GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens will start the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway from an unusual position: Outside the top three.
The 2014 Pro Stock champion had swept both No. 1 qualifiers before Gainesville and had started third or better in 21 of her last 24 races, including sixth or better in every race since 2013.
But as her Elite Motorsports team tunes a new Chevrolet Camaro, Enders-Stevens will begin Gainesville eliminations from the No. 7 spot.
“It’s an unusual position to start Sunday from, but it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish,” Enders-Stevens said. “If anyone can do it, I know we can.”
Enders-Stevens last qualified outside the top six at the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in November 2013 when she was with another team.
Enders-Stevens won six races and the 2014 championship in her first season with Elite Motorsports. Crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones built a new Camaro for Gainesville and beyond, and the team knows the new car will be better in the long run.
Getting there isn’t a simple process, of course, because new race cars always take some development.
“There’s a lot of potential,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have not shown what we’re made of or what we’re capable of this weekend, but that’s part of the growing pains of trying to make strides in the right direction. We’re working the bugs out of this thing, and we’re figuring out the potential.”
Enders-Stevens’ best qualifying pass in Gainesville was 6.551 seconds at 211.79 mph. She’ll square off against No. 9 qualifier Jonathan Gray in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations. Gray’s best run was 6.555 seconds at 211.76 mph.
“I know exactly what we’re capable of,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got to get in the car and be up on the wheel tomorrow. I know my guys will give me the best they have.”
Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.