Throughout her record-setting career, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has done her best work in pressure-packed situations, which is one of the reasons she’s excited about the first of six race days left in the 2017 NHRA season.
“The playoffs are definitely a different animal,” Enders said. “We've lived it, we've fought down to the last round of the season, we've felt the most pressure you can feel in this sport and we've come out on top. If that gives us an edge this year, we'll take it.
“Of course, the guys that are going to make the biggest challenges are all veteran teams and most have them have won it all in the past. Either way, whoever wins this year’s championship will have earned it, no doubt.”
Enders’ first test will come Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. She will start the day as the No. 9 qualifier after posting a best pass of 6.602 seconds at 209.75 mph in time trials.
For her qualifying efforts, Enders will be matched against part-time teammate and close friend Alex Laughlin in the first round of sudden-death eliminations. Laughlin qualified eighth with a 6.600 at 209.17 mph. The two racers have only squared off once this year and it was during the four-wide race here last spring. On that day, Laughlin was one of the two racers to advance out of their quad of racers.
Pro Stock eliminations will begin Sunday at 1 p.m.
▪ Courtney Force took the Funny Car No. 1 qualifier Saturday with her Friday pass in the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the opening event in the Countdown to the Championship. She had a 3.891-second run at 330.07 mph during her second pass Friday. She has a Funny Car-best seven No. 1 qualifiers this year, but is winless.
▪ Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also topped qualifying in the first of six playoff events. Kalitta’s Friday run of 3.723 at 329.50 help up Saturday. Gray also held onto the top spot after driving to a 6.559 at 210.50 during his first pass Friday. Hines had a 6.825 at 196.50, also Friday.