Engines Inc. NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens captured her third No. 1 qualifier of the 2014 season with an impressive performance during the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals on Saturday at zMax Dragway in North Carolina. Enders-Stevens was quickest in both sessions Saturday, capping off her qualifying dominance with a pass of 6.568 seconds at 210.37 mph to earn her ninth career No. 1 and first in Charlotte.
“Things feel better,” Enders-Stevens said. “I stated on Friday that the car was acting right again, and we seem to have our ducks a little bit more in a row than we had at Indy and Brainerd (Minn.). It couldn’t have come at a better time, being that this is the start of the Countdown (to the Championship).
Enders-Stevens was quickest in each of the four qualifying sessions, earning 12 bonus points and helping cut into Jason Line’s lead. Teams struggled against very challenging track conditions all weekend, making qualifying a difficult chore.
“The points you’re awarded for running low e.t. of every qualifying session, those all add up,” Enders-Stevens said. “We acquired 12 of them this weekend, and Jason, who’s ahead of me in points, got two, so we picked up on him. That’s so, so crucial with only 24 rounds of racing left.”
After the points were reset following the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the Countdown to the Championship- NHRA’s playoff season, Line carried a 30-point lead on Enders-Stevens and the rest of the Pro Stock top 10. But Enders-Stevens has already cut that lead down by a third, getting within a round of the lead. Twenty points are awarded for every round-win in NHRA competition.
“Hat’s off to my team, my crew chiefs, and all the guys who worked their tails off to give me a great, consistent race car,” Enders-Stevens said. “That track was pretty tricky this afternoon, being as hot as it was, and they nailed the tune-up.”
Sunday, track conditions continued to deteriorate. After husband Richie Stevens was eliminated in the opening pairs due to a near-miss, a horrific first round crash by fellow Pro Stock racer V. Gaines resulted in much of the Pro Stock field aborting their first round match ups, returning to their pits due to safety concerns with the racing surface in protest. NHRA officials finally made the call to postpone the Pep Boys NHRA Carolinas Nationals because of rain and deteriorating track conditions at zMax Dragway.
The race will be completed during the 29th Annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Dallas, Texas. No. 1 qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens and her Mach 1 Chevrolet will face No. 16 John Gaydosh when the Charlotte race is resumed. John Gaydosh posted a top pass of 6.697 seconds at 206.39 mph during qualifying efforts.