Start of Pro Stock title defense doesn’t go as Erica Enders planned

Erica Enders burnout at Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders hates losing, so it’s fair to say she won’t love this Valentine’s Day.

Enders lost in the first round of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener, shaking the tires at the hit and almost immediately getting out of the throttle of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart.

She could only watch as Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. sailed to the victory, but Enders is far from distraught. After massive changes in the off-season — a manufacturer switch to Dodge and an NHRA-mandated change to fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm — Enders knows better times are ahead.

“We’ve got to keep a positive attitude and keep the mindset that this is only a beginning for us,” Enders said. “We just finished putting our motors together on Wednesday in Phoenix. We can only go up from here, and I know that with all my heart. It is a very tough pill to swallow. I hate losing, I hate losing first round. If there’s any consolation to it, at least it was to my teammate.”

Enders qualified No. 9 in Pomona, the first time since the Sonoma, Calif., event last August that she qualified outside of the top half of the field.

“We’ve got to do some work with these race cars,” Enders said. “That run marks run No. 15 under our belts, and that’s nothing, considering I had over 300 runs on my other car. We’ll learn it, we’ll get it, and we’ll be back to the top — you bet your butt.”

Enders had tempered her expectations for Pomona, knowing the new Dart and Mopar engine is early in its development by Elite Performance, but she didn’t expect such tire shake against Coughlin.

“The track was way different today than it was the whole weekend,” Enders said. “We run behind the fuel cars, and they did zero track prep, which is pretty detrimental to our class. Of course, being first out doesn’t help, but that was our own fault.

“All things considered, coming here we figured we’d be a middle-of-the-pack car, and that’s exactly what we were. We’re going to go home and go to work on this stuff. We’ve got a couple weeks until Phoenix, and in between Phoenix and Gainesville there’s another couple of weeks. I fully expect by the Gatornationals to be a lot more competitive. We’ll keep moving in the right direction.”