By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
After a trying season so far for Erica Enders and her Elite Performance Team coming off a 2022 Championship in Pro Stock, the 5-time champion was able to pick herself up a bit in Bristol on Saturday by achieving her first No. 1 qualifier of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season.
Enders has had a rough season so far in 2023 and admitted to the media on Friday in a press conference that she “deleted all social media apps” so she could focus on getting better as a driver and not seeing social posts on what she could do to improve. In fact, at one point, she pondered retirement by writing a letter since the ’23 season had not gone her way.
Fortunately, on Friday night, she was able to put herself in the No. 1 provisional position heading into Saturday with a run of 6.627 at 205.88 mph. However, that was under cooler conditions, and knowing the temperatures would be much hotter on Saturday with temperatures in the 80s for the high, she and the team knew they would have to keep posting consistent times to keep the No. 1 spot.
“We feel like we figured out what our problem was Chicago E1, we made the run and were low for the session, tested, and it translated here. It’s super exciting,” Enders said. “I’m just super excited to be back on the pole. That’s not something that really means a whole lot to me because I don’t love it, but it’s just, it’s exciting.
“I know it’s only race seven, but it feels like seven years. It’s been excruciating. Today we made big strides in the right direction for our whole organization, and what we found is going to translate to all of our cars. I think you can look for really great things from our Elite Motorsports camp.”
During Q3, Enders improved on her time with a 6.683 at 206.95 mph during her run with teammate Cristian Cuadra. In the final round of qualifying, her Elite Performance team gained speed again by running an E.T. of 6.552 at 206.10 mph.
Following the Q4 session, she would earn her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 30th of her career thanks to her Friday night E.T. of 6.627 seconds. The No. 1 qualifying spot is her first since the fall Las Vegas race of last year. Enders is scheduled to face No. 16 qualifier Mason McGaha in the first round of eliminations.
“I definitely feel a lot more confident than we have heading into the other Sundays so far this season,” Enders said. “We seem to have a racecar back underneath us and that’s truly exciting, we just have to go to work tomorrow, execute the best that we can, and try to park the JHG/Melling Performance car in the winner’s circle.
Additionally, Enders’ teammate, Aaron Stanfield won the Mission 2Fast2Tasty Challenge at Bristol as well.
Note – Due to forecasted weather late in the day, the 2023 Thunder Valley Nationals was moved up two hours from its original starting time of Noon eastern to 10 a.m./ET. Below are the Pro Stock Elimination Ladders with the DNQs for Sunday’s race.
1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.627, 205.88 vs. 16. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.692, 204.20; 2. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.631, 206.80 vs. 15. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.679, 205.47; 3. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.632, 206.04 vs. 14. David Cuadra, Mustang, 6.671, 205.01; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.638, 205.79 vs. 13. Jerry Tucker, Camaro, 6.670, 205.38; 5. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.642, 205.94 vs. 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.661, 204.98; 6. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.643, 205.91 vs. 11. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.656, 206.23; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.643, 204.54 vs. 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.655, 205.66; 8. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.651, 206.20 vs. 9. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.653, 206.07.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris McGaha, 6.708, 204.79; 18. Fernando Cuadra, 6.709, 204.63; 19. Larry Morgan, 6.741, 204.20.