BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 12) — No other driver is probably more excited for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals this weekend at Brainerd Int’l Raceway than Elite Motorsports Pro Stock ace Erica Enders-Stevens, who sat out the previous two races on the NHRA schedule while her team prepared for Brainerd and the Countdown to the Championship.
“Everyone worked really hard during the two weeks we weren’t racing,” Enders-Stevens said. “We should be better than ever, and we’re excited to get back at it.
“The guys have been working really hard in the engine shop. They left this morning to go to (co-crew chief) Rick (Jones’) to get the car fine-tuned, and then we’ll head to Brainerd.”
Enders-Stevens remains the points leader in the ultra-competitive class, an indication on how strong she and her Elite team have been in 2014. In 14 races, they have four victories in five final-round appearances, with two more semifinals and two No. 1 qualifiers. She has not lost in the first round all season and has qualified third or better 13 times.
“We looked at the math leading up to Denver to see if it would be feasible to miss those two events,” Enders-Stevens said. “It worked out to where we still kept our lead, even though it’s a small lead. But it doesn’t matter if you have a 1 million-point lead or a one-point lead when you leave Indy: It all goes back to zero.
“Our plan is do to well, be consistent in Brainerd and Indy, and hopefully go into the Countdown as the No. 1 seed and work from there.”
Enders-Stevens has one victory at Brainerd, in 2012. She also reached the final here in 2011 and currently holds the track record of 6.542 seconds, set in 2012.
In addition to getting ready for Brainerd, Enders-Stevens and her team have prepared for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and the Countdown, which begins in Charlotte on Sept. 12.
Enders-Stevens will have husband Richie Stevens as a teammate for Indy and the Countdown, and Elite will supply engines for Shane Tucker in Indianapolis.
“We took the two weeks off so the guys in the shop could work on things,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re going to have three drivers with Elite Performance power starting in Indy, and we took the time to get all our ducks in a row. We’re going to come out swinging.
“I’m ready. It will be great to get back behind the wheel.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all qualifying and elimination action.