of doubt that they weren’t capable or whatever.

“I’m a perfect example of a normal kid, through hard work and certainly surrounding myself with the right people and having such a solid support group, that anything is possible. I hope that’s the message that comes across to them.”

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Enders-Stevens comes into this weekend’s action 17 points ahead of former two-time Pro Stock champ (2006, 2011) Jason Line. Also mathematically still in the chase is Dave Connolly (-84 points) and Shane Gray (-111).

“You can’t get too ahead of yourself and dwell on what’s at stake, but at the same time, I’ve never been in this position in Pro Stock, and neither have any of the guys on my team,” Enders-Stevens said in an NHRA media release. “It’s definitely an interesting and awesome position to be in.

“But I try to just stay calm about it and focus on just one round, one at a time, and just going after it and doing our best and having fun most importantly.”

MORE: Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) close to wrapping up NHRA titles

The Pro Stock class has always been the grittiest class in drag racing because of its blue collar roots. The cars fans see race on the dragstrip are the closest there are to what those same fans drive on the streets and freeways.

Enders comes from blue collar roots and it would certainly be an accomplishment for her to not only win her first Pro Stock championship (she’s already the first woman to ever win a Pro Stock race), but also to be the first female to do so in a class that has up to this point been dominated primarily by male drivers.

Enders-Stevens has five wins this season, while Line has four. Line had been the Pro Stock points leader until the last race at Las Vegas, when he lost to Enders-Stevens in the semifinals (she’d go on to win the entire event in the final round).

But even though he’s back in second place in the points, Line is ready to give Enders-Stevens a real battle for the championship.

“It’s pretty simple, really,” Line said. “You have to go out there to win. There isn’t much more to it than that. Anything is possible, and I feel really good about this weekend.

“All we can do is go there and do the best we can. Of course sometimes you need a little racing luck as well, but we certainly have the ability to win the race, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

For Enders-Stevens, she has come from practically the shadows to having a career season that promises continued great performance next season even if she falls short in Sunday’s finals.

“This is the first time in my professional career that I have had such a solid group of guys that stands behind me and has my back,” she said. “That makes my job as a driver a lot easier.

“It’s a team deal and it’s just a really unique atmosphere, and I’m really proud and honored to be their driver. But they have shown exactly what they are made of this year, and when it comes down to crunch time, everybody pulls their weight, and it’s an awesome environment to work in.”

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”