BRISTOL, TN — The pressure was on in the final Pro Stock qualifying session for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Saturday at Bristol Dragway, and Erica Enders and the Elite Motorsports team came through in a big way.
Conditions were ripe for a terrific pass in the rain-delayed final session, and Enders stepped up with a 6.632 at 207.59 mph to snare her first career No. 1 qualifier in Bristol and earn a sleeve of green hats given to the top qualifier.
“I’m really excited to be on the pole,” Enders said. “My guys look forward to green hats, so we’ve got to thank Mello Yello for starting that tradition. It’s been pretty exciting for our entire team.”
Enders was sitting in the No. 4 spot heading into the final session, which started about 8:30 p.m. Eastern, long after its regularly scheduled time. The track had cooled, and Pro Stock’s best took a swing at low elapsed time, and it was Enders who came through.
“It definitely was a long day,” Enders said. “I think we came to the staging lanes five or six times, and I got suited up and buckled in twice and did a burnout once before going back to the trailer (without making a run), so it was definitely a long day.
“We went up there for Q4, and we knew the air got better and the racetrack was in the best condition it’s been all weekend, so we went after a little bit. My crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll) did an excellent job.”
The No. 1 was her fourth of the season and 16th of her career. She was also No. 1 earlier this year in Pomona, Calif.; Phoenix; and Topeka, Kan. She reached the final round at all three of those events, winning in Topeka.
She has also been hot in Bristol, reaching the final round in three of the last four races and winning in 2014.
Enders was chasing Greg Anderson in Bristol after Anderson claimed the provisional No. 1 with a pass of 6.646 seconds at 206.67 mph.
“We wanted to go out there and put up a big number, but Greg has had a really good race car for the last four or five races,” Enders said. “He and that entire Summit team are going to be tough all year.
“But I’m really proud of my guys. I knew when I unclutched the car that it was going to be a good pass, but I didn’t know it was that good until my crew chief radioed me. It felt pretty nice, but we were still conservative down low, so there’s definitely more on the table.”