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Erica Enders. (NHRA photo)

In The Face Of Frustration, Enders Keeps The Faith

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Reigning NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders did not forget how to drive a race car.

Elite Motorsports owner Richard Freeman did not shirk his responsibility to run the longstanding NHRA operation. And crew chief Mark Ingersoll did not forget how to tune a championship-caliber machine.

While true, it doesn’t change the fact that six races into the season Enders has yet to make it past the quarterfinal round of eliminations — now a painful source of frustration for the five-time champion who won 10 national events last year.

But according to the 39-year-old, this is just how the Pro Stock pendulum swings.

“We didn’t forget what we’re doing, it’s just, it’s not working in our favor right now,” Enders said. “It awful because you spend the same amount of money, you work just as hard and you’re trying everything you can.”

Though the 18-year drag racing veteran may be familiar with navigating the peaks and valleys associated with NHRA competition, it doesn’t make her impervious to the outside opinions that have steadily trickled in over the last few months.   

“It’s part of what comes with living in a fishbowl, right?” Enders said, adding that she’s deleted every social media app off her phone to help combat the negativity. But Friday morning, upon arrival at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, one of her crew chiefs gently reminded her of what has led to her array of success over the years.

“He put a finger on each side of my temple and he said, ‘It’s the six inches right here that’s going to make the difference,’” Enders said. “And that’s what has made the difference and made me a five-time world champion, is what happens up here.”

Last season, the strength of her mental game contributed to a 10-race win tally and 13 final-round appearance record. This year, it’s easing her through her winless slump as the Pro Stock powerhouse anticipates the moment it will finally come together. 

Enders witnessed a glimmer of hope two weekends ago at the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., when her car set the lowest elapsed time on race day.

“I lost (the first round) on the holeshot. So, in one point, I’m like writing my retirement letter because I suck. And then at the other point, you’re like, well, our race car turned around,” said Enders. “We went and tested in Tulsa and proved what we think we found in Chicago.”

Moving into Bristol this weekend, the defending champion simply wants to take a baby step.

While she’d love nothing more than to visit the Thunder Valley Nationals winner’s circle on Sunday, Enders admitted she’d be content just to move past the first round of eliminations — something she’s only accomplished twice this year.

Pointing back to the pendulum idea, the Elite Motorsports driver hopes the summer months will bring a breeze that moves the momentum back in her favor.

“When it’s not swinging in your direction, it’s extremely painful, but it always comes back,” Enders said. “You just have to be able to weather the storm.”