DENVER, CO — Moments after announcing she would be skipping the next two NHRA national events, Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens fell in the quarterfinal round of eliminations at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals by the infinitesimally small margin of three-ten-thousandths of a second, or less than one inch.
Racing her former crew chief Dave Connolly, whom she beat two weeks ago in the final round of the Norwalk, Ohio, event, Enders-Stevens posted a quicker elapsed time of 6.962 seconds during a 198.06-mph pass against Connolly’s 6.992 at 196.70 mph. The difference came at the starting line when Connolly reacted with a cosmic .007-second to Enders-Stevens’ .037-second launch.
“I’m pretty sure that was the closest race of my professional career,” Enders-Stevens said. “A couple more coats of paint on my Elite Motorsports Camaro and we might have had that one. Holeshot losses hurt the most because it’s all on the driver. My guys worked hard in very challenging conditions and gave me a great car. I just needed to be a thousandth of a second better behind the wheel. That’s drag racing.”
Enders-Stevens can take solace in the fact she became the first driver in any pro category to lock up a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that determines the titlists in each class.
“We’ve had a dream season so far, no doubt,” said Enders-Stevens, a Houston native who now resides in New Orleans. “We’ve got four wins, we’ve been No. 1 qualifier a few times, we have the biggest points lead in any pro class … it’s just been awesome from the start.
“Our first goal was to earn a spot in the Countdown and give ourselves a chance to contend for the championship. Now we’ve done that and at the same time we’ve earned ourselves a reputation as one of the top cars in the sport. We are on such a high and all the credit goes to this group of guys. Everyone at the shop and everyone that comes on the road is so focused.”
By skipping races in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle, Enders-Stevens said her team will be better prepared for the final two regular-season races before the Countdown and the six-race sprint to the finish.
“We’ve done the math and we’re actually pretty optimistic we’ll stay No. 1 in the points,” Enders-Stevens said. “Either that or we’ll be in position to get it back in Brainerd (Minn.) or Indy before the Countdown starts. We don’t have a title sponsor, so there are no firm commitments to run every race. The sponsors we do have are totally OK with us going home and getting all of our motors in perfect condition for the Countdown. It’s time to focus on the top goal: winning the Mello Yello championship.
“The only thing I’m bummed about is not visiting with all our friends and fans in California and Washington, but hopefully people understand our game plan and cheer us through the Countdown.”