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Enders In Prime Position As Countdown Begins

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2015
Erica Enders will be going for a second-straight Pro Stock championship as the Countdown kicks off in North Carolina. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Erica Enders will be going for a second-straight Pro Stock championship as the Countdown kicks off in North Carolina. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Erica Enders opens the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship at zMAX Dragway in a very enviable position – atop the point standings and as Pro Stock’s defending champion.

nhra logoWith six victories on the season, she and her Elite Motorsports team are brimming with confidence. They enter the NHRA Carolina Nationals fresh off of two-straight victories – Brainerd, Minn., and the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. It’s also the first time they’ve started the Countdown seeded No. 1, giving them a 30-point edge over four-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson, who’s second. However, they know focusing on one round at a time is critical.

“We can’t go into these qualifying sessions thinking about going to the finals on Sunday,” said Enders, the first woman to win a NHRA Pro Stock championship and the third to claim a professional title in the Mello Yello Series.

“We take every round one at a time and don’t get ahead of ourselves. That’s where you tend to screw up. It’s very crucial to get off on the right foot here and not stumble. There is no room for error. There is no room for complacency.”

Enders acquired her first two victories this season in April, first at Las Vegas and then at Houston. Win No. 3 came in May at Topeka, Kan., and she added her fourth at Bristol in June. However, her team then hit a summer slump. She lost two semi-finals, two quarter-finals and one first round before returning to victory at Brainerd.

“We had a few parts failures, silly stuff that we couldn’t help,” Enders said about the skid. “We got our act together after Seattle and went to Brainerd kinda with a new attitude. We’re definitely taking more precautions going into the Countdown and just double-, triple-checking everything, cycling parts and pieces before they need to be to avoid something silly happening.”

Enders noted it’s the tough times, not the trophies that formulate a person. She also views filling her own shoes, the ones she created in last year’s championship run, as her toughest challenge entering the Countdown. However, it’s the advice she’s received from one of her childhood heroes and now mentor and friend Shirley Muldowney that she cites as extremely valuable in her title hunt.   

“She said do not relax,” said Enders, whose 18 career victories tie her with Muldowney for second on the NHRA women’s all-time win list. “Don’t get off their throats; continue to step on them.  You have a great team. You have a very fast race car. You’re driving well. Don’t get in the car and forget about that. Each round is extremely important.”

It’s also important to Enders that she has earned the respect of her fellow competitors.

“They don’t necessarily have to like us … but they know what we’re capable of every time we pull up to the starting line and to me that means a lot,” she said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 18 2015
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