DENVER, CO — In the anxious moments just before Erica Enders clinched her first Pro Stock championship in Pomona, Calif., John Bandimere stopped in the staging lanes to wish her luck. Being a spiritual man, Bandimere, longtime owner of Bandimere Speedway in Denver, site of this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, said a quick prayer with Enders, an impactful moment that has stuck with the 22-time national event winner.
“Mr. Bandimere has a real presence about him and it really calmed me down and reminded me who is really in charge,” Enders said. “We always put ourselves in God’s hands and that upcoming round was easily the biggest of my life, but Mr. Bandimere put it all in prospective for me with that prayer. I’ll never forget it.”
Soon after her moment with Bandimere, Enders beat Jason Line to win the race trophy and secure the 2014 championship, all in one 6.480-second pass.
“It was really neat because my relationship with the Bandimeres goes back to the very beginning of my driving career,” Enders said. “Not just my pro career, I’m talking about my Junior Dragster career when I was 8 years old. We used to run in the Western Finals at Bandimere every year so I’ve been around their family and this racetrack for more than 20 years now.”
Surprisingly, Enders has never won on Thunder Mountain, but it seems this year’s trip may be the perfect time to break her Denver duck. She’s coming off a strong runner-up result at the NHRA tour’s last stop in Chicago and is just four races removed from a big victory in Epping, N.H.
“This year has been such a huge improvement from last year, not just for my group but for all four of our team cars,” Enders said. “Richard Freeman (team owner) made the commitment to put our program back on top and we’re all working very hard towards that goal. It’s really cool to see it coming together and hopefully by the time we get to the Countdown, we’ll be rolling.
“Denver has been a pretty good place for us, even though we haven’t won here, we always do pretty well. Last year our best race of the season came at Bandimere so despite the fact it’s hard to tune here because it’s unlike any other place we go, my guys know how to make all the right adjustments. We’ll be ready to race come Friday.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, and 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first two rounds of qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. The FOX Network will carry eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)
“I hope to see Mr. Bandimere and maybe we can have another little prayer together,” Enders said. “Who knows, we started the Eastern Swing with a win. Maybe we can do the same thing to start the Western Swing.”