While Danica Patrick was making motorsports history at NASCAR's Daytona 500, the NHRA’s own history-making female driver Erica Enders-Stevens was winning for the first time in 2013. Enders-Stevens joined Tony Schumacher from Top Fuel and Ron Capps from Funny Car on the professional’s Winner’s Circle stage at Phoenix.
The victory at Firebird International Raceway was Enders-Stevens fifth win overall after making sports history last season as the first female winner in Pro Stock with a win at Joliet last summer (source: Yahoo! Sports). She eventually would win four events in 2012 and to put all this in perspective, Enders-Stevens has five wins over the past 15 events, meaning she's won 33% of all NHRA Pro Stock meets over that stretch of races.
Plenty of teachers
Enders-Stevens' Cagnazzi Racing Pro Stocker was not quicker in the quarterfinals or the finals but her reaction times were, meaning Erica was certainly earning her wins with driving skill. With two of the best leavers in drag racing sitting in her camp, it’s no wonder her reaction times are good. Her crew chief Dave Connolly, who should be driving a Pro Stock rather than tuning it, is known for his incredible reaction times. And Erica’s new husband Richie Stevens made a name for himself this past decade as one of the quickest drivers in Pro Stock. Richie should be driving too. Both Dave and Richie will likely be seen in a racecar later this year. In the meantime, Erica benefits from their expert mastery of quick lights.
The win at Phoenix, which was the second event on the 24-race Mello Yello calendar, may have been the last race at the track in Chandler, Arizona. Notices were sent out saying that Firebird was closing after the Gila River Indian Community had decided against continuing the lease. Yet, rumors have surfaced that the track would indeed be staying open (source: Arizona Auto Scene). More rumors persisted that the NHRA would be back in 2014, but as of now, the situation is fluid.
In any case, the victory for Erica Enders-Stevens moved her up to second in the standings of Pro Stock as the series takes a three week break before the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.
Drag racing’s diverse culture has left doors open for any kind of participant and as Erica said last season after her momentous win at Joliet’s Route 66 Raceway near Chicago: "This is unbelievable. For all of the kids who were told they couldn't do it - you can do it." And what she just might do is win this year’s championship. More history awaits.