LAS VEGAS (Oct. 27) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners Pro Stock team didn’t have the best of luck in the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, falling in the second round to points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., but of the drivers in front of her coming into the race, only Coughlin got past the second round, and he lost in the semifinals.
“If there’s a positive to it, at least the rest of the guys in front of me are out, too, so they can’t spread the gap,” Enders-Stevens said. “We can go to Pomona (Calif.) and finish as high as second. We just have to do a good job. It’s not over until it’s over.”
Enders-Stevens exits Las Vegas sixth in the points standings, but she’ll be 68 points out of second place with one race remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.
She started Sunday with a rematch from the first round in Reading, but Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team were again up to the challenge against Buddy Perkinson. Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.650 seconds at 207.53 mph to take out Perkinson’s 6.664 at 208.04 mph.
Enders-Stevens’ pass matched the second-quickest run of the round, but she still didn’t have lane choice against Coughlin. He then went low in Round 2 with a run of 6.659 seconds at 207.15 mph to outrun Enders-Stevens’ 6.670 at 206.35 mph.
“I knew we’d be within a hundredth of him as far as performance goes,” Enders-Stevens said. “He was .060 on the Tree first round, and I knew he’d get up on the wheel for the second round. We talked about it, and I knew I needed to get up on the wheel but I just missed it.
“I don’t miss it often and neither does he. He missed first round, and I missed second round. It stinks it wasn’t reversed.”
Enders-Stevens had a .028-second reaction time in Round 1 and a .053 against Coughlin. He was nearly reverse with a .060 in the first round and .026 in the second.
“That was a huge round,” Enders-Stevens said. “If we had beaten Jeg there, things would have fallen a lot differently the rest of the day here and then in Pomona (Calif.). Everybody in front of us went out, and had I beat Jeg we would’ve been able to close the gap. It’s just one of those deals.”
Still Enders-Stevens is all smiles about her performance in the Countdown with one race remaining in the season. She has one victory and one No. 1 qualifier to go with a semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal showings in five races.
Enders-Stevens was in the top half in Vegas, qualifying No. 6, and had one of the cars to beat.
“My team did a good job,” Enders-Stevens said. “We got down the track every time. We’re doing the best we can, and we’ll just have to pick up and go to Pomona and race our guts out. I knew I could do it and they can, too. Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend in Pomona and finish second in the points.”
Cagnazzi Racing was competing for the first time since the announcement of a merger between Cagnazzi and Gray Motorsports for the 2014 season and beyond. Under the Gray Motorsports umbrella, engine development for both the Pro Stock and Cagnazzi’s successful COPO Camaro Stock Eliminator programs will take place at the Gray Motorsports facility in Denver, N.C., and chassis development for both will take place in Victor Cagnazzi’s facility in nearby Mooresville.
The new Gray Motorsports team is currently seeking support for a three-car team to include drivers Shane Gray, Enders-Stevens, and Dave Connolly.
Gray won the Las Vegas race by beating Vieri Gaines in the final round.
The team’s next event will be the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 7-10 in Pomona.