ST. LOUIS (Sept. 24) – Husky Liners Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens will have a wider smile than usual this weekend because she’ll enter the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park as the defending event champion.

Enders-Stevens beat Shane Gray, Cagnazzi Racing teammate Dave Connolly, Jason Line, and Allen Johnson en route to her fourth victory of the season in 2012.

“I’m excited to go back to St. Louis,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s always been one of my favorite tracks to go to, even before I started racing Pro Stock. I have a lot of great memories there, and the best one was last year when we won our fourth race of the season. That was just a really exciting day.”

NHRA returned to Gateway after a brief absence while the track changed ownership, and Enders-Stevens took full advantage. The final-round victory over good friend Johnson was special, too.

“We won the final against Allen on a holeshot,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s crazy how I remember this stuff. We’re the defending champions there, so we go in with a lot of confidence and a positive attitude. I’m excited to go back.”

Enders-Stevens sits sixth in the standings after two of six Countdown to the Championship races. Though she knows there is plenty of time to make up the 118-point deficit to points leader Line, she also knows time can’t be wasted if she hopes to win the Pro Stock championship.

“It’s still within reach,” Enders-Stevens said. “We need to go rounds because the Countdown is almost half over.”

Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team’s assault on the Pro Stock standings begins with qualifying, where points are up for grabs in each of the four sessions. Three bonus points are awarded to the quickest car in each session, two to the second-quickest, and one to the third-quickest.

Points are also available for qualifying higher overall; Enders-Stevens earned eight points for her No. 1 in Dallas last weekend.

“Getting those baby points in every round of qualifying certainly adds up,” Enders-Stevens said. “There are 12 points up for grabs for low e.t. of every qualifying session. They’re important and we want to go after them, too.”

Qualifying for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals gets under way at 2:45 p.m. CDT on Friday from Gateway Motorsports Park and continues at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. Eliminations will be at 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the eliminations show at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday.