INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is drag racing’s biggest event, but native Houstonian Erica Enders admits it will be hard to focus on the task at hand when the weekend arrives considering the epic devastation in her hometown.
“My heart is broken,” Enders said. “It’s impossible to get your mind around this catastrophe. I watch the news and see so many areas I know and they are under 10 feet of water. Most of the people I grew up with around the Cypress area have gotten some level of flooding. It’s going to take months to recover.
“It’s kind of spooky because 12 years ago this week Richie (Stevens, husband) escaped to Indy after Katrina wiped out his hometown (New Orleans). Now here we are heading back to Indy and my hometown is wiped out. I feel so helpless but we are definitely going to do all we can to raise awareness to help the people of Houston.”
To that end, Enders and her sister Courtney Enders-Lambert are arranging a grassroots campaign to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. They hope to be collecting donations and dry goods at the U.S. Nationals.
Although under the circumstances, her racing endeavors seem secondary, Enders has a few reasons to be optimistic about her chances of success at this year’s “Big Go.” The Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team has tested extensively since the last NHRA tour stop in Brainerd, Minn., and she has a long history of success at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
“We went straight to Tulsa with my car and my teammate Jeg Coughlin’s car and tested for three straight days,” Enders said. “We made probably 40-50 passes, working 15-plus hours every day. Jeg is taking over now and the team will be in St. Louis testing some more with Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin. We will arrive at Indy with lots of new data for all four Elite cars.
“I remember going to Indy in 1994 when they had the inaugural Junior Dragster championships and we were runner-up. Then you take it all the way to 2015 when I won in Pro Stock. That catapulted us to three Countdown wins and we won our second championship going away. Indy’s an historic place and we love being a part of it all.”
Pro Stock drivers can make five qualifying runs, beginning at 7:15 p.m., Friday. There will be two more sessions at 2:30 and 6:15 p.m., Saturday, and another two at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations are slated to start at noon, Monday.
FOX Sports 1 will air live qualifying from 12-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m., Sunday, and the first round of eliminations live from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday. The main FOX Network takes over from there, airing the remainder of eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Monday. (All times are local and subject to change.)