Erica Enders became a three-time world champion at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, defeating Chris McGaha in the second round to lock up her third Pro Stock title and first since 2015. The Texan defeated rival Greg Anderson in the first round to put herself in position and sealed the deal by beating another rival in the second.
All eyes laid on Enders and Anderson in the first round. Anderson strategically qualified in the 15th position to book a matchup with Enders so he could give his K.B. Racing teammates Jason Line and Bo Butner a fighting chance to win the Pro Stock title. He did everything perfectly, even leaving a thousandth of a second before Enders in the opening stanza.
It wasn't enough. Enders pounded through her clutch box expertly and beat Anderson to the quarter-mile finish line .004-second quicker to thunderous applause from the Pomona fans in her Melling Performance Chevy Camaro. She lept out of the car knowing she needed one more round win to lock up her first championship in four years.
She got it against McGaha in the second round. Enders dropped a .019-second reaction time against her fellow Texan and. fittingly given her starting-line acumen, won on a holeshot by .027-second.
"The first one was just epic in the fashion that we did it," said Enders. "The second one we knocked them out before Vegas was over. This one symbolizes a lot because of what my team has gone through and what I've gone through personally. Obviously the other championships meant a lot to me, too, but this one is special."
"I'm so thankful for every guy that touches this car and who spend weekends away from their wives and from their kids because they believe so much in what we're doing out here. This means the world to me. "
The title comes after years of struggle for the Elite Motorsports racer. The team rebounded with a solid, if unspectacular, season in 2018 where Enders earned one Wally. The 2019 campaign represented a true return to form for the champion as she earned two wins, including a playoff victory in St. Louis. Enders qualified in pole position three times and reached five final rounds. Enders kicked off her 2019 season with a pair of semifinal finishes but slipped to eighth-place in the standings at mid-season following a tough Western Swing. Her march to the top of the standings began with a pair of runner-up finishes in Brainerd and Indy, and she earned her first win of the season during the Countdown event in St. Louis and later added a second win two weeks ago at the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.
Enders came into the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a 92-point lead over her Elite Motorsports teammate and five-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., whom she defeated in a crucial final round in Las Vegas. Elite Motorsports owner Richard Freeman announced Enders will return to the Melling Performance Chevy Camaro seat in 2020. She will defend her title beginning at the 2020 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona in February.