When Erica Enders thinks back to her first Pro Stock championship run in 2014, she vividly remembers a noticeable change in the atmosphere during the Countdown to the Championship.
That will again be evident as the NHRA’s six-race playoffs begin this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway, but just like she did five years ago, the two-time Pro Stock world champ plans to embrace that intensity as she aims to add another world title to her collection.
“Just the gravity of it was insane. It’s kind of cool, actually,” Enders said. “I definitely think the intensity can be sensed. You definitely feel a difference. It’s just about taking that pressure and making it positive.”
There are plenty of positives for Enders and her Elite Motorsports team heading to Reading thanks to back-to-back final round appearances in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
She’ll start the Countdown to the Championship fifth in points, 50 points back of the points leader and looking to start the playoffs on a strong note at Maple Grove Raceway. Based on what has happened lately and seeing a renewed confidence from crew chiefs Rick Jones and Marc Ingersoll, Enders is confident the team can continue its recent pace.
“I more determined than I’ve ever been,” Enders said. “I’m driving well and the really cool part, both of my crew chiefs, they have their swagger and confidence back. They’re ready and I have a really good car right now. It helps me a lot. We have a great car and I love hearing their confidence. It makes me confident and I can go up there with a clear mind. It’s kind of cool.”
Enders is driven by a pure desire to win a third world title, and her first career win at Maple Grove Raceway, as well as her first victory of the 2019 season, would certainly help the cause. Just missing out on a victory at Indy has only motivated the 23-time event winner, who has made a living out of thriving on on high-stakes moments.
“It’s not going to be an easy task, but I’m excited about it, I’m optimistic about it and I’m up for the challenge,” Enders said about competing for a third world title. “Just picturing the wins and the opportunity at a third championship, it excites me and motivates me. I literally think about it 24/7. I really do love it.”
The team tested in Tulsa in the week between Indy and Reading, which only add to the team’s confidence. If the pendulum is starting to swing in Enders’ favor like it appears to be, she know it’s important to start the playoffs on a strong note.
The championship won’t be won or lost at Maple Grove Raceway, but Enders’ first career win at the historic track would certainly set an ideal tone.
“It’s really exciting to race on the East Coast as a Pro Stock driver,” Enders said. “That’s where a lot of our fans are. That’s always exciting and encouraging, and that track has so much history in our spot. It will be cool and it should be a good weekend for Pro Stock racing.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 12:45 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday. Television coverage includes Friday Live from 7-8:30 pm ET on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) on Friday, as well as live coverage on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. ET on FS1.