KENT, WA — Erica Enders has placed a push-pin in this weekend’s 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways as the place she would most like to get her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro back into the winner’s circle.
There are many reasons the two-time world champion is feeling especially optimistic as the NHRA series completes its Western Swing of consecutive races in Denver, Sonoma and Seattle. First, she opened the newly created Eastern Swing with a win. Second, her team had a nice up-tick in performance last Sunday in Sonoma. And third, she’s a past winner in Seattle.
“There’s definitely a lot of optimism in the Elite Motorsports pit after our race day run in Sonoma,” Enders said. “We have been struggling for a few races but the guys made a big move between qualifying and eliminations in Sonoma and the car really responded. Now we can start fine-tuning that setup and hopefully we’ll be back where we were when we won Epping a few months ago.
“We’re going back to a track where we’ve had some success. We made it to the winner’s circle there in 2012 and it’s always been a really fun place to race. The city of Seattle is so pretty and it’s a race weekend we always enjoy. I’m definitely looking forward to getting there.”
Bracketing the two NHRA “Swings” with wins would represent a huge step towards securing a position in the Countdown to the Championship, drag racing’s six-event version of playoffs. Races in Seattle, Brainerd and Indianapolis will complete the regular season. At that point, only the top 10 drivers in the points are eligible to run for the title.
“There definitely is a renewed sense of hope here,” Enders said. “We are back to believing the sky’s the limit moving forward. We are closing in on the Countdown to the Championship and we’ve got to get this Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports car headed in a more consistent direction. We are going to do our best to get there.”
To get the team primed for the stretch run, team owner Richard Freeman arranged a white-water rafting trip this week in Oregon. It was just what the group needed, according to Enders.
“It was definitely a wild deal,” Enders said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie but I had never whitewater rafted before. I was a little nervous about it ahead of time but anything this team does together, we always end up having a blast. (Fellow racer) Bo and Randi Lynn (Butner) were able to join us as well so it was a lot of good fun with some great friends.
“You need these times to get business and racing off of your mind, even if it’s just for a day, and focus on the family side of this crazy sport. It was another great team-building experience, something we were blessed to do together. All-in-all, a really cool experience.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air the first two rounds of qualifying action from 6-7 p.m., Friday. The main FOX Network will broadcast eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)