ATLANTA, GA — After winning the last two races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team made the surprising decision to switch race cars, and somehow the reigning Pro Stock world champion managed to improve.

“I understand the sentiment, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but we had so much confidence in this new Rick Jones race car that we knew it would be better,” Enders said. “And like my team owner Richard Freeman says, ‘We didn’t build it to sit at the shop,’ so the guys put it back into service and our results speak for themselves.”

Enders tied the quickest elapsed time of the weekend with a 6.546-second blast but qualified second due to Jason Line’s slightly better top speed. Line, who also posted a 6.546, topped out at 211.23 mph to Enders’ 210.28 mph.

“It takes a lot of self confidence to make a car change after winning two races in a row, but the guys felt comfortable enough to give it a try. We worked out a few bugs yesterday and then they really tuned it up today and we lost out on the pole by mph, so we are super happy.

“We actually started the year with this car, but the new fuel and tires they have us running put us a touch behind, so we brought out last year’s championship car and started gathering data. I have such a special place in my heart for that car, and I know how she runs and how she reacts to every little thing, so we were able to use her to figure out the fuel and the tire and apply that to this new car.

“This new one is absolutely the smoothest, most drive-able car I’ve ever driven. It’s the next generation, and I know it’s going to take us to a new level.”

As the No. 2 qualifier, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, will open elimination action at the 35th Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals against John Gaydosh, who posted a best pass of 6.699 at 207.66 mph.

“I was already extremely confident in my team, and switching to a new car without missing a beat makes me that much more convinced that we have the best team in the sport,” Enders said. “We have definitely started summer. The heat and humidity have been beating on us here, but we’re hanging tough and improving every time out there, so our spirits are high.

“It’s also very exciting and cool to be in Coca-Cola’s backyard. They’re such a huge part of what we do in this sport, and they had us over to headquarters for the Champions Dinner the other night, which was so special. I would love to win another race and have all the Mello Yello folks join us in the winner’s circle.”

Eliminations start at noon on Sunday and will be shown on ESPN2.