Erica Enders last won in April of 2018 and the driver of the Melling Chevy Camaro owns just two wins since the start of the 2016 season. That does not diminish her driving ability. She, by all measures, is one of the four best drivers in the Pro Stock category. She is the best driver in Pro Stock by many measures. So, why haven’t the wins come her way at the pace they did in the 2014 and 2015 season?
The same question can be posed the direction of Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who went on a tear during the 2018 season but who has just one win in 2019. One of the most prolific winners in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing history went through a long slump before winning four times in two classes in 2018.
Neither driver is on a downward slide when it comes to shifting gears or leaving the starting line. They are the two best Pro Stock racers when it comes to reaction time average. Enders boasts a .029-second average compared to Coughlin’s .031. That’s a tic better than Deric Kramer’s .033 and it’s fair to note Enders and Coughlin have been doing this at a high level much longer than Kramer; the big sample size trumps the small sample size.
Reaction times are sexy, especially in Pro Stock; the self-anointed driver’s class of NHRA. The driver’s with the best reaction times do not, obviously, always win. Bo Butner averages a .048-second light, just .002-second better than the class average, and leads the category this season in Wally hoarding. The car matters tremendously, just like it does in every other category; but Coughlin and Enders are battling more than equipment in 2019.
That hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past. Elite Motorsports is a premiere team in Pro Stock, but it’s also a team that battled inconsistency while running Dodge Darts in 2016. The transition back to Chevy Camaros went slowly in 2017 and, beginning in April in 2018, picked up steam. Since then, it’s fair to say the Camaros of Elite have been on par with those of K.B. Racing. Gray Motorsports snatched the big trophy at the end of the year (thanks in no small part to the driving of Tanner Gray), but the mega teams were on level footing again, it seemed.
Five racers are separated by 4 points in NHRA Power Ranking. Jeg Coughlin Jr. leads with an 82.36 and Jason Line, the K.B. Racing stalwart, sits fifth, with a 74.2. There are two Elite and three K.B. cars in the top five; which is to say it is very crowded at the top and the margins are thin. Coughlin and Enders are in the top five in NHRA Power Rankings but in seventh and eighth, respectively, in points.
Some of that comes down to bad luck on race day. Enders’ Camaro boasts an average elapsed time just .005-second slower than Alex Laughlin’s, another Elite Motorsports Camaro, and a Success Rate that is higher during eliminations. Her reaction time average is more than two hundredths of a second quicker than Laughlin’s and yet her round-win percentage is 55 compared to a 73 for her teammate. Those are just the way the breaks go sometimes.
There’s room for both Coughlin and Enders’ Camaros to improve (the K.B. Racing Camaros have them on elapsed time average) but both teams have put forth better performance than the standings indicate. That may not show itself to be true by the time we show up at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, and the coin flips may not turn around by the time the season ends. But the most any team can do is stay true to a good process and expect the results to follow.