SEATTLE, WA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders learned a lot about her Elite Motorsports team after winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. When under pressure, Enders and her team didn’t flinch; instead, they performed at their best.
This year, Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team are facing a different kind of pressure as they prepare to race in the 29th annual Protect The Harvest.com NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil this weekend at Pacific Raceways.
Enders is 11th in the Pro Stock points standings, battling to get into the top 10 so she can defend her title in the Countdown to the Championship. The Countdown starts in three races, and only the top 10 qualify for the Countdown. But Enders is confident her team can succeed again.
“I don’t have any doubt we’ll rise to the occasion again,” Enders said. “Certainly, it’s not been like the last couple of years with the struggles we’ve had switching to EFI and switching manufacturers. It’s certainly been a learning year for us.
“Having said that, we’re going to do the best we can. In my opinion, nobody performs as well under pressure as we do collectively.”
NHRA mandated fuel-injected engines for 2016, and that change alone has been challenging for all Pro Stock teams, but Enders’ team also switched manufacturers and built a new race car. One good race, however, could propel her into the Countdown and into championship contention.
“We’ve been fortunate in years past,” Enders said. “This year, things haven’t necessarily been falling our way. We’ve had struggles with parts failures and stuff that wasn’t typical in the past. Those are all huge obstacles we have to overcome. I feel like we’re certainly right on track to making better runs and getting more horsepower. We just need a little bit of a break.”
Elite team owner Richard Freeman built a championship team, led by crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, and Enders remains confident in her group.
“The guys who Richard has assembled are the best of the best, a top-notch group of guys,” Enders said. “No matter what stands in front of us, we’re always able to get through it. We always seem to rise to the occasion, rise to the call.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 5 to 6 p.m., Friday, and 11 to 12 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).