On Sunday afternoon racing history was made at the 50th Anniversary National Hot Rod Association Finals (NHRA), in Pomona, California when Erica Enders Stevens became the first woman to win a Pro Stock Car drag racing Championship.
She joins fellow female drivers Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney in the top fuel class & Angelle Sampey in the pro stock motorcycle class (both who won three titles a piece), as the only women to win top level NHRA titles.
Erica Enders Stevens is not a rookie to drag racing, she started in a junior dragster when she was eight years old and progressed all the way to NHRA sportsman level and then to top level in 2005 driving for Victor Cagnazzi racing. She then left Cagnazzi racing in 2006 only to return in 2011 and stormed back on to NHRA’s Pro Stock (non supercharged), level with a vengeance.
She won her first NHRA Pro Stock national event right here at Route 66 Dragstrip in Joliet on July 2, 2012 and was the first woman to win an event in the top level Pro Stock series against Greg Anderson. She went on to win three more events that year and finish fourth in the championship that year.
In 2013 she came right back but only had two national event wins in a season where she only appeared at 13 national events (out of 24), but still finished sixth in the championship.
So in 2014 she left Cagnazzi racing again to join Elite Motorsports and dominated the season with 5 national event wins and 19-Time Top-3 Qualifiers even while missing two national events this season.
Also this year Erica set a National Speed Record – 215.55 mph (Englishtown), set Pro Stock Elapsed Time Record – 6.464 seconds (Englishtown), and won K&N Horsepower Challenge (Las Vegas), #1 Qualifier with New Track E.T. Record (Atlanta) and was # 1 qualifier five times (twice with new time records and speed records), and a new track record at Reading, Pennsyvania.
But she saved the best for last at this past weekend’s season finale at the iconic Pomona drag strip with not only clinching the championship but in dramatic fashion.
Like the NASCAR title race the same afternoon, a championship would require an event win by the champion. Erica’s day got interesting in the semi finals when she was lined up against Jonathan Gray and both had a reaction time (the time elapsed from when the staging light “Christmas tree” lights green and the driver takes off), of a perfect 0.00 (virtually unheard of for one driver much less two), and she went on to win that round of racing.
This forced the perfect championship final round between her and the contender Jason Line and with even more drama in this final round than the last round, both she and Jason “red lighted”, meaning they reacted before the Christmas Tree fully finished lighting, but Jason “red lighted” first at .011 and Erica reacted at a slower .002.
Thus Jason forfeits (in a normal red light situation the driver who red lights forfeits and the other driver automatically is awarded the win), and Erica automatically wins the round, the race and the Pro Stock Championship, becoming the first women to do so in that class.
But Erica is used to coming in first, both as a woman in her class of racing (13 wins and 26 final appearances for her career), and as a fast driver who continues to acquire more wins and make history.
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