KENT, WA — Erica Enders was fighting for her playoff life the last time the NHRA tour passed through Pacific Raceways. This time around, she easily secured her spot in the 2017 Countdown to the Championship by simply qualifying for the elimination field of the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Even better, Enders is four spots better and a world away from the struggles of last season. To wit, she’s qualified a lofty fourth on this weekend’s ladder in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and she’s one of nine different winners the class has produced in the first 15 races.
“We have a shot, that’s all we ever ask for, and certainly we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Enders said. “It’s definitely been a different feeling coming into this weekend without the pressure we had one year ago. But to be honest, we’re still not super happy. We’re better, but nowhere near where we want to be.
“It seemed like we were really onto something earlier this summer when we won Epping and that every weekend one of these Elite Motorsports cars was racing for the trophy. But we’ve found out how extremely finicky the electronic fuel injection can be. It’s been a fight, not only for us but for everyone. That’s why we’ve had so many different winners.”
After a couple of down weekends, Enders and crew found the heartbeat of their Chevrolet last weekend in Sonoma during an elimination race against good friend Bo Butner.
“We didn’t win the race but it was the first really good pass we had made in a while,” Enders said. “It gave us a new baseline tune-up that seemed to work. We came in here with something to build on and it’s worked to some extent. We’ll keep chipping away.”
A winner here in 2012, Enders’ best pass this weekend flashed a 6.575 at 210.31 mph on the Seattle scoreboards. She also ran a 6.596, a 6.614 and a 6.631 in the other three qualifying sessions.
By qualifying fourth on the modified 14-car grid, Enders first opponent on Sunday will be No. 11 qualifier Matt Hartford, who closed qualifying with his best pass of the weekend, a 6.643 at 207.46 mph. Enders opened the 2017 season by beating Hartford in Pomona in their only head-to-head meeting of the year.
“We’ve got a car that goes A-to-B, which is a big start,” Enders said. “We have a tune-up that seems to be working and we’ve got all the talent in the world in this pit. I know the guys won’t rest until we’re back running like we were in Epping.”
Pro Stock eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. The FOX Network will broadcast the action live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change.)