Erica Enders showed a glimpse of what could be special year for the Pro Stock standout when she was the No. 1 qualifier after the first day of the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on Friday.
Enders also displayed a killer performance on the starting line with reaction times of .001 and .014 during the first two rounds of eliminations on Monday.
But we also saw just how competitive things are expected to be this year in Pro Stock, as Enders suffered a narrow defeat to eventual event winner Bo Butner in the semifinals, as Butner’s 6.518 at 211.53 mph clipped Enders’ 6.527 at 211.93.
“Today, my car was fast. The first two rounds I was .001 and .014, but I missed it in the semifinals,” said Enders, who had a .070 reaction time against Butner. “As soon as I get back in the swing of things, we will be just fine. More than anything, I hate letting my guys down – win as a team, lose as a driver. But we will head to Phoenix with a positive attitude and see where race two puts us.”
By the looks of how the opening weekend went, the two-time Pro Stock world champ should be near the top of the field for the rest of year in what is expected to be an extremely competitive Pro Stock field.
After a productive off-season in the Elite Motorsports camp, Enders debuted a new Chevrolet Camaro from RJ Race Cars in impressive fashion, going a Friday-best 6.528 at 212.09.
She ended up qualifying No. 2 after Elite teammate Rodger Brogdon took the top qualifying spot, but Enders quickly found out she has a championship-caliber car.
After finishing fourth in points a year ago and grabbing one victory, Enders is motivated to make more frequent visits to the winner’s circle in 2019.
That didn’t happen on Monday, but it set a strong starting point for Enders as she chases her third career world championship.
“It feels awesome to start the year off with a great racecar,” said Enders, who has 23 career wins and 46 career final rounds. “We were confident after testing in Phoenix, but now we know we will have multiple championship contenders under our (Elite Motorsports) umbrella.”
The umbrella includes five-time Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., No. 1 qualifier Brogdon and Alex Laughlin, who also advanced to the semifinals before losing to Jason Line on Monday.
That bodes well for the upcoming stretch, which next includes a stop in Phoenix for the NHRA Arizona Nationals on Feb. 22-24.
Pomona, meanwhile, is just the first of 18 events during the new-look 2019 Pro Stock season, but Enders believes it’s only a sign of what’s to come for her and her Elite Motorsports team.
“My team had a great weekend,” Enders said. “Starting the season on the pole after Friday was huge. To come out swinging is crucial in this class. Every point matters and we qualified very well this weekend.”