‘Deadhead’ sinks Erica Enders’ chances at New England Nationals

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EPPING, NH — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is no fan of the Grateful Dead, and after the NHRA New England Nationals on Sunday at New England Dragway, she’s even less so.

Followers of the legendary psychedelic rock band are called “Deadheads,” but that’s a term she’d rather not hear.

That’s because in drag racing, the term “deadhead” refers to an incorrect smashing of gears in the transmission, and it results in a slower than usual pass down the racetrack.

And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday in the semifinals after Enders had the quickest car on the property in the previous two rounds.

Good buddy Allen Johnson made a pass of 6.537 second at 213.33 mph, a run that Enders could have easily covered if she had matched her first- and second-round runs, but during her normal shifting procedure, Enders’ transmission deadheaded and her pass was 6.540 seconds at 214.21 mph. That gave Johnson a narrow victory to the final round.

“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Enders said. “Instead of the gears lining up and going into the right gear, it just misses when it’s supposed to align and it doesn’t shift. It’s no one’s fault and it happens every now and then in Pro Stock, but that doesn’t take the sting out of it.”

The 2014 Pro Stock champion, Enders had the dominant car on Sunday in Epping. She qualified No. 4, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll tuned the red Chevrolet Camaro to a pass of 6.513 at 214.69 mph in the first round against V. Gaines. That was the quickest and fastest pass of the round, and the speed broke Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s year-old track record.

She went even quicker in the next round against Vincent Nobile. While Nobile made a pass of 6.546 seconds at 213.47 mph, Enders blistered the track with a 6.506-second run at 214.66 mph to advance to the semifinals.

“It just wasn’t our day, but we had the quickest car on the property today thanks to my guys,” Enders said. “They’re the best guys out here, and I have complete faith in them all. We’ll be back in Bristol next week, and we’re the defending champions there, so our heads are held high.”

Next on the NHRA schedule is the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals next weekend at Bristol Dragway.