Erica Enders | Englishtown, NJ 2016

ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — Reigning two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders successfully qualified her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart in the top half of the eliminations field for the third time this year with a pass of 6.617 seconds at 209.20 mph down Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is she now faces teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations, a task she’d rather have saved for later in the day.

“We picked up our qualifying a little bit but we have to race Jeg, so that’s not how we would have drawn it up if we had the chance,” Enders said. “I guess the good news is, like Jeg told me, at least one of us is sure to move on to the quarterfinals.

“It’s no secret we both want more out of our Dodges. Our teammate, Vincent Nobile, is running really good now, and we just need to get my and Jeg’s cars on par with his. He qualified third last weekend and is fourth here. More importantly, he’s right on the heels of the three KB Racing cars, so we can see we’re gaining ground.”

Enders’ second title defense has been somewhat of a struggle with only a semifinal and two quarterfinal results to show for the team’s efforts to date, but the native Texan says no one is down; in fact, quite the opposite.

“It’s become sort of a running game to see what we can do each week to make gains in our performance,” Enders said. “You can’t beat yourself up about it because it doesn’t do any good. You’re still in the same place you were when you started.

“The guys that built my motors the last two years when we won two championships and a boatload of individual races are still the same guys that build my motors now. The crew guys that prepped my race cars the last two years haven’t changed. My crew chiefs didn’t forget how to tune race cars. You just have to remember we switched manufacturers on a year when the NHRA made some of the biggest changes in class history. You can’t just flip a switch and everything works perfectly.”

Last off-season, NHRA mandated a change from carburetors to electronic full injection. They also shortened the wheelie bars and limited rpms.

“We’ll get where we need to be,” Enders said. “I wouldn’t change a thing about where we are and the guys I have around me.”

FOX Sports 1 will carry Friday and Saturday’s qualifying action from 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday.