GAINESVILLE, FL — Erica Enders flashed the form that made her a two-time Pro Stock champion this weekend at the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, qualifying a lofty third in the field and zooming to a convincing first-round win Sunday morning. But the fun stopped there as her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro over-powered the racetrack in Round 2, sending her packing.
“You never want to lose a single round,” she said. “That’s just how racers are wired. But I think when we take a step back and look at the progress we’ve made in the first three races of the year, especially compared to last season, we’ll see we are miles ahead.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They are so consistent and good and give me such an awesome racecar every round. We just missed the tune-up a hair in Round 2 and over-estimated what the track would hold. It rattled the tires right off the launch pad and that was all she wrote.”
Race day had started extremely well for the Texan as she posted an impressive 6.493 at 213.87 mph in dismissing Alan Prusiensky, who was slower at the start (.033 to .073 seconds) and the top end, running a 6.566 at 211.13 mph in the defeat.
The run gave her lane choice by a massive margin over second-round opponent Shane Gray, who went 6.526 at 211.73 mph in the opening session, but the advantage didn’t pan out for the 21-time national event winner, even though she had a .016-second reaction time to Gray’s .032-second start.
“Our teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. rattled his tires in the left lane, which we thought was slightly worse than the right side, so the guys were comfortable in keeping my car set the way it was for my race,” Enders said. “I felt it shaking as soon as I dropped the clutch but kept my foot in it and pulled a gear to see if we could power through the shake. It just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to crash the car so I just pushed in the clutch.”
Gray went on to post a respectable, but certainly beatable 6.518 at 213.13 mph.
“We’ll get out of here and go test some more before the next race,” Enders said. “We want to win races with regularity once again, just like we did during our two championship seasons. I believe we’re very close to that goal.”
The next national event is the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, which takes place March 31-April 2 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.