Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to make noise in rare bottom-half start

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SONOMA, CA — With her Elite Motorsports team making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, It would be easy to blame a relatively poor qualifying performance for Erica Enders at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend on their lack of notes for the track, but Enders and her team — the defending NHRA Pro Stock World Champions — won’t make any excuses.

“We certainly don’t have data from out here,” said Enders, who qualified for her 100th consecutive race. “But we can always take weather and track conditions and compare them to other places we’ve raced at. I guess we’re behind the other teams in that aspect, but at the same time, that is no excuse.

“My guys are the best, and we’ll do our damndest to prove it tomorrow.”

Enders qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.534 seconds at 212.03 mph despite her team racing in Sonoma for the first time. That’s only the second time in her 37 races to date with Richard Freeman’s Elite team that she has failed to qualify in the top half of the field.

Plus, Enders and the team have faced other issues this weekend as they’ve tried to move up the Pro Stock ladder.

“We’ve definitely struggled,” Enders said. “We’ve had some breakages and some things not go our way so far this weekend, but we’re determined to change that tomorrow. I’m certainly looking forward to race day, even though our performance wasn’t tremendous in qualifying. I still am confident about tomorrow.”

Enders faces Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations on Sunday after Gray qualified No. 8 with a top pass of 6.533 seconds at 212.03 mph.

In addition to her team making its first appearance in Sonoma, Enders is making her first start here since 2012.

“I do love it here in Sonoma,” Enders said. “It’s certainly not the showing we wanted to have during qualifying, but tomorrow is a whole new day, and I’ve got the best guys in the business to get the car as good as it can be.

“We’ll just go after it tomorrow. We’ll keep fighting and try to make it better.”