EPPING, NH — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders put herself in position to score her 19th career No. 1 qualifier should her blazing-quick 6.513-second pass at 213.03 mph from Friday evening carry through Saturday’s final two time trials at the fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals.
“You never take anything for granted but I have to say that I kind of forgot how exciting this is,” Enders said. “I’m so happy for my guys. We had a down year in 2016 after winning back-to-back championships but no one quit, no one stopped working hard. They all just kept chasing it and a day like today is a tribute to their hard work.
“I have to give it to Richard Freeman (team owner). He’s kept the group together, kept them motivated through the hard times. When faced with adversity, this team always rises to the top. Not one single part of racing is easy, but I’ve never been more determined to win again. I’m so blessed to be the driver of this racecar.”
It was a worst-to-first scenario for the Houston native as her early-shutoff 7.063 at 151.09 mph had left her at the bottom of the timing sheets. But the rebound was convincing, with Enders posting her run-of-record early in the cooler evening session and then successfully fighting off all comers as the round progressed.
“We actually hurt the motor Round 1 so the guys did the scramble between rounds to swap it out,” Enders said. “We came up for Q2 and made a really nice pass. I knew it was decent but I honestly didn’t think it would hold up. I’m happy to be wrong on that one. Coming back to the pits with the No. 1 designation, even if it’s just for tonight, was very cool.”
The last time Enders was No. 1 qualifier was at the end of her second championship season in 2015 when she was took the pole at the second Las Vegas race.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Enders said. “The entire team has been on an upswing all year. Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) has been No. 1 qualifier and gone to a couple of final rounds, including two weeks ago in Topeka, and now we’re No. 1. I can’t wait to continue this race.”
Pro Stock qualifying will continue with two more rounds at 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. If Enders’ time holds, she’ll lead the class into eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air elimination action starting at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change).
“It was pretty cool tonight,” Enders said. “I mean, I was happy to have my firesuit on riding up to the media room. And tomorrow’s two sessions are in the middle of the day so it could hold. But hey, if people are running quicker tomorrow, we may just improve ourselves.”