Victory in Atlanta would be special for two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders - NHRA Pro Stock 2017

COMMERCE, GA — Erica Enders has two NHRA titles, 21 individual race victories, 14 runner-ups and 18 top qualifying efforts to her credit. One of the big things missing is a win at Atlanta Dragway, the home track for longtime series sponsor Coca-Cola. It’s something Enders hopes to remedy at this weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

“The Coca-Cola Company has been a huge part of drag racing for 16 years now,” Enders said. “They’ve been around as long as I’ve been racing as a professional. To me they are professional drag racing. I’ve been so lucky to have had the success I’ve had so far during the Coca-Cola era, but I still haven’t won Atlanta and I really want to get that done.

“Coca-Cola has a big party for past champions before the race, which is so cool. Then a lot of the top-level executives we meet that night come to the track over the weekend with their families. I really want to win one so they can all come down to the winner’s circle and celebrate with us.”

The “big party” Enders is referencing is the annual Night of Champions at Coca-Cola World Headquarters in Atlanta. Every champion from the four professional classes — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle — that earned their world titles in the last 16 years are invited to the exclusive affair.

“This particular race weekend definitely starts out special,” Enders said. “That night is a really big treat for all of us and I’ll get to go with my team owner, Richard Freeman, and my teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. so I’ll be feeling special. It’s a night to celebrate with so many past champions. It’s a huge honor to be a part of that. There’s a lot of racers and teams that have done this for 30, 40, 50 years that don’t have this opportunity so I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Enders will have more than good vibes from a special night to rely on when racing starts Friday. She qualified No. 2 last weekend in Charlotte, just a fraction behind Coughlin. It’s the first time the two have qualified 1-2 since Coughlin joined Elite Motorsports a year and a half ago.

“I think there will be no lack of motivation for either of us, especially after the weekend we had in Charlotte,” Enders said. “We had the two best cars on the property but neither one of us put together a race day performance like we were expecting so we’re focused on looking onward and upward. We’ll get our act together a little better this weekend and try to win Atlanta.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with qualifying show at 8 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 6 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).