Erica Enders entered the final E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by J&A Services qualifying session on the bump spot. An improved pass (5.787) at 261.22-mph, a new national record, moved her deeper into the hyper competitive field at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk. It also guaranteed high fives, fist bumps and other celebrations on the starting line.
Then things went wrong for the two-time Pro Stock world champion past the finish line. Flames began to lick the side of her Camaro, which washed out well past the finish line. Enders did a marvelous job keeping the car off the wall and instead directed the uncooperative machine into the sand trap where it continued to cook for a few moments before the Safety Safari presented by the Auto Club of Southern California got to work. Enders exited the car under her own power.
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Mike Castellana took his Frank Manzo-tuned car to the top of the qualifying sheet with a 5.701-second pass, a full .04-second quicker than the next driver on the sheet. That will book him a race day matchup against Justin Bond. Defending world champion Mike Janis qualified second with a 5.741, just a thousandth quicker than Sidnei Frigo. Steve Matusek and Alex Laughlin were just thousandths behind to round out the top five, while the last winner on tour, Jose Gonzalez, qualified sixth with a 5.748.
Enders' speed record improves upon a 260-mph record the driver set herself on race day in a losing effort earlier this season. Stevie “Fast” Jackson endured a similar experience at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals to start the Pro Mod season. It was not immediately known if Elite Motorsports will try to repair the car or if the team has a backup car available in Norwalk.
The first round of Pro Mod will begin following the NHRA Mello Yello pro sessions, which kick off at noon Eastern on Sunday. You can catch all of that action live on NHRA.tv and check back on NHRA.com for more highlights and analysis. The NHRA on FS1 broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.