Pro Stock champ Erica Enders confident of the future, looking forward to race day

Erica Enders Phoenix 2016 Qualifying

PHOENIX, AZ — By her standards the past two seasons, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders should be frustrated, but the two-time Pro Stock champion is far from being discouraged. The dominance Enders and her team showed in 2014 and 2015 is not apparent at the moment, but after a whirlwind off-season, she knows it’s coming.

Enders qualified No. 9 for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and she hopes to continue to make strides on race day.

“We went home from Pomona, and the guys worked really hard in the engine shop,” Enders said. “We certainly feel like we made moves in the right direction. We had the second-quickest mph yesterday, which is very encouraging, considering how new our Dodge engine program is.”

Enders and her team switched to Dodge in the off-season, and to comply with new NHRA rules, the team built all-new fuel-injected engines with a 10,500 rpm limit. Her best elapsed time of 6.689 seconds was ninth-best, but her speed of 208.26 mph was fourth-fastest this weekend.

“We made some significant changes with our race car, and it’s just not happy right now,” Enders said. “There’s no other way to beat around the bush. Once we get our race car happy, things will be OK.”

Enders will have to face an Elite Motorsports teammate in the first round for the second race in a row. She battled Jeg Coughlin Jr. at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., and will face No. 6 qualifier Drew Skillman here. Skillman’s best pass was 6.650 seconds at 207.43 mph. (Usually, the No. 9 qualifier faces the No. 8 qualifier, but because only 14 cars are entered, NHRA had to juggle the ladder).

“That was literally run No. 22 on this car, and eight of those are qualifying runs at national events,” Enders said of her pass in the final qualifying session. “It’s pretty crazy to think that the car is that new.

“In the grand scheme of things, it could be easy to get frustrated because of how we’re used to performing,” Enders added. “But if we look at the big picture and consider everything we went through in the off-season, with all the rules changes and with building two new cars and a motor program, it’s just going to take time. I keep telling people that.

“I’m very optimistic, very confident that things are going to get better.”

FOX Sports 1 will air live coverage of eliminations from 2-5 p.m. PT, Sunday. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to the first broadcast of the season.