Erica Enders just missed out on a second straight win, but she did leave Charlotte with something pretty valuable: the Pro Stock points lead.
The two-time world champ once again dominated qualifying and advanced to the semifinals, taking over the points lead with three races remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Next on Enders’ list is trying to extend that lead in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro as she heads to Dallas for this weekend’s Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
“My goal going into Charlotte was to leave with the points lead and the second part of that goal is to never give it back,” Enders said. “We’ll do our best to keep it. We’ll go to Dallas and it’s a track that’s been good to us in the past. Our goal is to leave with another cowboy hat and belt buckle.”
It’s an exciting time for the Texas native heading into the home track race for the Elite Motorsports team.
She has qualified in the top spot at all three Countdown to the Championship races, making the quickest run in three of the four qualifying sessions at each of the past two stops, putting the team on a good path heading to Dallas.
The team tested earlier this week to help maintain that consistency, knowing full well what another playoff win could do for the team’s title chances.
“Our efforts during qualifying have been huge,” Enders said. “On (Monday in Charlotte), we had the car to beat for sure. We went to immediate tire shake in the semifinals. But we definitely learned from that and part of the reason we’re testing (Wednesday), and going into Dallas the most prepared we can be. My crew chiefs (Mark Ingersoll and Rick Jones) definitely have a handle on the car and I just have to try to make as few mistakes as possible.”
With it being the home track race for Elite Motorsports, Enders knows plenty of friends and family will be on hand for the pivotal playoff race.
While it will be a packed pit area, Enders knows the importance of staying locked in. She sees a number of similarities between how this Countdown to the Championship has gone compared to her two previous title seasons, and Enders will now look to finish the job like she did those two years.
She came through with a win in Dallas in 2015 in the midst of that incredible season, and another top-notch performance in her home state would add another strong mark in her impressive 2019 campaign.
“I think we just do what we do and don’t take our eyes off the goal. This Countdown feels like 2014 and 2015 to me,” Enders said. “We’re back in championship form so it’s big to have that mindset where you don’t back off or don’t let your guard down.
“It’s all mental and that’s the most challenging aspect of all it. The biggest thing is stay positive, keep our focus and not let any distractions in. This is our championship to lose, but there’s a lot of racing left and a lot of heavy competition out there, so we’ll see what happens and do the best we can.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20.