NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders scored her third victory in a row with a win in the final round of eliminations in Sunday's fifth annual NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Enders bested rival Vincent Nobile on a holeshot to notch her seventh win of the season, tying her for the most wins in a season by a female driver and keeping her atop the Pro Stock points standings.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also went the Winner's Circle in the opening round of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Enders, the defending Pro Stock World Champion, came into this weekend's event as the points leader following her victories at Brainerd and Indianapolis.
Starting as the third qualifier on Sunday, Enders bested V Gaines, Chris McGaha and Allen Johnson to move onto her third-straight final round.
Facing Nobile for their second final-round showdown of the season, Enders was first off the line with a .01-second lead and managed to ahead as Nobile tried to track her down in the final 300 feet, but came up just inches short at the line with Enders winning on a holeshot, going 6.581 at 210.97 to Nobile's 6.575, 211.13.
Ender's victory was her third straight holeshot victory, and moved her past Shirley Muldowney for second on the all-time win list for female competitors in the NHRA. She also tied Angelle Sampey for the most wins in a season by a female driver.
"Winning three in a row is pretty significant for me," said Enders, who now leads Greg Anderson by 83 points . "We have won two in a row a lot. I don't know how many times. The closest I had got was winning Seattle and Brainerd and going to Indy in 2012 and finishing runner-up to my then teammate. To be able to finally do three in a row was pretty awesome.
"It's a huge confidence booster for our entire team and especially with this six race countdown. It's so crucial to not get complacent and to just show up every week and do your best. We've got three in a row right now. I'm very optimistic and very hopeful to carry that momentum through these next few races."
Antron Brown won his fifth race of the second and second straight at zMax Dragway with a win over J.R. Todd in the first final round between two African-American drivers in NHRA history.
Brown picked up early round wins over Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence and teammate Tony Schumacher to advance to his historic meetup with Todd.
In their first final-round meeting, Brown was first off the line with a slight starting-line advantage but quickly pulled out to a full car-length advantage as Todd appeared to slow just past the half-track mark, powering to the finish line with a time of 3.832 at 311.56 mph over Todd, who went 4.063, 286.32.
The win was the 52nd of Brown's career and third at zMax, and elevated him to the lead in the Top Fuel points standings by nine points over Schumacher.
"There is nothing like being up there for the final and you see your teammate Tony (Schumacher) and he says 'Go get 'em, AB' and that's what he did in the staging lanes," said Brown. "We went up there and were able to bring it home for DSR.
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"You want to start off strong (in the Countdown) because it's a sprint now. There's six races for the championship. Do the math. There's 24 rounds of racing left and the more rounds you win, the less other people have to catch you. Our main focus is one round at a time. We just let the chips fall where they fall and we give it all we have."
In Funny Car, Del Worsham took down top qualifier Tommy Johnson, Jr. to land his first win of the season and propel his Kalitta Motorsports team into the points lead.
After besting Dave Richards, Matt Hagan and John Force in the earlier rounds, Worsham advanced to his fourth final round of the season, hoping to end 20-race winless drought.
Meeting in the finals for just the second time in their careers, Worsham and Johnson left the line with nearly identical lights, and ran nearly side by side for the first 60 feet before Worsham started to gain a little bit of ground, edging Johnson at the finish by less than half a car-length. Worsham winning pass clocked in at 4.086 at 307.16 over Johnson's 4.119, 300.93.
Coupled with his Top Fuel victory in the 2011 Four-Wide Nationals, Worsham becomes the first driver in zMax Dragway history to win a final in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
"It was amazing to win, especially now that we are in the running for the championship," said Worsham, who collected hi 35th-career NHRA victory. "I think all those losses during the season really set the tone for this final round. We wanted to set the tone of the final, and we did. I am so proud of this entire DHL Toyota Camry team; [they] all came together for greatness today."
Worsham's victory gives him a six point edge over Johnson in the points standings, while Jack Beckman fell to third after falling out in the opening round.
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle World Champion Andrew Hines defeated local favorite Matt Smith for his first Wally of the season and 18th of his career, moving him to the top of the points standings.
Hines hit a near-perfect 0.007 light in the final round to jump out to an insurmountable lead that he carried to the finish, turning in a low ET of 6.880 at 195.11 mph over Smith's 6.910, 192.49 for his second zMax victory and extending his final-round winning streak against Smith to 5-0.
Hine's teammate Eddie Krawiec fell to second in the standings, tailing Hines by 20 points.
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