LAS VEGAS – Erica Enders-Stevens raced to victory in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, closing out an action packed Saturday at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In other racing on Saturday, Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) earned No. 1 qualifying positions and will lead their categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ fourth stop of the year.
Enders-Stevens entered the K&N Horsepower Challenge field as an alternate for the sidelined Mike Edwards but took full advantage and beat fan-vote winner Dave Connolly in the final with a performance of 6.646 seconds at 208.39 mph to pocket a $50,000 paycheck. The No. 3 seed was runner-up to Allen Johnson at last season’s bonus event, but she piloted her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to her first win in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, becoming the first female winner of the special bonus race.
“We’ve had a great hot rod all year and it really came together for us two weeks ago in Gainesville,” said Enders-Stevens. “We set the national record but lost in the final round on a holeshot, so it was great to give something back to my guys.”
The final with Connolly pitted Enders-Stevens against her former crew chief, a matchup that both wanted to take for bragging rights. The Houston native brushed it off, mentioning that it was her job to focus only on her lane and run.
“Part of being a professional athlete is having to put personal things aside for business, and it is a true challenge and something I work hard on,” she said. “It’s about me getting up on the wheel and the guys putting a great race car underneath me to get from Point A to Point B.”
In Top Fuel, Brown secured his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 35th of his career with his 3.768 at 325.14 in his Matco Tools dragster. Brown’s 3.7-second run was one of five 3.7s during the final qualifying session and the Don Schumacher Racing driver snatched the top position from series points leader Doug Kalitta on the last pass of the final session.
“You could see as the track got tighter the crew chiefs were getting it together and we saw some phenomenal runs,” Brown said. “Doug put that 3.77 on the board right in front of us, so I knew it was time to get to work. We had just been picking at it, but I saw my boys go into the box and make some adjustments I just said, ‘Uh oh, here we go. This is where it gets good,’ and it just went A to B.”
Brown noted the stiff competition of the Top Fuel category so far in 2014 and the runs from qualifying showed a similar pattern.
“It’s going to be a fight like this all year,” Brown said. “It’s not going to be just the fastest car, but the most efficient car that makes great laps the most often. We’re looking forward to that challenge.”