The second may have been more important than the first.
At least in the case of Erica Enders, who became the first woman to win an NHRA Pro Stock event July 1 in Joliet, Ill. The driver of the GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt followed up that historic victory with career win No. 2 Aug. 5 in Seattle. That victory not only validated Enders’ place in Pro Stock, but secured her spot in The Countdown To The Championship.
“The first victory was the historic one,” said Enders. “It answered all the questions of whether she was going to get there or not. This one was of equal importance because it shut up the critics that said I was a one-hit wonder.
“I never lacked the confidence in my team and in my car, for that matter. Winning last weekend definitely does help out with the mental side of things for the next race.”
Every Enders’ victory has been historic so far. Last week, however, she shared the spotlight with Courtney Force, who won her first title in the Funny Car division.
“It was a tremendous afternoon,” Enders said in a news conference Wednesday. “We had a really great race car all weekend long and Seattle was a very tricky track for Pro Stock being that it was so hot and it was kind of a one-lane track. We definitely had the car and were able to get it done. I made sure to stay down there (finish line) because I was cheering for Courtney to win. And when she came around the corner it was just really exciting to see her and the guys celebrate. Definitely cool for our sport and for Courtney.”
Enders’ historic victory almost came a year earlier at Brainerd International Raceway, site of next weekend’s Lucas Oil Nationals, which runs Aug. 17-19.
Enders qualified eighth at last year’s event and knocked off Ron Krisher, Jason Line and Rodger Brogdon before falling victim to Duluth native Greg Anderson in the finals. It was one of three finals appearances for Enders.
Despite the loss, it was experience gained.
“Last year was close,” Enders said. “We made it to the final round against Greg. We just weren’t able to come out on top. It was nice to get Greg back at Chicago for that first win.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Brainerd. I’ll be coming back with a lot of confidence, especially after winning last week.”
In 15 events this season, Enders has three semifinals to go with her two wins. She owns a 20-13 round record and is sixth in the season points standings with 941 points, or 383 points behind leader Allen Johnson.
Enders said her success this season is all due to confidence.
“It’s huge as a driver having that full trust in your guys and how the car was prepared,” she said. “Knowing your car is going to be consistent each time you let the clutch out takes a lot of worry and wonder off your mind. You can concentrate even more on the task at hand.”
And that means driving fast and winning, something Enders did at BIR last season. She’ll hope to repeat that and go one spot further this season.
“We keep extensive notes on every track and we’ve been racing at Brainerd for quite some time so we have a lot of data there,” Enders said. “We expect the weather conditions to be similar to what they were last year.”