Erica Enders could feel things starting to swing her way, and after a final-round appearance on Sunday, the two-time Pro Stock world champion may be peaking at the perfect time.
Enders wanted her first win of 2019 at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, but she ended up with her second runner-up of the year and left Brainerd with a significant confidence boost.
“I’ve got a good racecar underneath me and the guys on the team have gained some confidence,” Enders said. “Hearing the confidence in their voice gives me confidence and it allows us to have a little bit of our old swagger back. We had the same motor all weekend in my car and hopefully we’re onto something. We just lost a really awesome drag race in the final round.”
That came to No. 1 qualifier Jason Line, when his 6.597 in the final round beat Enders’ 6.604 at 207.59 by a mere 20 inches in a thrilling duel.
Both were incredible on the tree – Enders had a slightly better .014 – and Line heaped praised on her in his post-race interview, calling Enders “as good as anybody ever, as far as letting her left foot out. She’s as good as there has ever been.” With her remarkable track record on the starting line, the compliment wasn’t lost on Enders.
“To hear that, it’s pretty awesome,” Enders said. “I’ve looked up to him and it means a lot. Jason has always been good to me. He’s a good man and good competitor.”
That said, Enders still wanted her first win of the year. In qualifying second, Enders’ Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro was impressively consistent, running 6.616 at 206.99. She had a pair of 6.58s and 6.60s during eliminations, adding four more standout reaction times during eliminations as well.
It was a complete package and with Brainerd sitting as the penultimate regular-season race of the 2019 NHRA Pro Stock season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We definitely got it back, and we’ve got a good racecar at a great time,” said Enders, who has 23 career wins and 48 final-round appearances. “I’m glad to have things start to go our way, I’m driving well and it’s all coming at a good time.”
The race marked the 11th of 18 races during the 2019 Pro Stock season, leaving only the U.S. Nationals in Indy in two weeks before the Countdown to the Championship begins.
Enders moved to seventh in points, but the next step is ensuring the strong showing in Brainerd serves as the starting point for a late-season run. If it does, a third championship is within reach, and Enders is excited to see her team work between now and Indy to close out the regular season.
“We’ll head back to the shop and go to work,” Enders said. “We’ve got the power, obviously, and I think we learned some things with the motor in my car. This weekend was a big step in the right direction. I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but I’m proud of what we accomplished, and I’m proud of our persistence and determination. We’ll just keep plugging away.”
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 28-Sept. 2 with the last race of the regular season, the prestigious 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.