SEATTLE, WA — Pro Stock champion Erica Enders faces a big test in the first round of the 29th annual Protect The Harvest.com NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.
After qualifying No. 11, the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver will race Alex Laughlin in the first round on Sunday. The battle could go a long way in deciding which driver reaches the Countdown to the Championship, as Laughlin is 10th and Enders 11th, just 11 points out of the top 10.
Should Enders win, she’ll move around Laughlin in the Pro Stock standings with two races left before the Countdown begins. That sounds like a lot of pressure, but Enders has been there before, performing well under pressure in winning the 2014 and 2015 championships.
“No, no pressure at all,” Enders said. “Tomorrow is just another race day and my guys will give the best car they know how to. I’m gonna have to get up on that wheel, that’s for sure. We’ll get it all sorted out tonight before we go to the hotel and come back tomorrow fresh and ready to roll.”
Enders rallied from a difficult Friday to post two good runs on Saturday, the best being a run of 6.572 seconds at 209.75 mph. Laughlin’s best pass was 6.552 seconds at 211.53 mph to snare the No. 6 qualifying spot.
“Yesterday, aside from crashing and blowing things up, was probably the worst day in drag racing I’ve had,” Enders said. “Today was a new day and my guys really rallied and worked hard on these Dodge Darts to get them to run right. Not just my car but our Mopar/Magneti Marelli team (of Jeg Coughlin Jr.), too. That was just one of those days you like to chalk up to a total loss, but today did go better.
“I get to control my own destiny tomorrow. I’ve got Alex Laughlin first round, who is the one standing in front of us to get into the Countdown. He’s probably one of the nicest kids out here, but it’s go time tomorrow.”
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).