CONCORD, N.C. — Throughout her record-setting career, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders always has done her best work in pressure-packed situations. When others wilt, she blossoms, which is one of the many reasons she’s excited about the first of six race days left in the 2017 season.
“The playoffs are definitely a different animal,” Enders said. “We’ve lived it, we’ve fought down to the last round of the season, we’ve felt the most pressure you can feel in this sport and we’ve come out on top. If that gives us an edge this year, we’ll take it.
“Of course, the guys that are going to make the biggest challenges are all veteran teams and most have them have won it all in the past. Either way, whoever wins this year’s championship will have earned it, no doubt.”
Enders’ first test will come Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. Enders will start the day as the No. 9 qualifier after posting a best pass of 6.602 seconds at 209.75 mph in time trials.
“We’ve been testing the tires off these cars the last few months and we are really optimistic about our latest changes,” Enders said. “We can already see some big gains in Jeg (Coughlin’s) car and my guys are going over that data to make my car better. I know for sure I already feel a lot more confidence in our direction.
“The playoffs are a fight from start to finish. The pressure you feel is because every round feels like a final round with a million dollars on the line. You just know you’ve got to find a way to win every matchup. There’s no holding back.”
For her qualifying efforts, Enders will be matched up against part-time teammate and close friend Alex Laughlin in the first round of sudden-death eliminations. Laughlin qualified eighth with a 6.600 at 209.17 mph. The two racers have only squared off once this year and it was during the four-wide race in Charlotte last spring. On that day, Laughlin was one of the two racers to advance out of their quad of racers.
“This team has been in the championship wars and come out on top two different times so we know what it takes,” Enders said. “We’ll fight this fight until we have nothing left. No matter what, I love these guys and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.
“We have a lot of support here this weekend also, which is always great. Our friends from Arthur J. Gallagher, Transportation Impact and Melling Performance are with us. We’re having a good time and everyone is excited about the possibilities.”
Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. Live action will air on FOX Sports 1 from 2:30-5:30 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change.)