POMONA, CA — Returning to the site of her biggest single triumph — the 2014 title-clinching, final-round victory against Jason Line — Erica Enders is prepped to finish the year at this weekend’s 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals with firm designs on a brighter future.
“For the second year in a row we didn’t quite have the season we wanted or expected,” said Enders, driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. “But this season we made so many strides in the right direction that we have huge expectations for our future.”
After winning back-to-back Pro Stock championships in 2014 and 2015, anything less than another brass ring was sure to be a bit of a letdown. Such is the welcomed curse of those who have reached the pinnacle of their sport.
However, unlike 2016 when her Elite Motorsports team didn’t reach a final round and finished ninth in the points, Enders and crew returned to the winner’s circle this year (in Epping, N.H.) and logged three runner-up results, proving they’ve gained a lot of ground during this year’s campaign. She’s likely to finish sixth overall.
“When you’ve been champions it’s definitely a bummer when you don’t do it again,” Enders said. “You get spoiled and addicted to the success. But the reality is it’s very hard to do what we do and to have great results year after year. There’s been a lot of changes since we won our second title.
“The key is having the right people around you to overcome and adapt. We’re on our way to another championship year, no doubt, and it very well could be next season. That’s the plan. I know I have the best team in the sport, from (owner) Richard Freeman, to our engine guys on to the crew chiefs and mechanics, we’re world class. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ for us.”
Aside from her 2014 win at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Enders has been top qualifier here twice, in 2011 and 2015.
“Pomona has been decent to us, especially when we won that winner-take-all race in 2014,” Enders said. “I mean, we had to win the race and beat our biggest rival that year, Jason Line, to earn the title and we did it. There’s a lot of history here and the races always symbolize either the start or the end of a season, so there is always a level of excitement. We’re ready to race and close out strong.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12 and 2:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first day qualifying action live from 3:30-4:30 p.m., Friday. The network also will air the second day of qualifying from 3-4 p.m., Saturday. Live eliminations will air from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)