POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders ended her one-win 2017 campaign with a quarterfinal run at the season-ending 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Showing off her trademark killer instincts in the seat of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, Enders trailered her best friend in the sport, the retiring Allen Johnson, before bowing to outgoing champ Jason Line when her car got out of shape in the suspect right-hand lane.
“It’s disappointing because we had a racecar that could have won this race and I feel like we lost it because that lane was subpar,” Enders said. “I mean, we had three cars in the quarterfinals and all three got out of shape in that lane and ended up losing. Is that a coincidence?
“Either way, it’s been a decent year for us after a disastrous 2016. We did get a win up in New Hampshire, which felt wonderful, and we fought our way back to respectability, especially down the stretch after kind of losing our way in the middle of the season.”
Enders’ victory over Johnson was emotional for both racers, but they handled it like true pros. After a slight headstart, Enders was able to drive away for the win with a 6.554 at 209.82 mph, while Johnson’s car got a bit squirrely and he had to shut it down early, crossing in 6.979 at 153.25 mph.
“We were both crying down there,” Enders said. “I felt bad but at the same time it’s kind of cool that his last pass was against us. I love him and (wife Pam) so much. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met and we will certainly continue to vacation with the Johnsons like we have for years. I wish him nothing but complete happiness.”
Against Line, Enders recorded a near-perfect .003-second reaction time, putting her .035 seconds ahead of her rival, but her car made a big move towards the centerline and she had to push in the clutch to avoid hitting one of the timing cones. Enders coasted to an 8.367 at 116.80 mph while Line sped to a 6.561 at 210.44 mph.
“I’m not sure what happened to the track,” Enders said. “You never want conditions to determine who wins or loses but it happens from time to time.
“I’m excited to get a break but I’m more excited about getting everything in order for another championship run in 2018. We’ll be back stronger than ever and it won’t be long before I’m going to get that itch to jump back in the seat. We’ve won two championships but I know our best days are ahead of us.”