Rare mistake yields semifinal finish for Erica Enders at NHRA Finals

Erica Enders Pomona Finals 2015

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders didn’t become a two-time Pro Stock World Champion without being competitive, so one can understand why she was disappointed after falling in the semifinals of the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

An extraordinarily rare mistake cost Enders against Allen Johnson, ending her triumphant season with nine victories and the 2015 championship.

“I didn’t drive like I wanted to this afternoon, but our season was great,” Enders said. “The competitor in me is really mad that I screwed up. I am human and it’s the first time I’ve done so probably since the spring. I guess we’re all entitled, but at the same time I’m better than that.

“I hate it because we probably win the race if we get through that round. It’s just one of those deals. There’s nothing to hold our heads down about.”

Enders clinched the championship at the previous race, in Las Vegas, winning her second consecutive event and third in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

But after beating Vieri Gaines and Larry Morgan on Sunday in Pomona, Enders had some issues on the starting line against Johnson. She decked the engine before Johnson was staged, and then after backing off and hitting the throttle again, Enders had a rare poor reaction time, .068-second. By comparison, she had an average light of .016-second in the playoffs.

Johnson got off the line with a .005 light, and his pass of 6.572 seconds at 209.17 mph was enough to hold off Enders’ quicker 6.542 at 212.43 mph.

“What happened on the starting line was really screwed up and was my fault,” Enders said. “I didn’t rise to the occasion. I hate it; I wanted to win 10 on the year. But what can you say? I had a career season. People in drag racing would give anything to have a season like I did.

“If you put everything in perspective and look at the big picture, it’s kind of hard to be mad about one race. I just know that I’m better than that.”

Still, Enders will celebrate with her Elite Motorsports team at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony on Monday night at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

“My guys were the first ones to pick me up,” Enders said. “We carry each other. We’ve had a lot of races where things didn’t go right setup-wise, and we’ve had a lot of races where the driver hasn’t been very good.

“But that’s where we’re different than everyone else. We stand by each other, we’re not critical, and we don’t pile on each other when the other messes up. That’s how we roll.”