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Erica Enders No. 1 Saturday at NHRA Gatornationals

Six-time world champion Erica Enders in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/SCAG Power Equipment Pro Stock car held onto the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway after qualifying for Pro Stock was cut short to only three sessions due to inclement weather.

Enders picked up the 35th No. 1 qualifier of her career, her first at the Gatornationals, with a 6.549-second pass at 208.10 mph on Saturday afternoon. Enders, who earned eight bonus points for her qualifying efforts, is hoping the firsts continue into race day as she hunts down her first win at Gainesville Raceway, the only facility on tour she has not yet won at.

“I definitely feel confident. We have a really great JHG/Melling/SCAG race car this weekend. We’re on the heels of winning a pretty big race a few weeks ago and it seems to be translating just fine. But there’s really great cars out there and a lot of really good drivers so we just have to put our heads down and go to work and hope for no crazy parts failures or weird things happen. Keep the Gator in the pond and try to park the car in the winners circle tomorrow,” said Enders who is referencing her first round loss to teammate Jerry Tucker after her car failed to fire up on the starting line. “I would like to do well here in Gainesville. We really haven’t had much luck.”

In the first session Enders, who ran a 6.564 at 209.82, would be second quickest to teammate Cristian Cuadra’s 6.552 at 309.20 in his Corral Boots/Cuadra/Columbia Impex car. Enders would be quickest of each of the following qualifying tries with a 6.550 at 207.88 in the second session before laying down her No. 1 6.549 run.

“I’m very excited to try and get that first Gators win. I’ll be happy when I can quit talking about it and when everybody stops asking about it. I swear to goodness it’s very high on my to-do list, being the last track we haven’t won at. We want to get that monkey or gator off our back,” said Enders who will race teammate and Elite Motorsports crew member Kelley Murphy and his Jim Butner Auto/Industrial Rubber Technologies/JEGS entry in the first round of eliminations. “I’m really proud of Kelley and the progress that he’s made. I take a lot of pride in him. He’s very passionate about this and he puts all of his hard work into it. To be able to race him is going to be an honor. But it doesn’t matter who is in the other lane, I have to put my head down, put my  blinders on and do my own thing.”

Murphy, who made his NHRA Pro Stock debut, qualified for his first national event in the No. 16 spot off his first qualifying session run of 6.592 seconds at 203.25 mph. He also ran a 6.634 and a 6.630.

C. Cuadra stayed consistent through qualifying with 6.552-second runs through all three sessions picking up seven bonus points of his own. As the No. 2 qualifier, he’ll take on Larry Morgan in the first round with an opportunity to face Enders in the finals.

Eliminations at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway are slated to begin Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Television coverage of the event will continue on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with a qualifying show Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET and eliminations shows at 10:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. ET.

This story was originally published on March 10, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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