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Women Polish Off Opponents To Earn Seattle NHRA Trophies

Pro Stock's Erica Enders (left) and Funny Car's Courtney Force celebrate their historic drag-racing victories Sunday at Seattle's Pacific Raceways following the O'Reilly Northwest Nationals. (Photo by Ron Lewis)
Pro Stock's Erica Enders (left) and Funny Car's Courtney Force celebrate their historic drag-racing victories Sunday at Seattle's Pacific Raceways following the O'Reilly Northwest Nationals. (Photo by Ron Lewis)

Antron Brown and Allen Johnson were sweepless in Seattle Sunday following the National Hot Rod Association's O'Reilly Northwest Nationals.

Instead, Pro Stock's Erica Enders, Funny Car's Courtney Force, and Super Street's Megan Ellingson stole the show at Pacific Raceways, proving on the podium that -- in Force's words -- "it really shows the men we're out here not just to race. We're out here to beat them, and we're out here to win."

Top Fuel winner Steve Torrence saw the women cleaning house with their opponents on the racetrack as he sat in his Capco Contractors Dragster, awaiting his final-round match against Shawn Langdon. He said he didn't mind that their historic achievements eclipsed his. He said they motivated him to reach the winners circle.

"I was sitting in the car in line to run and saw Erica win and then Courtney. I knew I definitely wanted to be the guy to stand in the middle of them. There was no way I wanted to lose this one," the 29-year-old single driver said with a big grin.

"The funny thing is we get in the cart coming back [to the winners circle], Erica is there and Autumn [Robert Hight's daughter and Courtney Force's niece] and Courtney's in there," Torrence said, "and it dawned on me that I was the oldest one in there."

Age didn't matter. Gender was the hot topic Sunday, as the results marked the first time in NHRA history that two women have won in professional classes in the same day and pushed the Funny Car class' number of female winners to three.

The Traxxas Ford Mustang driver joined her father (15-time Funny Car champion John Force) and older sister Ashley Force Hood as a Funny Car winner. She also expanded the Funny Car women's club that includes the Force sisters and Melanie Troxel.

In making her third final round in the past five races, Force was seeking her second career victory and second at Seattle. She earned her first Wally statue in 2009 at Pacific Raceways in Jerry Darien's Top Alcohol Dragster.

Enders established herself as one of Pro Stock's elite with her second victory in five races.

She and Force are decidedly different in their demeanor but just as assured that they could be more than race winners. They could be champions -- like Top Fuel pioneer Shirley Muldowney and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Angelle Drago.

As for their styles, Enders said of Force, "She gives a heck of a interview, so I hate following her!" She said her dad tells her before her final-round appearances, "Act excited" and she always tells him, "Daddy, I am excited." So she conceded that, "That's just me. I'm straight-faced all the time. But believe me, on the inside I'm going crazy. But I do need to take some interview lessons from her [Courtney Force]. She's tremendous."

They had the chance at Chicago in late June to share the winners circle, but Force lost to Jeff Arend. Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Cassie Simonton also was in the final there at Route 66 Raceway that day but lost to Frank Manzo.

But Sunday at Seattle, the women were hotter than Starbuck's coffee, as efficient as Microsoft, and flying as fast and soaring as high as Boeing jets. And neither Force nor Enders hesitated in the least when they spoke about the idea of winning their respective series crowns.

"Why not?" Force said. "Why not battle it out? We have a good car and nothing to lose. Why not go after the championship?"

Enders said he's capable of winning it all. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I was," she said. "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."

Even John Force, who desperately wants his own 16th championship, is a believer.

In his eccentric elocution, he said, "It's a sport for the women. It's always been a man's sport, but boy, the rules are changing, girl."

No one was going to argue with that Sunday.

Meanwhile, Top Fuel's Brown and Pro Stock's Johnson missed their chances to win this third race on the 5,700-mile, three-state, three-consecutive-weekend grind known as the Western Swing. Although Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) had the chance to add their names to the seven who have achieved a three-race jackpot on the loop through Denver and Sonoma, Calif., neither could close the deal. Langdon beat Brown in Round 2, and Enders defeated Johnson in the semifinals.

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