Erica Enders shocks top qualifier Jason Line early in K&N Horsepower Challenge

Erica Enders | NHRA Las Vegas 2017 | K&N Challenge

LAS VEGAS, NV — Racing on the strength of a fan vote, popular hot-rodder Erica Enders made sure top qualifier Jason Line remained winless in the lucrative $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge Saturday with a huge victory in the opening stanza of racing action. Although she lost a round later in the semifinals, Enders once again established herself as one of the hottest shoes in the sport.

With the daunting task of taking on 10-time top qualifier Line in the opening round, Enders coolly pulled of a .006-second reaction time just a blink after Line red-lighted away his chances, as he jumped the tree by -.004. The foul start was made all the more painful for Line as he got out of shape and was forced to shut-off, with Enders running away to 6.723-second, 206.26-mph victory.

Line has now raced in the K&N Horsepower Challenge 13 times but has yet to win the coveted crown. Enders is a two-time champ, having won it all in 2014 and 2015. She was also runner-up in 2013.

“Jason’s one of the best and any time you can beat him it’s a good thing,” Enders said. “I knew I needed to get up on the steering wheel and try to cut the best light possible because he’s been running very strong all year. I was ready and I guess he was a little too ready, so we got a big round win there.”

The semifinals pitted Enders against Shane Gray, but despite her superior reaction time of .028 seconds to Gray’s .042-second start, her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro was soon shaking its tires, allowing Gray by for the win.

“I wish we could have turned on the win light two more times to honor all the fans who voted me into the K&N Horsepower Challenge,” Enders said. “It was a huge deal to me and all the guys on this race team and the fans’ continued support means so much to all of us. All I can say is we tried our best. At least we scored that big win over Jason. It just wasn’t meant for us to go any further today.”

As for the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Enders wound up as the No. 11 qualifier with a best pass of 6.713 at 206.45 mph. That sets up a first-round race against Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, who qualified sixth with a 6.666 at 206.32 mph.

“Obviously, we know what that car and that crew is capable of so we’ll do what we always do whenever one Elite car races another one, and that’s go out there and drag race,” Enders said. “Vincent’s my buddy and he’s a great driver but when the helmets go on we both want to tear the other person’s heart out.

“We would have liked to have qualified a bit better but the guys are working on a bunch of little things tonight they think will help us tomorrow so we’ll get after Vincent and see what happens.”

Pro Stock eliminations for the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. Live television coverage on FOX Sports 1 starts at 3 p.m., Sunday. (Times listed in PDT).