What a difference a week makes.
Last Sunday as Erica Enders exited her Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stocker after a stinging second round loss, she was met by a disgruntled male driver expressing his displeasure over a perceived show of poor sportsmanship. This week she exited to a different kind of man, one molded in silver.
Enders was presented with a silver anniversary Wally trophy for winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals by beating defending series champion Jason Line in the final round. She ran a 6.641, 209.61 pass to defeat Line’s 6.631, 209.72.
“This is as sweet of a win as I could hope for and I am so proud of my guys; they won this race today,” Enders said, her voice twinging with excitement. “They gave me a car to drive to the winner’s circle. Beating the drivers I did today was special because they were the ones I looked up to all my life.”
The week leading into the event had been one of tension related to the Sonoma incident where Greg Anderson called her out on the ESPN2 broadcast for actions related to a photograph he deemed unprofessional. Anderson’s decision to air the complaint on national television drew the ire of many race fans. The two patched their differences prior to reaching Seattle and Anderson apologized on Sunday’s ESPN2 broadcast after first apologizing to her.
“I don’t like drama or conflict … something I don’t dwell on at all,” admitted Enders. “Last week caught me off guard and I was blown away. I tried to talk to him right after that at the track but he didn’t want to talk much. He did call me on Tuesday and apologized. We have more important things to concern ourselves with and this is mouse nuts compared to what we have going on in the car.”
For as negative as Sonoma was, Seattle provided many positive storylines.
Enders was the No. 4 qualifier and beat Ron Krisher in the first round with the second quickest elapsed time of the round. Her victory clinched her a berth in the Countdown to the Championship.
Her next two victories were of monstrous proportions as she avenged the Sonoma loss to Anderson by outrunning him with a quicker 6.638. Then Pro Stock’s first female driver pulled off a feat no other male driver has been able to do during the Western Swing. She beat Alan Johnson.
Enders used a 6.624, 209.33 to end Johnson’s incredible 11 consecutive round winning streak. Johnson’s elimination ended the last opportunity for a driver to sweep the revered three-race west coast stretch.
Enders ran flawlessly on a hot track and gained a strong measure of confidence with a 6.609 elapsed time from the complex right lane during qualifying. Once she pulled off this feat, the rest were in cruise control.
“When I hear my guys talking calmly and cool, I am relaxed,” Enders admitted. “If I hear uncertainty, then I might worry. They told me to kill the tree that they had the rest of it.”
There was no worry on Sunday in Seattle.
“Headed into the Countdown, this is the right time to be gaining momentum,” Enders said. “Nothing will ever compare to my first win and when I saw my win-light and heard my guys yelling and as I turned the corner, I realized how blessed I am to do this.”
Enders also realized how much of a difference a week could make as well.
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