01.29.09: As if Ford fans didn't have enough to cheer about with the highly anticipated debut of the second-generation Cobra Jet Mustangs in Stock competition at the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals, they'll have additional excitement with the comeback of Erica Enders, who is slated to run all 24 NHRA national events this year in Jim Cunningham's Pro Stock Mustang.
For Enders, the only female driver to have reached a final round and qualified No. 1 in Pro Stock, her return will unfold in multiple stages. She said, "We'll be at Pomona with Jim's current Mustang that I drove at last year's Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. Jim has commissioned Don Ness and Jerry Haas to each build a 2010 Mustang with the new body style, which we hope to take delivery on in April. And Jim has also worked out an agreement with Ford to have some research-and-development work done with both the 500-cid Ford wedge engine and the aerodynamic enhancement of the Mustang bodies." Said Cunningham, "We are really excited about having Erica join our team as well as the working relationship that we've established with Ford. Over the winter, Ford has done some work with our existing parts, such as relocating the lifter bores so that we can obtain a higher rpm level to raise the power band. But the real gains will hopefully materialize later this year when we will have new blocks and cylinder heads from Ford that will incorporate many technological improvements developed by Ford's engineering department."
Said North America Motorsports Director of Ford Motor Co. Brian Wolfe, "We are excited about working with Erica and Jim on their efforts in Pro Stock. We are working on a new cylinder block and cylinder head that we hope to get approved by NHRA for competition later this year." The engine research-and-development program is being financed by Cunningham, but Ford will be providing the very valuable engine engineering support along with wind-tunnel time while working in conjunction with Don Ness on the development of the '10 Mustang Pro Stock body.
"Last year was very tough for me not being able to compete, but I am very glad that I attended as many races as I did last year in order to maintain my contacts with NHRA racing, and it was my trip to Indianapolis that made all this happen," said Enders. Cunningham had entered the 2008 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals to compete in Pro Stock but had to withdraw at the beginning of the event because of a family emergency and picked Enders to be his last-minute replacement. Although Enders did not qualify, the effort marked the beginning of what would evolve into their current business relationship and Enders' return to racing. "I am obviously very excited about the potential of this new team," she said. "We are thrilled with every aspect of the operation, ranging from the cooperation that we are getting from Ford to the new paint scheme on the car, which is very different from anything I've driven in the past. And it's going to be great to be back in contact with all of our fans, whom I have missed so much."
Cunningham, who has owned Capitol Raceway in Maryland since 1974 and owns a construction business, said, "I have been a Ford fan for virtually all my life. My father bought me a Chevy when I was 16 in 1954, and I didn't like it. My next car was a Ford, and I've stuck with them ever since. Watching such Ford heroes as Bill Lawton, Gas Ronda, Dick Brannan, Don Nicholson, and others not only inspired me to race Fords, but I've also used Ford vehicles for my business operations. I've had as many as 80 Ford pickups at one time for my construction operation.
"We expect to show some moderate improvement at Pomona with the reworked engine, but what we are really looking forward to are the performance gains we hope to obtain from the new engine program and the new Mustang body later on this season. It will take some time to refine these new components where they will be at maximum potential. But it will be worth the wait if we can once again establish Ford as a major contender in Pro Stock." Enders' primary sponsor is Dragstar, a company owned by Mark and Gina Whisnant that markets a line of girls' clothing; other backers are major associate sponsor Mastercam, Ford, Sparco Safety Equipment, Momentum Bio Fuels (owned by Enders' father, Gregg), Royal Purple, Master Formula, and Lupe Tortilla.
Sure is an interesting thread. Bikes and drag boats are my favorites. We once had a Top Alcohol boat race on the Columbia River a mile from my house. Had to give up the venue due to a little current shear half way through the course.
I’ve never actually seen Pro Stock or fuel bikes in person, but many times have watched lesser classes in the 1/8 and quarter miles. Always fascinated me how a pro drag rider might get into the high nines on a stock bike like a Hayabusa, but put a regular street rider on the bike for the Friday night drags and he’ll be lucky to get into the low elevens.
All I have is a CR500 dirt bike — real quick in the 16th!