ATLANTA, GA — Reigning back-to-back world champion Erica Enders beams with pride whenever she talks about her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Pro Stock race team, and with the 36th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway just days away, the 21-time national event winner says her next trophy celebration is coming soon.
“I am feeling really good about things,” Enders said. “We had some great days testing in Denton (Texas) and Tulsa (Okla.) and the cars are getting better and better. The engines look good on the dyno. All the things we want to see are happening and that has me very excited.
“We got used to winning a lot the last two years, and it’s easy to get frustrated when you go six races into a season without a win, but when I take a minute and think about this race team, I know I’m the luckiest girl on the planet. We didn’t win 15 races and two titles in the last two years by mistake.”
Enders’ best result to date was her semifinal finish in Las Vegas. She also reached the second round of the four-wide event in Charlotte. At the last race in Houston, she had her second-best qualifying result of the year.
“Rick and Rickie (Jones, co-crew chiefs), our team owner Richard Freeman, Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston (engine builders), Royce Lee (Freeman, crewman), and the rest of the guys — there’s no better group in the sport,” Enders said. “They always have my back and I have theirs, in good times and bad.
“Switching manufacturers is a huge deal and we didn’t get started until late in the off-season. We’re catching up fast and we’re going to be right back in the mix real soon. You can really look at it negatively or positively; I choose the positive route because I know first-hand what this group can do. I’ve lived it.”
While Enders hasn’t visited Atlanta Dragway’s Victory Lane, she has had her moments in the sun at the historic track. In 2014, en route to her first world title, she was the top qualifier at the event.
“Atlanta Dragway, although it looks very different than my home track in Houston, can be a lot like Houston this time of the year because of the heat and humidity of the early summer months,” Enders said. “We sweat it out in Houston last weekend and we’ll most likely be sweating it out there, but I’m used to it because I grew up in southeast Texas.
“More than anything, I want to reward the guys for all of their tireless work. They’ve been amazing this year and I love ’em for it.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air Friday qualifying from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday qualifying from 10 to 11 p.m., and Sunday’s elimination action from 4:40 to 7:30 p.m.