CHICAGO — Proving how tough the competition is this year in NHRA’s Pro Stock class, runaway points leader Erica Enders-Stevens left the door open for the chase pack to close the massive gap she has opened in the championship standings. But even after a rare quarterfinal loss, Enders-Stevens didn’t lose any ground with her closest rivals also bowing out earlier than expected.
“It just shows you how tough it is out here,” said Enders-Stevens, who enjoys a nine-round lead in the rankings. “Everyone is pushing you every single race. We’re all running on the ragged edge, and when you’re hanging it all out there sometimes it doesn’t go your way.
“It’s fortunate that we didn’t lose any ground in the points, but at the same time the racer inside of me is upset that we didn’t use this opportunity to pad our lead even more. That’s just how we’re all wired. We don’t want to show any mercy.”
After qualifying a lofty second with a 6.594 at 209.65 mph — one of only two runs in the 6.5-second range — Enders-Stevens was able to dispatch Dave River in Sunday’s opening round with a 6.658 at 209.36 mph to River’s aborted 14.169 at 49.29 mph.
“We definitely wanted more out of that run,” Enders-Stevens said. “The humidity really crept up on everyone today and we saw some odd things happening up there. Fortunately, Dave had some issues in his lane and we got the win. The problem was we lost lane choice for the second round and maybe that got in my head a little.”
Against part-time Aussie racer Shane Tucker, Enders-Stevens actually managed to squeeze a little more from her Elite Motorsports Camaro, posting a quicker 6.647 at 208.59 mph against Tucker’s slower but winning 6.658 at 208.71 mph. The difference was the duo’s reaction times, with Tucker leaving .014-second ahead of his good friend Enders-Stevens.
“Getting beat on a holeshot is the worst feeling for a driver because you know the guys gave you a car capable of winning and the driver just didn’t do her job properly,” said Enders-Stevens, a three-time winner this year who has now led the points for nine races. “Everyone told me they didn’t want to hear a word about it because we win as a team and we lose as a team but I feel bad.
“I love these guys and I love my team owner, Richard Freeman, for everything he’s done. All I want to do is make them proud of me, and the fact they were so supportive today shows you how awesome they are. We’ll be fine. The best thing to do when something like this happens is to get on to the next race as fast as possible and fortunately we race next weekend, so we’ll get ready for that and move on.”
Enders-Stevens will be back on track Friday for the first two rounds of qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.