Two-time champ Erica Enders says Four-Wide drag racing levels playing field

CONCORD, N.C. — Eight years into the return of Four-Wide competition at Bruton Smith’s “Bellagio of Drag Strips,” two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders says the unique format and the style of racing it requires makes for some of the best drag racing on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello schedule.

“Going four-wide totally levels the playing field,” Enders said. “Even now after many of us have had multiple races here, there are still a lot of drivers that tend to struggle. Pro Stock already is a really tight and competitive class so it will definitely be interesting to get there and see what happens this time through.

“You drag race for years in the regular two-car format and then once a year you have to reprogram your brain and add in the fact there are two other cars running out there. On race day you have to make darn sure you’re one of the two quickest cars each round in order to advance. There are so many things going on you have to pay really close attention. It sounds easy, but it’s not.”

Enders arrives at zMax Dragway with a lot of excitement surrounding her Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro race crew and her three teammates, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin.

“We are coming off of a really good performance weekend in Houston for our entire Elite Motorsports/Elite Performance group so heading into Charlotte we are going to hopefully carry all this momentum we’ve built,” Enders said. “Jeg was No. 1 qualifier and went to the final round in Houston and the rest of us all had strong cars capable of going rounds on Sunday. Things are really starting to click.

“We’ll probably get in some more testing this week. These Rick Jones-built Chevy Camaros are such great racecars and by sharing data between all the teams, we’re becoming a really strong unit. I’m excited to head to Charlotte and continue to do better there.”

A 21-time national event winner, good enough for second on NHRA’s all-time list of female racers, Enders will have two chances to score this weekend. Aside from Pro Stock, she’ll be racing Terry Peterson’s Omaha Track COPO Camaro in the Factory Stock Showdown.

“This will be the second Factory Stock Showdown out of the five they’re running so we really want to make our mark this time for the Patterson Elite gang,” Enders said. “I’m totally looking forward to driving Terry’s car again. It’s a great hot rod.

“I just want a big weekend for all of our teams. We’re ready to go.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12:40 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with a live qualifying show at 7 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).