Antron Brown, Erica Enders wrap up NHRA season titles
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Antron Brown and Erica Enders wrapped up season titles Sunday in the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Brown won his second Top Fuel championship when he won one more round than Tony Schumacher. Enders secured her second straight Pro Stock title when she won in the quarterfinals and Greg Anderson lost in the round. Enders then raced to her ninth victory of the season and fourth in a row at Las Vegas, while Brown lost in the semifinals to eventual winner Doug Kalitta.
Robert Hight won in Funny Car, and Andrew Hines topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field in the fifth event in the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Brown won his first title in 2012 and is the only black driver to win a major U.S. auto racing season championship. He opened the playoffs with three consecutive wins and has won seven times this season.
“We were greedy. We really wanted to have the Toyota Wally (trophy) next to that big Wally, but, hey, we’ll take the big one any day,” said Brown, whose Don Schumacher Racing team earned $500,000 for the championship. “I just lost a race to Doug Kalitta by five-ten-thousandths of a second. It’s probably the closest race of all year. That’s how competitive this class has gotten, and that’s what makes this so big and makes it worth it when you can go out there and win a championship like our team has.”
Enders joined Angelle Sampey as the only women in NHRA history to successfully defend a season championship. Sampey won three straight Pro Stock Motorcycle crowns from 2000-02.
“My guys are so incredible,” said Enders, who earned $250,000. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get the right people around you. To do it in front of all my sponsors and family here this weekend it is incredible. To cap off a second world championship here at Vegas is just crazy.”
She beat Bo Butner in the final.
Kalitta raced to his third victory of the season and 38th overall, outrunning Larry Dixon in the “It was a good day for us,” Kalitta said. “As we were going rounds, once we got past Antron cause that was an incredibly close race, I was feeling good for the finals. Not sure what happened there in the final. It was a lucky win for us, but we’ll take it. It’s Vegas and anything can happen.”
In Funny Car, Hight earned his second victory of the season and 36th of his career, powering his Chevy Camaro past Tommy Johnson Jr.
“It’s really a bummer to me to not be in the points chase this late in the year,” Hight said. “We’re not used to that. It drives you because you want to be there. It makes you dig deep so we’re not in the same position next year. We got a win out of it. Del Worsham’s a good friend of mine. I’m pulling for him to win the championship, but Auto Club pays me to win races, and luckily, we got the job done today.”
Johnson is 97 points back in third place behind leader Del Worsham and Jack Beckman. Worsham and Beckman lost in the second round, and Worsham leads by 38 points heading to the season-finale in Pomona, California.
Hines raced to his fourth victory of the season and third in the Countdown, powering past Jerry Savoie in a final with major title implications. Hines increased his series lead to 46 over Savoie.
“The biggest thing was that final round battle between one and two in points,” Hines said. “We’ve been running neck and neck all weekend long. I was in damage control all day and I was lucky enough to turn on a few win lights. That final might’ve looked pressure packed but I was calm and confident. I knew I needed a good race. The team was able to make the motorcycle go quicker in the final and we got the win.”