DALLAS, TX — Race day at the 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals could very well go down as the one that decides the Pro Stock championship with the top three drivers in the Mello Yello points stacked up for early head-to-head battles when eliminations begin Sunday at Texas Motorplex.
Current points leader and reigning NHRA champion Erica Enders has a slight advantage in her Elite Motorsports Camaro as she outqualified both second-ranked driver Greg Anderson and third-place Chris McGaha, who won the last race in Reading, Pa.
Adding a huge dose of intrigue, Anderson and McGaha are slotted to face one another in the opening round, with Enders getting the winner of that head-to-head match should she manage to beat Vieri Gaines in her Round 1 race. The end result is that only one of the three top drivers in the points has a chance to reach the semifinals.
“Wow, it’s crazy the way the elimination ladder worked out,” Enders said. “Greg and Chris facing each other right off is a huge race. Greg outqualified him (6.484 to 6.518) but Chris did win Reading, so he could score an upset.
“We just need to take care of business against V., which will not be easy, and we need to win with a good-enough elapsed time to try and maintain lane choice for the winner of Greg and Chris’ race. It’s a ton of pressure, but we work best under pressure, and I think our track record proves that point.”
Enders, who tops the NHRA charts with seven victories this year, had a best pass of 6.480 at 213.47 mph, which slotted her fourth overall, a few ticks behind her teammate Drew Skillman, who took the pole with a 6.471. In Round 1, she will enjoy lane choice over Gaines, who had a best pass of 6.543 at 209.39 mph. Enders is 4-0 versus Gaines this season.
“V. is my buddy and a true gentleman racer,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “But I’ll tell you what, when he’s at the line, he’s going for the win every time. He’s a very tough draw.
“We’ll go into race day like we do every weekend: with a desire to be the quickest and the fastest car on the property. We’ll double- and triple-check everything on the car and we’ll be ready for whatever happens. The guys know what’s a stake here. This is a team full of champions.”
Enders entered the weekend 72 points ahead of Anderson and 104 points up on McGaha. Each round won on race day is worth 20 points.
“It’s not a total do-or-die race because we’ve got a little cushion in the standings and we’ve still got Las Vegas and Pomona on the schedule,” Enders said, “but we could sure make it tough on them if we can turn on the win light four times tomorrow. We need to take care of business and I need to do my job behind the wheel. I love it; having our fate in our hands is what we want.”