(Photos courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: Erica Enders not giving up hope for third straight Pro Stock title


Will she or won’t she? Only her horsepower guy knows for sure.

Two-time defending NHRA Pro Stock champ Erica Enders isn’t giving up on making the Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff.

All Enders has to do is be ranked within the top-10 after the upcoming U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis and she’ll have a fresh chance to win her third consecutive title.

But it won’t be easy. Enders is currently outside the Countdown window, in 11th place. Granted, she’s only nine points out of 10th place, but given her up-and-down performance record this season, nine points might as well be 90, if not 900 points.

There’s only one way to solve that problem and make up for lost time: wins, wins and more wins. It’s the only way she’ll likely make the Countdown, let alone win her third consecutive championship.

2016_Erica_Enders headshot

Enders has three races to qualify for the Countdown: this weekend’s Protect The Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals; Brainerd, Minnesota in two weeks and the biggest race of the season, the legendary U.S. Nationals on Labor Day Weekend in suburban Indianapolis.

It’s been a challenging season for Enders and her Elite Motorsports team on a number of fronts. Not only have they failed to advance past the first round of eliminations 10 times in the first 15 races, they’ve also had difficulty adapting to the new electronic fuel injection system mandated by NHRA.

On top of that, they also switched from the Chevrolet power that led them to the 2014 and 2015 championships to Dodge power and chassis this season.

And then there’s the domination of KB Racing’s Jason Line and Greg Anderson, who have won a combined 14 of the first 15 races this season.

Even with all those challenges, Enders says she’s ready for the challenge at hand to make the Countdown.

“I don’t have any doubt we’ll rise to the occasion again,” Enders said in a media release. “Certainly, it’s not been like the last couple of years with the struggles we’ve had switching to EFI and switching manufacturers. It’s certainly been a learning year for us.

“Having said that, we’re going to do the best we can. In my opinion, nobody performs as well under pressure as we do collectively.”

It’s hard to understand how Enders and her Elite team have fallen backward so far. Over the last two seasons, she not only won 14 races (six in 2014 and eight in 2015).

Thus far this season, Enders hasn’t even reached one final round, let alone visit the winner’s circle.

“We’ve been fortunate in years past,” Enders said. “This year, things haven’t necessarily been falling our way. We’ve had struggles with parts failures and stuff that wasn’t typical in the past.

“Those are all huge obstacles we have to overcome. I feel like we’re certainly right on track to making better runs and getting more horsepower. We just need a little bit of a break.”

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.