KENT, WA — Professional drag racing is the only motorsport in the world with the need to time things to the 10-thousandth of a second, an increment of time put to the test in the final round of Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals when two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders was edged by Drew Skillman by .0006 seconds, or an estimated one inch, making it the closest drag race of the entire season.
“That was so close,” Enders said. “I thought I had him. It felt like we were just a sliver ahead of him but it’s really hard to tell at that speed. You’re not really looking over because 100-percent of your focus is getting to that stripe first. I was pretty sure I was going to push the gas pedal through the floorboard.”
Had Enders gained one more tick at the starting line — she left five-thousandths of a second ahead of Skillman — her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro would have reached the other end first, but Skillman’s 6.604 at 209.33 mph was just enough to take the win ahead of Enders’ 6.609 at 209.49 mph.
“Good for Drew,” said Enders, the 2012 Seattle winner. “He’s my bud so it’s cool, but I will say he owes me one or two now so we’ll have to get him next time. It was cool to be in the closest race of the year and really cool to make a little personal history in the semifinals also.”
In reaching her 39th career final round, Enders reached the impressive milestone of 250 elimination-round victories when she beat a red-lighting Tanner Gray in the semifinals. Gray was an over-eager -.068 at the tree and could only watch as Enders zoomed to a 6.633 at 208.71 mph.
“Saying 250 round wins is pretty crazy because it was so hard to get there,” Enders said. “But it’s also been so rewarding. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”
Earlier in the day, Enders beat quarterfinal opponent Jason Line with a 6.595 at 209.46 mph to Line’s 6.603 at 209.30 mph. She opened the day with a 6.592 at 210.08 mph victory over a resigned Matt Hartford.
“If you had told me last Saturday night after four so-so qualifying runs that we’d turn the corner Sunday over there and learn enough to come here and get this car all the way to the finals I would have said you were crazy,” Enders said. “But my guys pull through in the clutch time and time again.
“It’s easy to have down times in the course of a season when you want to just go crazy but these guys never let us get down on ourselves. We rise up like champions and just get to work. That’s what we’ll do leaving here. We still have plenty to do to these Elite cars but we’re chipping away at it.”
The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before returning to action Aug. 18-20 with the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.