Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders fails to qualify for first playoff race

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders began her march to a second straight world title last year with a convincing victory at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. This year, she hit a season low, failing to qualify for the first time since the second Pomona (Calif.) race in 2010.

“That’s all the way back to when I drove for the late Jim Cunningham,” Enders said. “It’s no secret, this year has been a struggle for us. Someone just asked me how you bounce back from something like this and I said it’s with the best guys in the world, and that’s what I’ve got with (team owner) Richard Freeman and everyone at Elite Motorsports.

“You look at our crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, Brian Self, the engine guys Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, and everyone else in this pit and you just see champions. You find out what you’re really made of during the tough times and we’ve had plenty this year, but there’s no quit in this pit and we’ll carry on from here.”

Enders and company swapped manufacturers this year in debuting her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart and have struggled with the newly mandated Pro Stock rules calling for electronic fuel injection, shorter wheelie bars, and rpm limitations.

“It’s just growing pains,” Enders said. “We’ll get this thing figured out and we’ll be back on top.

“I’m proud of the sponsors that have stuck with us. We’ve got Mopar, Melling, Mark Stockseth, United Mechanical, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, CFE, and everyone from Transportation Impact, many of which made the drive up from Emerald Island (N.C.) for this race. I feel bad for them because we didn’t do better, but now we’ll be able to spend more time with all the employees while we root for our teammates.

“Adversity only makes you stronger. We’ll be alright.”

Enders won’t have long to wait for redemption as the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals takes place Sept. 23-25 at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.