Cool under pressure: Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports go back to back in Bristol

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BRISTOL, TN — No one has been hotter at Bristol Dragway than Erica Enders, and no one was hotter than Enders on Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Enders won her second race in a row in Bristol and reached her fourth final round in the last five races. Yes, the 2014 Pro Stock champion likes Bristol Dragway.

“It’s always been good to me,” Enders said. “I guess every driver has tracks where they go that no matter what you do wrong, it ends up right. But today we earned it. We made really good runs for the heat; it was really hot and tricky out there.

“My crew chiefs were stressing, but they have this cool, calm, collected attitude, and their confidence comes over the radio in my ears. That in turn gives me the confidence I need to go out there and drive to the best of my ability.”

With temperatures in the low 90s on Sunday, conditions weren’t the best for the recalcitrant Pro Stock cars, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll guided Enders to four quick passes, and she was sharp behind the wheel.

“My guys are absolutely incredible,” Enders said. “They never cease to amaze me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. This is the first team I’ve ever worked for where we’ve had a unified front and they have my back. I’m blessed to have an incredible group of men, and the chemistry is there. It’s always a positive environment.”

Enders scored her 16th career victory and her fourth this season, taking over the Pro Stock points lead in the process. She had reaction times of .027, .017, .007, and .025 in another brilliant driving display under pressure.

Her .027 light was second off the line in the opening round against John Gaydosh, but her pass of 6.695 at 206.51 mph was more than enough to overcome Gaydosh’s 6.787-second pass at 196.27 mph.

She then had a .017 light against Jason Line, whose red-light handed her the victory. She still made a solid pass of 6.698 seconds at 206.64 mph to put her in the semifinals against Shane Gray.

Gray had a .020-second reaction time but left behind Enders, who was .007 on the Tree and got the win with a 6.703-second pass at 206.45 mph. Gray’s run was 6.724 seconds at 206.20 mph.

Enders had a close race with Chris McGaha in the final, but after a .025 light and a 6.685-second pass at 206.95 mph, she got the win over his .055 reaction time and 6.689-second run at 207.46 mph.

“You have to learn to win, and that’s something I never understood until we did it,” Enders said. “Greg Anderson and Jason (Line) had mentioned that to me when I was first starting, and I didn’t get it until we finally did it. You just learn how to handle yourself in those high-pressure situations. It’s a challenge, for sure, and you’ve got to remain positive in your thoughts, and that’s been a huge part of our success.”