Two-time champ Erica Enders carries momentum into Atlanta race day

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ATLANTA, GA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders heads into race day for the 36th annual NHRA Southern Nationals on Sunday at Atlanta Dragway fresh off her best run of the weekend.

Enders, the No. 10 qualifier, made a pass of 6.701 seconds at 206.16 mph in the final qualifying session, giving her and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team some momentum heading into final eliminations.

“It is nice that we made our best run in the last session of qualifying,” Enders said. “The conditions during that session are going to be very similar to what they are tomorrow.”

That Q4 pass was eighth-best for the session, and it was quicker than her E1 opponent, Chris McGaha. McGaha qualified No. 5 with a top pass of 6.648 seconds at 208.39 mph. Normally, the No. 10 qualifier races the No. 7 qualifier in the first, but only 14 cars were entered in Atlanta, so the eliminations ladder needed some alternations.

Still, Enders is fired up about racing Sunday, especially since it gives her a chance to avenge a first-round loss — on a holeshot — to McGaha at the previous NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Houston.

“I’ll go into race day tomorrow with the mindset that I’ve always had in the past,” Enders said. “We’ll be confident in what we have. I have a first-round matchup that I’d really like to have go the opposite way than it went the last time. We’ll go up there, do our best, and see what happens.”

Enders, who won nine races in 2015, has struggled so far this season as her team continues to develop the new Dodge Dart with fuel-injected engines. No driver in NHRA had a better two-year run than Enders over the 2014-15 seasons, so she knows her Elite team will bounce back.

“We’re riding the struggle bus,” Enders said. “It’s challenging, it’s frustrating, and it’s disheartening because my guys work so incredibly hard. I know that we’re eventually going to be OK, and we’ve got to keep our eye on the prize and remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.”

FOX Sports 1 will air Saturday qualifying from 10 to 11 p.m. ET and Sunday’s elimination action from 4:40 to 7:30 p.m. ET.