The wait is over and after a dominant weekend in St. Louis, Erica Enders is rolling at the perfect time.
The two-time Pro Stock world champ qualified No. 1 and raced to the NHRA Midwest Nationals win at World Wide Technology Raceway on Sunday, going 6.598-seconds at 208.36 mph in her RJ Race Cars/Quarter-Max Chassis & Racing Components built Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro to slip past Matt Hartford’s 6.621 at 207.30 in the final round.
It gave Enders her first victory since her four-wide win in Charlotte last year, putting the team in prime position to compete for another world title following the second of six NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff races.
“We redeemed ourselves after our poor performance in Reading. I’m ready for the remaining four races. I put my money on us,” said Enders, who earned her 24th career Pro Stock win. “It’s all come together at the right time. It feels like it’s been an eternity since we last won in 2018. We just continue to keep our heads down and working hard, and this definitely means a lot to our entire program.”
The win vaults Enders up to second in the Pro Stock standings, just 11 points behind leader Jason Line.
With back-to-back No. 1 qualifiers to open the playoffs and Sunday’s impressive win, Enders and her talented team, led by crew chiefs Rick Jones and Mark Ingersoll, are as confident as they’ve been all year.
Enders has noticed that in recent weeks and the triumph in St. Louis should only add to it heading to the final four races of 2019.
“(The win) definitely gives us a lot more confidence. We’re less than a round of racing out of first,” Enders said. “There’s a lot of racing left and I’m excited about it. I’m very optimistic about it. We have worked tremendously hard and I think we’ve figured some stuff out.”
She had the top run during the final three qualifying sessions this weekend, earning nine of a possible 12 qualifying points. Her 6.552 at 209.85 led the way into raceday, and the team was strong throughout eliminations, starting with a 6.590 at 207.78 in the opening round on Sunday.
She followed with round wins against Aaron Stanfield and Chris McGaha to reach her 50th final round. There, she was .018 on the starting line, chasing down Hartford to break through in the championship round.
“We’ve had a really great car, a really consistent car and I knew my guys had me today. I always do my best to not race whoever is in the other lane. It’s about our car and our lane,” Enders said. “We were able to step up to the plate in the finals. The guys are giving me a car I just have to drive to the winner’s circle. It’s a tough task, but I like the pressure.”
The pressure has always brought out the best in Enders and everything has come together well at an ideal time.
After working through some ups and downs in the regular season, the team is clicking. Enders has qualified third or better at each of the past five races, going to three finals in that span. Enders added the first win on Sunday, putting the team on a potential good path to finish the Countdown to the Championship in style.
“I really feel like I learned a lot on a hot, tricky day,” Enders said. “The next few tracks on the tour have been really great to us, so I’m excited. We just have to execute.”
Enders returns to action in two weeks during the NHRA Carolina Nationals, Oct. 11-13 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte. It is the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.