READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) — A strong semifinal showing at Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals has thrust superstar racer Erica Enders-Stevens back into the championship picture with two races left in the drag racing season. Enders-Stevens, who led the Mello Yello points for 13 races during the regular season, is now just 35 points behind Jason Line, who exited in the quarterfinals.
“I have such an awesome team,” Enders-Stevens said. “They gave me a great race car all weekend, from qualifying No. 1 to going to the semifinals today. I wanted to give them more — I wanted to get to the finals and win — but to close the gap on Jason to less than two rounds is really exciting.
“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and we’re ready for it. Having the quickest car here has given us so much confidence. Now we’ve got a couple weeks off to get back to the shop and regroup. The last two races will be incredible.”
After coming within two-thousandths of a second of resetting her own national record in qualifying, Enders-Stevens remained red-hot on race day, beating Frank Gugliotta with a 6.469 at 213.30 mph to Gugliotta’s 6.579 at 209.79 mph. She then downed Vieri Gaines with a 6.484 at 213.60 mph to Gaines’ 6.507 at 212.69 mph.
It wasn’t until the semifinals against good friend and past series champion Allen Johnson that Enders-Stevens was quieted, slowing to a 6.759 at 210.87 mph to Johnson’s 6.499 at 212.69 mph.
“The car just shook the tires really hard down low,” she said. “I pedaled it and got back on the gas as fast as possible, but when you lose all of that early momentum there’s not much you can do. I stayed after it just in case Allen had trouble but I saw him all the way down the track. That round was a bummer but we’re still smiling over here.”
The NHRA tour takes a two-week break before resuming action with the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“We were undefeated in the spring race in Vegas, so we’ll try to keep that streak alive,” Enders-Stevens said. “We won both the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the regular national event, so we have nothing but good thoughts going through our heads.
“It’ll be good to get home, catch up on our rest, and have time to service the car and the motors. Having four races in a row was pretty taxing for everyone. Even so, we’ve put ourselves in an incredible position to challenge for the title. I’ve dreamt of this my whole life and it’s so cool to be living in the moment right now.”