LAS VEGAS – Back-to-back Pro Stock champion Erica Enders went from nearly not qualifying to collecting her first victory of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, grabbing the Pro Stock win on Sunday at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) and Ryan Oehler (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the second race of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
In her 300th career start, Enders, a four-time Pro Stock champion, picked up her 30th career win by going 6.656 seconds at 205.88 mph in the final round in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to beat teammate Aaron Stanfield, Deric Kramer and Mason McGaha.
Enders, who won her second straight race at Las Vegas and eighth overall at the facility, slipped into the qualifying field at No. 13 on her last attempt on Saturday, becoming the first Pro Stock competitor to win from 13th since 2006. She stayed perfect over her last six final-round appearances and became the first driver to win a four-wide race from the bottom half of the field.
“I guess today is all about threes,” Enders said. “I really want to give a big thank you to my guys. It is frustrating to go out and shake your butt off (the first two qualifying) rounds. They got down to business today and that’s all that matters. I’m so proud of my team and I freaking love Las Vegas.”
Enders was second in both of the first two quads, using a holeshot to advance in the second round, before the final-round win. Stanfield won his second-round quad and went 6.667 seconds at 205.26 mph in the finals to finish as runner-up.
In Top Fuel, Torrence capped off a memorable stretch with his fifth four-wide victory, going 3.823 seconds at 321.73 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster in the final round to beat Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican and Antron Brown. It gives Torrence his first victory of the year and 41st in his career.
The win for Torrence, who has won three straight Top Fuel titles, comes after celebrating the birth of his first child less than two weeks ago, his birthday on Saturday and his mother’s birthday on Sunday. After qualifying second, Torrence won his first two quads and cruised to the win in the final round against three standout drivers.
“There’s nothing better than being a dad, and happy birthday to my mom, and we had Dom Lagana standing on the starting line with me. There’s a lot of cool stuff that happened today,” Torrence said. “I’m taking my little girl home her very first Wally. We had to work hard to get it done today, but we got it done and I’m proud of it.”
Kalitta finished as the runner-up in the class, going 3.866 seconds at 270.75 mph in his 106th career final round. He won his first quad and finished second to Torrence in the second round to advance to the finals.
Tasca picked up his first Funny Car victory in nearly two years and his seventh overall thanks to a run of 3.938 seconds at 328.46 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang in the finals.
In a loaded Funny Car final, Tasca outlasted defending world champ Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson and Ron Capps, narrowly slipping past Hagan at the finish line. Tasca also earned his first four-wide win in the process, with it coming on the weekend where the Ford Mustang celebrated its 57th birthday.
“It’s so special. My dad hasn’t been out here in a long time and it’s great to have him out here,” Tasca said. “Happy birthday to Mustang, and I’m so privileged to be able to drive the quickest and fastest Mustang on the planet, so thank you to Ford.”
Hagan went 3.955 seconds at 324.98 mph to finish as the runner-up. He was second in the first-round quad and won his second-round quad to move to his 66th final. Wilkerson’s 3.922-second pass at 320.43 mph was the quickest run of the final round, but Tasca and Hagan were both quicker on the starting line.
Oehler was in a celebratory mood after earning his second Pro Stock Motorcycle victory on his Flyin’ Ryan Racing EBR, going 6.911 seconds at 194.83 mph in the final round to beat Cory Reed, Steve Johnson and a red-lighting Scotty Pollacheck.
He overcame significant adversity throughout the weekend to gain his first four-wide victory, winning his first-round quad and finishing second a round later to Johnson to move to the final round. Oehler, who earned his first win last season, was impressive in the final round, posting a great reaction time and picking up the strong wire-to-wire win.
“We started the weekend off in the sand at the end of the track and round one, we basically ruined the engine,” Oehler said. “We changed motors and made a rapid turnaround, and I can’t thank my family, my team, my crew and my sponsors enough. This is awesome. We got our second Wally and there’s going to be more.”
Reed finished as the runner-up after going 6.948 seconds at 193.10 mph, advancing to his second career final round. He took second in all three quads on Sunday.