BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 16) — Pro Stock championship points leader Erica Enders-Stevens has placed her front-running Elite Motorsports Camaro in solid contention for this weekend’s 33rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, qualifying third in the factory hot rod class with a swift 6.630 at 207.69 mph.
“I’m so happy to be driving again,” said Enders-Stevens, who last arced July 20 in Denver. “Thankfully, it’s kind of like riding a bike where everything came right back to me the first pass down the strip. Obviously, the team picked up right where we left off as well. I’m a happy girl.”
The points leader for the last 13 consecutive national events, Enders-Stevens skipped the last two races on the Mello Yello tour as her team prepares for the upcoming Countdown to the Championship. The NHRA’s six-race version of playoffs begins mid- September in Charlotte.
“Any time you’re out of the seat for an extended amount of time it’s tough on you,” Enders-Stevens said. “Seat time is priceless and it was hard staying home when everyone else was racing, but we had to be patient and see the bigger picture, which is the championship. It really does feel good to be back in the car, though, for sure.”
By qualifying No. 3 on the ladder, Enders-Stevens will begin her quest for a second Brainerd trophy opposite Dave River, who qualified 14th with a 6.793 at 204.23 mph. The two have raced just once this season with Enders-Stevens taking the win.
“We had a huge lead but that’s gone so we definitely have our work cut out for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve had the dominant car all year but a couple of teams have started to catch up. The two Summit cars are right there, which always seems to be the case in the second half of the year, and my buddy Allen Johnson is just a round and a half back. Jeg (Coughlin) is right there also.
“Our focus is on the Countdown and we’d love to be No. 1 heading into that deal but if we’re not, that’s okay also because we’ll be right there in the mix no matter what. The fight is going to take place among the same group of drivers and we need to be ready for it, no matter where we all start. I’m not worried about the start; I’m focused on the finish.”
Qualifying action from BIR will air at 10 p.m. CT, Saturday, on ESPN2. Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon, Sunday, with ESPN2 airing all the action in tape-delay beginning at 8 p.m. CT.