ERICA ENDERS GRABS NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT IN READING
The regular season wasn’t great for reigning and five-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders.
However, Enders and her Elite Motorsports team is right in the mix for Enders to win world title No. 6 at the first race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship – the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa.
Enders proved that with a blistering 6.494-second elapsed time at 211.13 mph on Friday, which held on for the No. 1 qualifying spot through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions.
Then, to prove her Friday run was no fluke, she clocked a 6.501-second time in Q3 and a 6.504-second lap in Q4.
“It was definitely cool to follow up (Saturday) with two really great runs,” Enders said. “I think we were third for the session, the first one today, and first in the session (Saturday night). I’m super proud of my team. We made some changes this morning to try to pick up a little bit, and it went the opposite direction, so obviously, we fixed it, and we were able to outrun the field on the last run (in Q4). We have a challenging race day ahead of us (Sunday), and we have to make sure everything goes right and double-check all of our stuff.
“I’m excited, and I’m proud of our guys. We have really turned this season around from how we started to being 15th in points earlier this summer to the No. 3 position we entered Reading in.”
This is Enders’s third No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 32nd of her decorated career.
With the bonus points Enders collected on Friday and Saturday, she moved up to second in the points standings.
“It is definitely huge,” Enders said about the momentum of her team. “We were waiting for that pendulum to swing back in our direction after our really sorry start for the year. We knew with hard work and determination, and the guys have this awesome, never-quit attitude and this amazing tenacity, and I’m proud of them. It is not something that is easy to go through. As a team, we have been through the trenches before, but this was a tough one, but we rallied together. A lot can change in these next six races, but we are going to ride this wave as long as we can.”
Enders will square off against Val Smeland in the first round on Sunday, which gets underway at 9:30 a.m. (ET).
“I’m not a morning person, but it will be okay,” Enders said. “We got stuck in a lot of traffic (Saturday), which is a good indication of how the fan turnout was going to be. It is really excited to the fans packed as much as they are, and as I mentioned up here (Friday), how much they love Pro Stock, which is refreshing. Early start (Sunday) at 9:30 in the morning, so we will probably have to leave the hotel at 3:30 or 4:30 a.m. to get here (on time), but we will be ready to go.”
As the track temperature began creeping up Saturday, Enders and her crew chief Mark Ingersoll were in tune as she prepared for her runs in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/Scag Chevy Camaro.
“I always talk to my crew chief beforehand, and the atmospheric conditions were conducive to do a little bit better, but then the track temperature and other things came into play and made it to where we couldn’t run better than our 49 (Friday). Then (Saturday afternoon), it definitely got hot. I could feel it in the race car. The confidence in my crew chief’s voice was really exciting. I always ask him, ‘How does it look?’ before I fire the car behind the water box, and he said, ‘We are fixing to crush them,’ and we did just that, and it was really exciting for us.”
Enders won world championships in 2014-15, 2019-2020 and 2022. In the process, she has won 45 national events in Pro Stock – add that to the Wally she won in Super Gas in 2004 in Houston, and she is tied with Angelle Sampey for most national event wins by a woman in NHRA history at 46.
“The cool temperatures help, but it also has to be dry temperatures,” Enders said about his thoughts about Sunday. “With the rain coming in, I’m not what that will do to the humidity or water grains in the air, and we will just have to see. If it is cooler and just as dry, you can definitely look for faster numbers out there.
“It is going to change significantly (Sunday) as the clouds roll in; it will change starting line prowess, and we will just have to re-evaluate everything going into (Sunday). It is a new day, and we have to dig deep and do our best.”
Enders acknowledged the intensity is at a new level with the start of the Countdown.
“You notice, more so, in the personality of the drivers,” Enders said. “Everybody has a more serious face on, and they are not as friendly in the staging lanes, which is okay because it is time to get down to business. I feel really good. My shoulders feel light, and I feel happy.”