BRISTOL, TN — Two-time drag racing world champion Erica Enders celebrated her 22nd national event win less than two weeks ago in Epping, N.H., and the sport’s most prolific female Pro Stock driver is geared up to repeat the feat after qualifying a lofty third in the field of the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Enders coaxed a very competitive 6.704-second quarter-mile pass at 205.66 mph out of her car in the cooler Friday evening qualifying session to lock up her third-best starting spot of the year. The only time she’s qualified better in 2017 was when she earned the No. 2 spot in Charlotte and Epping.
“The whole Elite Motorsports team is looking great this weekend, and really has been for the last several events,” Enders said. “I’m No. 3, my teammate Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) is on the pole, my other teammate Vincent (Nobile) is No. 6, and Alex (Laughlin, fourth team member) is No. 8 so we have half of the top-side of the field. I’d say that’s pretty darn good.
“My new favorite saying is that ‘I’d put my money on us every time,’ and I sure feel that way right now. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and certainly no one is going to give us anything, but I like our chances.”
As the No. 3 qualifier in 13-car field, the modified elimination ladder will have Enders racing Alan Prusiensky in the opening round of Sunday’s eliminations. Prusiensky qualified 12th on the grid with a best pass of 6.786 at 202.79 mph. Enders, who is 2-0 against Prusiensky this year, will have the advantage of lane choice.
“Our Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro has been running across the top of the timing sheets just about every round here,” Enders said. “We also have the ability to look at Jeg’s, Vincent’s and Alex’s runs as well so I’m sure Rick (Jones, crew chief) will cook up something competitive for tomorrow.
“We’re a true team. It’s the way our team owner Richard Freeman said it would be and he always does what he says. I always want to win but I’m also pulling for my teammates. If one of us goes out early, the crew guys all go and help the other teams so we can give it our best effort every time.
“I won Epping two weeks ago and I was runner-up in Atlanta. Vincent was runner-up last weekend in Englishtown. Jeg was runner-up in Houston and Topeka. I’d say we’ve had a really strong first half of the year and it’s only going to get better.”
Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air all the action at 6:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)
“I’ve won two Father’s Day races for my dad (in 2014 and 2015) and it would be great to give him another Wally this time through,” Enders said. “I’ll certainly do all I can.”