Vegas is ‘just another race’ for championship front-runner Erica Enders

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders can clinch her second consecutive championship at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. After all, she has a massive 154-point lead on her nearest rival in the standings and is riding an otherworldly winning streak of 18 straight rounds of competition at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning five successive races at the facility.

Yet the record-setting driver from Texas says this weekend’s race is no different than the first 22 this year, of which she has won eight, an all-time, high-water mark for female drivers.

“I’m treating this race like all the other ones; I want to do my very best to put this Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “We have an awesome team with the best mechanics, engine builders, and crew chiefs in the world and we have a lot of confidence. To change the way we’ve been racing at this point would be crazy.”

Crazy indeed. Enders’ eight victories (Las Vegas 1, Houston, Topeka, Bristol, Brainerd, Indianapolis, Charlotte 2, and Dallas) lead all professional drivers, regardless of category. Her 52-14 race day record also blows away the entire professional field.

As for her good fortune at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, has won three national events and two K&N Horsepower Pro Stock Challenges in her last three trips to the high desert.

“It’s no secret Las Vegas has been very, very good to us,” Enders said. “I love the track, and the fans that come to those races are already in a party mood being in Vegas, so the atmosphere is always very upbeat.

“Coming off a win in Dallas (Oct. 18), that also raises our level of confidence. We are carrying a lot of momentum at the right time. Last year was do-or-die every round when we came to Vegas. This time we have a little cushion in the points, but we know we’re not done racing. There is work to be done, and these guys are super hungry to get another championship.

“God has a plan for us and it takes a lot of stress off my shoulders knowing that my destiny has already been set. I just need to do what I can behind the wheel and then let God handle the rest.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.