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.”
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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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