Weeks of exhaustive testing finally paying dividends for Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | Dallas 2017 NHRA

DALLAS, TX — Ever since her Elite Motorsports race team began to experience a performance downturn a few months ago, two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has been testing the wheels off Richard Freeman’s Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

It appears all of that extra work, along with some reconfigured parts dreamed up by car builder and crew chief Rick Jones, are paying off big for the 22-time national event winner.

Enders posted four very competitive runs during qualifying for this weekend’s 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals — a 6.651, 6.634, 6.652 and finally a 6.629 at 207.72 mph — to qualify a lofty fifth on the elimination grid. It’s her best qualifying effort since the Seattle race, which was six national events ago.

“This weekend has definitely been a big step in the right direction,” Enders said. “No surprise but we tested again in Noble, Oklahoma, earlier this week, both my car and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate’s) car, and we did really well which gave us a little extra confidence coming in here.

“Rick did some things to the cars after St. Louis and they’re working much better so we certainly have a lot of optimism. We definitely felt like we had a much better handle on these Rick Jones Chevy Camaros after the test but you never know until you come here and run them against a pro field. Now we have, and the results are very promising.”

Enders will open eliminations against part-timer Kenny Delco, who qualified 12th with a 6.659 208.07 mph. Enders and Delco have not raced one another this season.

“After Friday’s sessions we were third overall,” Enders said. “We didn’t make a great run this morning and got bumped back a couple of places to fifth but that run was still a lot better than we have been doing. The last qualifying session, which was the worst session of all four as far as conditions go, we made our best run.

“Running your best run in the worst session is not something that normally happens with the field but it’s something we’ve accomplished a lot in our careers, especially during our two championship runs. It’s nice to be back in that position where we have a race car for Sunday that can win rounds.”

Adding to Enders’ upbeat attitude is the weather forecast, which is calling for cooler, Pro-Stock-friendly temperatures.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow,” Enders said. “It’s definitely going to be a big change of weather with the cold front coming in overnight. I’m pleased about that because I feel like we are better at big weather changes than most teams so I think tomorrow will be a good day for us. We’ll do our best all day long. It’ll be tough race day like it always is but the main goal tomorrow will be the cowboy hat they give the winner.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry live elimination action from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)