Last weekend at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, Erica Enders lost in the semifinals to Matt Hartford. (NHRA photo)

Erica Enders: ‘Let The Points Count Themselves’

When the door closes on Erica Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro, her championship hopes rest entirely on her shoulders.

The pressure, the heart and the intensity are at their peak during the few seconds before the light turns green on the drag strip. According to Enders, those are still the most difficult moments to face, even as a four-time Pro Stock champion.

However, it was in the seconds after the green light that Enders’ day at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals was brought to an early close when she lost to Matt Hartford in the semifinals. Still, she enters this weekend’s event at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., with her head held high.

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team have been nearly unstoppable this year, collecting seven victories along the way. By the end of the regular season, Enders had built a remarkable 200-plus point gap over Aaron Stanfield, who was second in points.  

When the Countdown to the Championship began at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway one week ago, Enders solidified her spot as points leader, earning yet another dominant victory. And when the NHRA convoy ventured south to Concord, N.C., for the Carolina Nationals, there was no reason for Enders to expect anything less than a win.

“You always have a positive, mental attitude, and you try to will things to happen,” Enders said. According to plan, she emerged as the frontrunner early, taking the No. 1 qualifying position over KB Racing teammates Greg Anderson and Dallas Glenn.

KB Racing Calvary Looks To Win At Home In Charlotte

During Friday night’s press conference, Enders shared that her goal for the weekend was both to accumulate as many points as possible and to “keep our foot on their throats” — a playful warning to her competition that she was serious about extending her streak.

But after fighting her way past Larry Morgan and Cristian Cuadra to reach the third round of eliminations on Sunday, an unexpected turn of events was in store for the points leader.

Enders shook the tires on her Chevrolet Camaro when she took off down the drag strip, while Hartford ran a 6.598-second elapsed time, granting him the victory. In light of the atypical car performance from Elite Motorsports, crew chiefs Mark Ingersoll and Tim Freeman were immediately analyzing the data to determine the cause of the shake.

Yet, as the points leader headed back to the pits to pack up for the day, she remained relentless in her championship conviction.

“A semifinal finish is nothing to shake our heads at,” Enders said. “This is just the second race of the Countdown, we’ve got four remaining and I think we’ve got a pretty hefty points lead. We’re just going to do our best to spread the gap.”

Listen to a snippet from SPEED SPORT’s interview with Erica Enders in Charlotte.

Enders holds a 64-point lead over Stanfield entering the Midwest Nationals.

Fellow title rival Anderson lost in the second round of eliminations in Charlotte, dropping him to fourth in the standings, while Enders’ teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. moved to third.

While she is certainly aware of the points situation, Enders also realizes her best shot at the championship will come from maintaining a narrow focus during the remainder of the Countdown.

“You let the points count themselves,” Enders said. “Your car, your lane, nobody else is going to change what we do. That’s the mindset that we having moving on from Charlotte to St. Louis.”

The green light on the drag strip may throw a gut punch every time Enders rolls up to the start, but it’s part of what she loves about racing and “I know, one day when I’m all done, I’m probably going to miss that.”