Erica Enders finally found her way back to the winners circle.
After losing eight consecutive final rounds dating back to the spring race in Charlotte, N.C., in 2018, Enders was celebrating Sunday in St. Louis.
Enders clocked a 6.598-second elapsed time at 208.36 mph to muscle past Matt Hartford’s 6.621-second lap at 207.30 mph at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, the second race in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
Hartford cut an .003 light to Enders’ .018 reaction time, but Enders was able to chase him down.
“This win means the world to me,” Enders said. “We’ve been through a lot of crap, for the lack of a better word, my guys have stuck behind me and our partners have stuck behind us. Richard Freeman organized the most the perfect group of guys and they get better and they get better and they get better and they continue to impress me. It was my dad’s birthday. I told him I was going to do my best to bring him a Wally and we did it. I’m ready for the remaining four races, I put my money on us.
Enders, who qualified No. 1 with a 6.552-second lap at 209.85 mph, beat Alan Prusiensky, Aaron Stanfield, her teammate at Elite Motorsports, Chris McGaha, and then Hartford, who utilizes Elite Motorsports horsepower.
“I really feel like I learned a lot (Sunday) on a hot, tricky day,” Enders said. “We were able to step up to the plate in the finals, Matt left on me, but our Elite horsepower drove around him at the other end and we were able to get a win. It is kind of crazy that this is our first win of the year, but it is all coming together at the right time. You have to trust the process. It feels like it has been an eternity since we won in 2018 at the spring Charlotte race. You do this long enough and to have two years like we had in 2014 and 2015 and to go through the valleys we have gone through, you wonder if it is going to happen again. We just continue to put our heads down and work hard, but this win definitely means a lot to our entire program.”
Enders, who is behind the wheel of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Freeman, now has 24 national event wins. Enders, who won world championships in 2014-2015, had lost in three final rounds this season in Chicago (June 2), Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 18) and Indianapolis (Sept. 2).
“I finally got a trophy,” Enders said. “It feels like dogs years, man. This is what perseverance is all about, you don’t quit, you just keep going. We redeemed ourselves here after our poor performance in Reading.”
Enders lost in the second round in Reading, Sept. 15 to Fernando Cuadra Sr.
“I knew every time I fired that bad boy up (Sunday) that we were going to go out there and make a really great pass,” Enders said. “My guys are giving me a car that I just have to drive to the winner’s circle. It is tough task, but I like the pressure. I’m really excited to have learned what I learned (Sunday) as a driver and I’m going to take that into consideration moving forward. My confidence level is pretty high.”
Enders is now second in the point standings, just 11 behind leader Jason Line.
“We are less than a round of racing out of the lead in the chase for the world championship,” Enders said. “There are four races to go and 16 rounds and I’m excited about it and hopefully we will drive ourselves to the winner’s circle four more times.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019