In a wild and unprecedented NHRA racing year that’s featured a sudden stop, a five-month break and then a frenetic finish, the chance for Erica Enders to make history all comes down to this weekend’s NHRA Finals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The defending Pro Stock champ leads challengers Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin Jr. by 55 points heading into Sin City. A chance to repeat in her Mell-Gear Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro is on Enders’ mind, but so is the chance to make history. A fourth world championship has been the goal all along this year, a feat that would give her more world titles than any female in NHRA history.
It puts a massive spotlight on her in the city of bright lights, but Enders and her team have made a career out of shining in those moments.
“At this point in my career, I’m a seasoned veteran,” Enders said. “We have been in extremely high-pressure situations before and, as always, we welcome the challenge. We did not get where we are by taking the easy road, that’s for sure. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, when the pressure is immense and our backs are against the wall, nobody is better than us — period.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 NHRA finale to be moved to Las Vegas instead of its traditional stop in Pomona, but the stakes are just as high. The points-and-a-half scenario is in play in Vegas, meaning there are increased points in qualifying and a round win earns a driver 30 points.
Enders is still in the driver’s seat, but with a group that has a combined 11 world championships and nearly 150 wins, anything can happen on Sunday. Line and Coughlin are both set to retire after Sunday’s race, but Enders is prepared for anything this weekend. She’s won in Las Vegas six times – the second-most in Pro Stock – in her standout career, including last year to help clinch the world title, and has a class-best three victories in 2020.
“I look forward to closing out the season on a high note, but either way it has a been both a dream come true and a blessing to be part of the greatest Pro Stock team of all-time,” said Enders, who has 28 career victories. “What started off as a dream with one car running a limited schedule on a budget has turned into a 7-car empire. I am forever grateful and I love my job.”
The chance to celebrate a fourth world championship is well within Enders’ reach and she’s proven to be magnificent at closing a season on a high note. But she’s quick to note it wouldn’t happen without a strong team and stellar partners. That’s been even more true in an adversity-filled 2020, but on the heels of a championship, Enders has never had to doubt that support.
“This has been a weird year and I want to thank our partners who not only stuck with us, but stepped up,” Enders said. “Mark Melling and his family have been nothing short of amazing, as well as Kevin Hughes and the team at Gallagher and PEOPLEASE. Mark and Marshall Stockseth have been on board from day one, and their continued love and support are so appreciated. Transportation Impact and Chevrolet are a huge part of our program as well. We couldn’t do this without our extended family.”
Two rounds of qualifying will take place at 12:00 and 3:15 p.m. PT on Saturday, with final eliminations scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. PT on Sunday. Television coverage includes live action during eliminations beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).