PHOENIX, AZ — Erica Enders’ 200th career Pro Stock race didn’t go as she wanted, but the two-time defending Pro Stock champion did show she hasn’t lost her touch.
Despite a first-round loss to Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Enders still managed to post the best reaction time of the day, .005-second.
That stellar light gave her an instant advantage over Skillman, but her pass of 6.705 seconds at 207.53 mph wasn’t enough to hold off Skillman’s 6.633 at 208.33 mph.
“Cutting a .005 light made me happy but it was short-lived,” Enders said. “I unclutched it and I thought, ‘Dang, Drew is probably in trouble because that felt pretty good.’ But our car has been extremely unhappy all weekend, and we’re trying to get her settled down and back to our real race car.”
Enders won the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships with a combination of her terrific driving, solid horsepower from Elite Performance, and excellent tune-ups from crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, but much has changed for 2016. NHRA mandated fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm, and Elite also switched to Mopar, building a new car for Enders, and that car is still being developed.
“It stinks that we are out early in Phoenix, but that round was certainly a step in the right direction,” Enders said. “It gives us a little positive breath of air throughout all of this interesting learning curve. It’s easy to get frustrated, especially coming off two successful years like we have had, but my crew continues to dig deep and have positive attitudes, and that’s what I feel champions are made of.
“I’m so proud of them and proud to be their driver. I know that this early elimination trend is going to end pretty quickly and the rest of the field will be in trouble. Until then we’ll just continue to work on our race car. The Dodge Dart is a great car and we’re going to test before Gainesville, and that will help get us moving in the right direction.”