Bizarre second round sends Erica Enders home early in Seattle

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SEATTLE, WA — A series of wacky circumstances helped end Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders’ day in the second round of the NHRA Northwest Nationals on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.

After beating Bob Butner in Round 1, Enders faced Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the second, but from the start, almost nothing went right.

“I fired the car and had no oil pressure and no vacuum, so I radioed my guys and told them,” Enders said. “My crew chief just waved me in the water to start the burnout. I went to start my burnout, and then they were waving their arms to stop, so I aborted the burnout.

“They told me to shut it off, and they pulled my front-end clip off. Turns out the oil sump belt had come off, so there was no oil turning to the motor. They put that on, put the front end back on, and I fired it up. I had to reset all my switches, and the starter said I could do a short burnout. As I was pulling up, they were like, ‘No, back up.’ I backed up through the water and started my whole procedure over again. It was extremely rushed, and I was unable to do a burnout across the starting line, which means we couldn’t put any rubber down or burn through the resin.”

That’s detrimental to a recalcitrant Pro Stock car, though Enders did make a decent pass of 6.530 seconds at 211.89 mph. Coughlin, who shut the engine off in his Camaro while he waited for his teammate, won with a run of 6.532 seconds at 211.96, earning the victory on a holeshot.

“We did what we could with what we had,” Enders said. “I pulled in and pre-staged, but to be quite honest, I didn’t rise to the occasion today. I’m pretty disappointed in myself as a driver. Regardless of the distractions up there, I’m a world champion for a reason, and I didn’t show it today. It makes me mad, but at the same time, there were eight things that were horribly wrong all at one time, and it was a distraction. This is a game that’s won and lost by thousandths of a second.

“There have been multiple times when I did rise to the occasion, but today just wasn’t one of them.”

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion, was grateful to Coughlin for waiting.

“The fortunate thing is my teammate Jeg Coughlin waited for me,” Enders said. “He didn’t have to, but we’re a team back here, and we’re a team up there. He shut his car off, and he wasn’t going to pre-stage without me. That speaks a lot about his character and the class he brings to this operation.

“The good thing about that round was that I was racing a teammate. Nobody else would have waited, and one of the red cars was going to the semifinals.”

Enders, who qualified No. 7, took out Butner with a pass of 6.518 seconds at 212.13 mph, leaving first with a .034-second reaction time. Butner’s run was 6.524 seconds at 212.39 mph.

“We feel like we made a really good move in the right direction with our race car. We’d been struggling the last two weeks, and that was evident by the scoreboard. But we fixed it, so that’s something else to be proud of.”

Enders now looks forward to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in two weeks at Brainerd International Raceway.

“You can bet I’ll show up in Brainerd mad,” Enders said, “and wanting to win that race.”