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.
Watch Demo Video (8:54 mins) - - A new TV show about girls learning how to drag race at Frank Hawley's Drag Racing school in Gainesville, Florida. It's Survivor and American Idol meet drag racing. And did we mention that the contestants are all girls?
Two-time NHRA World Champion and world renowned drag racing school owner/instructor, Frank Hawley along with Kevin Deane and Oakville Lane Productions, Inc have teamed up to bring to the world one of the hottest new reality TV shows Girls in Drag. Kevin and I have been discussing this project for about a year now. Kevins background speaks for itself with the various shows he works on including PINKS, PINKS All Out and Pass Time. He has great creative capabilities and we work really well together. Were looking forward to getting a network to take this show so we can produce, what we think will be, one of the more entertaining reality shows on television today, explained Hawley. Each episode of Girls in Drag will not only prove to be entertaining, but will offer some pretty high stakes for the twelve ladies who will eventually be selected in an upcoming nationwide casting search for the series. In addition to becoming a national celebrity, the over-all winner of the show will receive a sponsored ride in a NHRA Super Comp Dragster, said Hawley.
Kevin Deane, of Oakville Lane Productions, found over the last five years in his work on several other popular drag racing reality shows, that there is a true need for something for the ever-growing amount of females interested in drag racing to become competitors. Having traveled throughout the country over the years, I have learned that the sport of drag racing is very accessible to many different people, unlike any other form of motorsports. I thought what if we took a dozen girls, sent them to the worlds best drag racing instructor, Deane pauses. And even though they had never done it before, could we turn one into a pro? This show will give drag racing more exposure. When you see a dozen girls from all walks of life, who have never raced, succeed with Franks great instruction, people are going to stop and think well wow if she can do it, I can do it, Deane added.
A demo of the series, (a demo is a short sample of what the show may look like), was shot recently at Frank Hawleys Drag Racing Schools Gainesville Raceway location. This demo can be viewed not only on the Oakville Lane Productions website but also on YouTube. We learned a lot just shooting the demo and a lot about how fiercely girls will compete, smiled Deane as he reflected on the shoot. What was cool was these girls knew it was just a demo and no one was going to win anything, yet they went for it. It was just amazing that they went at it like they did. We really appreciate the ladies who took part and helped us put this demo together. Although it was done like a show, they wont be in the show, Hawley elaborated on the online demo. When we get ready to shoot the actual TV show, which we are hoping that will take place this spring, we are going to be doing a nationwide search for the twelve girls who will compete on this show. The contestants are going to have to show that they can excel in this sport both on and off the track.
When we cast the actual show, were going to be looking for gals who have personalities. Were looking for a group of real characters, Deane explained, emphasizing on the character part. Girls that have an interest in drag racing but have never had a chance to take part. Maybe their dad, husband, boyfriend, has given them exposure to the track but theyve never had an opportunity to go give it a try. With the nationwide search, we want to find ladies who will really get out there and duke it out, because one person is going to win a chance of a lifetime.
To become the last woman standing and overall winner of Girls in Drag, Hawley points out that earning a NHRA license will only be one of the tests for the twelve contestants. Unlike the demo, when we shoot the actual show, were going to be doing a lot of things with the girls. Theyre not just going to be driving. They are going to have public relations instruction, learn how to work with the media and how to find and work with sponsors. They will take part in a lot of off-track activities, in other words the same types of things that professional drivers do. They are even going to do some work on the cars. Throughout this show, they are going to participate in a wide range of activities that a professional driver may be required to be a part of, added Hawley.
The initial plans are to have twelve drivers and as the show goes along be eliminated to eight, then to four. Those four remaining drivers will then compete at a to-be-named, real drag race. From there the ultimate winner will be chosen and awarded the sponsored ride in a NHRA Super Comp Dragster. Before casting for the actual TV show can commence, the shows producers want to hear from you. Visit www.oakvillelane.com and click on Girls in Drag. View the show demo, then email Kevin Deane your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions plus you can even let him know if you or someone you know might like to take part!