With a second NHRA Pro Stock victory in her hands, KLR Group driver Erica Enders and her GK Motorsports team have their sights set on a higher goal: The 2012 championship.
Enders stormed to victory in the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways on Sunday, her second win in five races.
The popular Enders beat defending Pro Stock champion Jason Line in the finals after halting Allen Johnson's two-race winning streak in the semifinals and taking out four-time champion Greg Anderson in the second round.
She remains sixth in the points standings, but her recent performance rightly puts her among Pro Stock's elite and makes her a title contender.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I was," Enders said. "We've got the team to do it. My dad has been helping me with the mental side of the game, staying positive and focused on the things I want to have happen and not dwelling on the negatives. The head game of drag racing is the most important part of this deal because that's something that can make or break you.
"We've definitely got the hot rod, we've definitely got the team, and I'm going to do my best to be that driver."
Enders' victory came a little more than a month after she became the first female to win in NHRA's ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, on July 1 at Chicago. Enders made more history Sunday, as she and Funny Car winner Courtney Force became the first women to share the pro winner's circle in an NHRA national event.
"This is a big family out here," Enders said. "All the girls tend to stick together for the most part. I couldn't be more proud of her. She's an awesome driver. She gives a heck of a interview, so I hate following her! But she did a tremendous job. I was hoping she'd get the win when we won in Chicago, but to share the stage with her, I was very honored and very proud of her.
"That's very cool to make history. To be a girl in a man's sport, it means a lot to all of us, I guarantee you."
Not only has Enders won two of the last five races, but she's also qualified in the top half of the field in every event over that span.
"I've said it over and over: People are the most important part of the puzzle, and I certainly have the people," Enders said. "That's something you cannot buy. They give me a great car week in and week out. They spend time away from their wives and kids to do this, to bring home the trophy on Sunday night. I'm honored to be their driver."
Enders qualified No. 4 for Seattle, beating Ron Krisher in the first round with a pass of 6.596 seconds at 209.56 mph to outrun Krisher's pass of 6.640 at 209.56. That set up an interesting matching with Anderson, whom Enders beat in the Chicago finale July 1.
But Enders was first off the line (.038 seconds to Anderson's .054) and stayed out front the entire lap, winning with a pass of 6.638 seconds at 209.20 mph over Anderson's 6.646 at 209.62.
Then, Enders had to face No. 1 qualifier Johnson, who had dominated the Pro Stock class of late, winning two races in a row on the Western Swing and posting the lowest elapsed time in the last 12 qualifying sessions.
"Allen and (wife) Pam are very good friends of mine," Enders said. "I know he wanted to sweep it, but I told him I was going to take that broom out of his hand. He wasn't leaving here with it."
Enders left first again (.030 to Johnson's .037) and was quicker again, going 6.624 seconds at 209.33 mph to beat Johnson's run 6.747 of 209.14 mph.
"I wasn't worried because yesterday on a 133-degree track, we went out and ran a 6.609 in the right lane," Enders said. "The hot-track setup is something that (crew chiefs) Dave Connolly and Tommy Utt are awesome at. If I hear a little bit of question in their voice on the radio, then I might start to worry. But they were confident. (Connolly) said, 'You've killed the Tree. We're going to the finals.' We all did our job, and it was awesome.
"I put it into fourth gear, and I looked over, and it didn't see him. I put it in fifth, and I looked again. I was like, 'Oh, my God we're going to beat him."
Enders' day wasn't done, of course, as she lined up in the final against two-time Pro Stock champ Line, who was the No. 6 qualifier. The left with nearly identical reaction times, but Enders' run was quicker, as she went 6.614 seconds at 209.65 mph to beat Line's 6.631 at 209.72 mph and secure her second career victory.
"Awesome," Enders said. "When I saw the win light on the wall, and heard my guys yelling in my helmet, I turned the corner and took a deep breath and thought, 'How blessed am I to get to be able to do this?'
"I'm hopeful we can continue to do really great things together."