Erica Enders’ favorite Indy memory happened in 2015 and it’s a moment she will never forget. It marked her first win at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, coming in the midst of her impressive back-to-back championship run in Pro Stock. Coming off a final round appearance at the most recent NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Enders will try for her second win at the Big Go during this weekend’s 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
It’s been an up-and-down year in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, but Enders and her team could be coming together at the perfect time. Getting another win in Indy on drag racing’s biggest stage would only add to that heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, and Enders only has to look back to 2015 to know how much an Indy win means.
“I remember everything about that weekend,” Enders said. “It’s one of the races that will stand out most to me. As a kid growing up, and as a fan and spectator before I ever became a racer, it was the most prestigious race in NHRA drag racing and it still is that way. To add my name to the list who have win in Indy is pretty significant for me. After going to the finals at Brainerd, we’re ready to get back to the track and hopefully turn on one more win light.”
Terry McMillen (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be shown on the FOX national broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of eliminations on both FOX and FS1 on Monday, Sept. 2. It is the 12th of 18 races during the 2019 Pro Stock season, and the final race of the regular season also comes with an increased amount of points via the points-and-a-half system. For Enders, she views it as a chance to gain major momentum before the playoffs.
Looking for her first win of 2019, Enders, who has two final round appearances this year, is currently seventh in points. But a jump into the top five isn’t out of the question with a strong showing at the biggest race of the year, and Enders insists there’s no let-up in her team after putting together their best showing of the season in Brainerd.
“Every point matters and I need to have a really great showing,” said Enders, who has 23 career Pro Stock wins. “This team has remained determined and persevered a lot, and hopefully that will allow us to peak at the right time. We made eight good runs in a row in Brainerd and hopefully that’s a good indication of what’s to come. You have to have all your ducks in a row at Indy, but obviously our goal is to win the race and position ourselves the best we can.”
It certainly won’t be easy, as Enders will have to contend against 20 other Pro Stock competitors in Indy, including points leader Bo Butner, Greg Anderson, who has six Indy wins, Brainerd winner Jason Line, and Elite Motorsports teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr., Alex Laughlin and Matt Hartford. Enders also knows Indy is a grueling battle, but those moments often bring out the best in her.
“I love these moments,” Enders said. “I like the added pressure and I like when there’s a lot on the line. My team is the same way. You have to treat this race as a marathon, and not a sprint. It’s definitely grueling, but we’re ready to battle it out.”
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 1 on FS1 at 2 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. EST. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 2 starting at 11 a.m. EST, continuing live on FOX at 1 p.m. EST.
Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.