INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 31) — Before Engines Inc. driver Erica Enders-Stevens can dream about winning the U.S. Nationals, she’ll have to get past her husband.
Enders-Stevens qualified No. 5 for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, meaning she’ll race the No. 12 qualifier in the first round. That happens to be her Elite Motorsports teammate and husband Richie Stevens.
“It’s not what we came here to do, by any means,” Enders-Stevens said. “We brought Richie and his car out because we needed him to take out some of the heavy hitters in points for us, but to come out here and run each other first round.
“I won’t treat running him any different than I treat running (Allen Johnson) or Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) or Jason (Line). It just doesn’t matter who’s over there. We’ll do our best.”
Enders-Stevens snared the No. 5 qualifying spot with a top pass of 6.607 seconds at 208.55 mph. Stevens’ best lap was 6.627 seconds at 208.59 mph in a new Chevrolet Camaro.
Enders-Stevens is trying to regain the No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock points standings after losing it in Brainerd, Minn. She had led the points for 13 weeks in what has been a stellar season, as she has won four races and the special K&N Horsepower Challenge.
She hasn’t qualified outside the top five in all 15 of her races and has two No. 1 qualifiers.
Her Elite Motorsports team, led by crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, has worked to make her Camaro better in Indy, and in the final qualifying session she was .007-second off the best elapsed time.
“We’re making steps in the right direction,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s consistent and we’ll be fine tomorrow. That last run, we were just a few thousandths off from being the fastest of the session. The way it’s running is encouraging.”
Enders-Stevens is racing in Indy for the first time since 2012, when she went to the final round. A U.S. Nationals victory would be a tremendous achievement for any driver, but Enders-Stevens refuses to put any extra pressure on her or her race team.
“It’s prestigious but at the same time it’s just another race,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not worth more than any other race for points or payout, so our mindset hasn’t changed.
“It would be an added bonus to be able to say you won the U.S. Nationals. We had one stolen from us in 2012 and I’d like to get it back.
“We’ll take it one round at a time tomorrow, do our best, and see what happens.”