CHICAGO, IL — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders nearly recreated history Sunday at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals before coming up a fraction of a second short of her ultimate goal of winning another Wally trophy.
Enders was the first woman in history to win a Pro Stock race in 2012 when she reigned supreme at Route 66 Raceway. Although she couldn’t close the deal this time through, her third final-round showing of the season proves her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro will be a contender once the playoffs start.
“These are the days that are really exciting,” Enders said. “Dealing with live TV on FOX forced us to have 30-minute turnarounds between rounds so it really tested the mettle of the crews. As always, my guys answered the call and we had one heckuva outing.
“Chicago has a special meaning to us. We got our first win here back in 2012 and my first final-round appearance was at this track in 2005 so it’s been very good to me over the years. Would we like to have won today? Absolutely, but it was a good day all-in-all for the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team.”
For the third time ever, Enders faced good friend Drew Skillman in the final round. This time it was Skillman with the better car as he was able to quickly catch and pass a fast-leaving Enders to win with a 6.627 at 209.23 mph to Enders’ 6.655 at 207.37 mph. Skillman now has a slight 2-1 advantage over Enders when the trophy is on the line.
“When you look at the other ETs on paper, there’s no reason why we should have gotten past second round, let alone third, so getting to the final was a real bonus,” Enders said. “I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of the racing we did today. I’m definitely happy with our performance here.”
Enders improved her career record to 22 victories and 16 runner-up results. She has one win and two runner-up finishes this year.
This particular day wasn’t easy. After beating part-timer Chris McGaha in Round 1, 6.651 at 208.91 mph to McGaha’s 6.665 at 208.59 mph, she faced multi-time world champions and teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line in back-to-back rounds.
Against Anderson she used a massive .051-second reaction time advantage to steal the win with a 6.649 at 208.68 mph to Anderson’s quicker-but-losing 6.614 at 209.59 mph. She then narrowly edged Line by .006 seconds with a 6.649 at 208.46 mph to Line’s 6.654 at 208.88 mph. Enders left on all four of her Sunday opponents.
“The adrenaline was pumping all day and my Rick Jones Race Cars-built Camaro was so solid,” Enders said. “It was a fun race.”
The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before returning to action July 21-23 with the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.
“We are taking a team vacation to Grand Cayman, all 26 of us,” Enders said. “When we get back we are going to test in Tulsa before we head out on the Western Swing. We’re running better but we still have work to do on all four team cars. We’ll try to sort them out in Tulsa. I’m excited for the time off and excited to get back after it in Denver to see if we can’t carry this momentum.”