BRISTOL, TN – Like with most things in life, people have favorites. Some may have a favorite pizza joint, while others may have a favorite golf course they like to play. Most times these favorite places are special to a person for a reason unique to them.
Bristol Dragway is one of those favorite places for two-time world champion NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders. This weekend as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competes in the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Enders will be at her favorite race track with high hopes of even more success at the picturesque quarter-mile.
In her back-to-back championship years of 2014 and 2015, the feisty 33-year-old driver of the Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro took home Wallys from the Thunder Valley Nationals. That stat in itself is enough to make a track near and dear to her heart, but she also has two runner-up finishes (2013 and 2011) and a No. 1 qualifying effort in 2015 at Bristol Dragway.
“Bristol is my favorite track on tour and I’m not saying that because we are going there this weekend, it just is,” Enders said. “I’ve had a lot of success there in the past and we are looking to carry our momentum from our win in Epping on through to Bristol and just do the best we can.”
Two weekends ago in Epping, N.H., the Houston native, broke through for her first win since the 2015 fall race in Las Vegas. Even though she and her team struggled to continue their ascension back to the top of the Pro Stock elite last weekend in Englishtown, N.J., the New Orleans resident sees their setback only as an anomaly.
“We continue to feel like we’re on the rise,” Enders said. “Throw E-town out the window because that track was in really bad shape. The starting line was completely bald and it was freshly ground when we showed up with the worst grind job we’ve ever seen. If you look at the Pro Stock field collectively, from 1-10 was one hundredth of a second apart so the starting line was a huge equalizer. You couldn’t be aggressive at all down low, you just had to kinda baby it through low gear to get it to go down the race track. Like I said, I don’t think our performance this past weekend is indicative of what we are capable of at all.”
It’s said of the atmospheric conditions in East Tennessee, “Don’t like the weather now, just wait five minutes.” With a moving target as far as the weather goes, Enders knows getting the right tune-up in her Elite Motorsports Camaro will be a thorny proposition.
“You know it will probably be hot and tricky there,” Enders said. “Bristol also has a few bumpy spots so it will definitely be a survival-of-the-fittest type weekend. It’s okay because like I always say, I’ll put my money on us every time.”
The Pro Stock racers hit the track Friday with two qualifying sessions at 5 and 7:30 p.m. They return for two more qualifying sessions Saturday at 1 and 3:30 p.m. First round of eliminations began Sunday at 1 p.m. NHRA TV coverage on Fox FS1 includes original Bristol programming on Friday at 8 p.m., on Saturday at 11 p.m., and on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (Times are local and subject to change.)