CHARLOTTE, NC — Pro Stock champion Erica Enders begins the Countdown to the Championship playoffs from the lofty No. 1 spot at this weekend’s NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMax Dragway.
Victories in the last two races, including the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, cemented her No. 1 spot — and a 30-point lead over the No. 2 driver — in the points standings.
“I’m really excited to be in the No. 1 position because that 30-point bonus would have significantly changed things in Pomona [Calif.] last year when it came down to the final round at the final race with Jason (Line) and I,” Enders said. “Had I lost that round, I would have lost the championship by one point.
“We still have a ton of work cut out for us going into the Countdown. We weren’t the fastest car at Indy, but you bet your butt our guys are back in the shop working on that to see if we can find some more horsepower and get our act together for the Countdown.”
Enders has six victories in seven final-round appearances in 2015, racing to the semifinals in five other races. She also has five No. 1 qualifiers and has amassed a 40-12 round-win record through 18 races.
“We came off the win in Brainerd [Minn.], went to Indy, and won at Indy,” Enders said. “We want to carry that momentum. You want to start off the Countdown on the right foot. These are the six most important races of the season. You have to have as little parts failure as you can. You have to change things out more frequently than you would have before just to stay ahead of the game.
“I’m really excited. I’m very optimistic about the final six races. I know that my guys are as well.”
Enders won the 2014 world championship by winning twice, racing to the semifinals twice, and reaching the second round twice in the six-race Countdown. That experience can only help as she guns for her second consecutive season title.
“I feel like we as a team learned a lot about ourselves last year, being able to perform well in those high-pressure situations,” Enders said. “Behind the scenes, of course, your stomach is in a knot. I joked last year going into the final round that I could have puked. I think my crew chiefs were the same way. So much is on the line for one round.
“We were pretty tough. That’s something that we learned, and I’ve become a much better driver with the guys that are surrounding me now. My Elite Motorsports team has helped me so much. I feel that even in crazy situations — when things break, go wrong, you’re rushed, or you’re not in sequence — I’ve learned how to overcome those feelings and just be able to block that out.
“I feel like I can have anything thrown at me and can have anything thrown at us and we can come out on top. That’s something that we had to learn and had to acquire over the years. Going into this Countdown, yes, I feel like we are the best that we have ever been, and I’m very, very excited about what’s to come.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday.