BRISTOL, TN — The win light didn’t come on in the lane for Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders, but a smile soon came over her face.
As the two-time Pro Stock champion slowed her Dodge Dart in the first round of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, crew chief Rick Jones relayed her the numbers: 6.716 seconds at 206.32 mph.
They weren’t record-setting, but they were encouraging.
“As I went through the lights and my crew chief called out the numbers over the radio, I radio’d back and said, ‘We went a .71?’ ” Enders said. “He was like, ‘Yeah!’
That was her best pass of the weekend as Jones and the team continue to tune on the new Dodge. It nearly pulled off an upset of Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, whose Chevrolet qualified No. 5. Enders was off first with a .027-second reaction time, but Nobile’s 6.688 at 207.75 mph ran her down.
Nobile’s improvement, as well as the steady progress of Dodge teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who raced to the semifinals in Bristol, has injected some much-needed confidence in Enders’ team.
“They’ve been working so incredibly hard trying to figure this Dodge out,” Enders said. “I’ve said before that we’re making strides in the right direction, but that run boosted the morale over there. Jeg being able to get to the semifinals is pretty exciting for us.
“We’ll pack up, go to Norwalk, and see if we can continue to run better and close the gap on those KB guys.”
Enders, who saw her two-race Bristol winning streak come to an end, races in Norwalk, Ohio, next weekend as her team continues to inch toward the front.
“I’m especially excited, even if it’s just seeing a trickle of light at the end of the tunnel,” Enders said. “We’ll continue to chip away at it. It only matters when we get to Indy.”