Howell applauds Enders’ success, looks ahead to better days
JOLIET, IL – As one of just two women drivers currently competing in the ultra-tough NHRA Pro Stock division, Grace Howell was thrilled to see friend and competitor Erica Enders finally break through for her first professional a victory at last weekend’s O’Reilly Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet. Following her final round victory over four-time champion Greg Anderson in the final round, Enders became the first woman to win an NHRA Pro Stock event.
“I am so excited for Erica,” said Howell. “Neither one of us have ever believed that a woman driver can’t be competitive in Pro Stock and yesterday, she removed all doubts. This was a big moment not just for her, but for the entire class. I am so proud of her.”
The career paths taken by Howell and Enders are very similar. Both drivers come from racing families and got their start in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League program. Howell and Enders also enjoyed success in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Sportsman Series before becoming professionals and Enders used to drive the Cunningham Motorsports Mustang that Howell currently pilots.
“I have nothing but respect for Erica because I know how hard she’s worked to get where she is today,” Howell said. “We both dreamed about racing in Pro Stock and we each managed to make that dream come true. Now, I want to be where she is; standing up there holding one of those (NHRA Wally trophies). Now, I’m more determined than ever to get there.”
Howell’s weekend in Joliet ended prematurely as she was unable to break into the tough 16-car field in her Cunningham Motorsports Mustang. Howell drove to a best of 6.74-seconds, but was short of the 6.65-seocnd bump spot.
“Our weekend did not go as planned,” Howell said. “We made decent runs but unfortunately, none of them were good enough to qualify. This race is difficult because you have nighttime qualifying on both Friday and Saturday night, which is rare. That means you need to use an entirely different set-up from one run to the next and we just missed it. It also hurt that (team owners) Jim and Gloria Cunningham weren’t here this weekend. They were missed.”
Thankfully for Howell, she will get another chance to qualify this weekend as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series moves to Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals.