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Erica Enders puts 2019 loss behind her; wins second U.S. Nationals Pro Stock title

A year after a tough loss in the final round, Erica Enders returns to win her second Pro Stock title at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals.
06 Sep 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage

Erica Enders has won a lot of Pro Stock races and three world championships, but for the last 12 months, she’s been haunted by the “one that got away” at the 2019 U.S. Nationals. Enders was a significant favorite in the final round against teammate Alex Laughlin but lost after she encountered a mechanical issue. Enders recalls the loss as one of the most disappointing moments of her career, but redemption came a year later when he won her second title at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Facing Matt Hartford in the final, Enders did what she does best; leave the starting line with a nearly-perfect .009 reaction time and her Melling Camaro did the rest with a 6.606 that was just enough to cover Hartford’s game 6.610. In the class’ 50th anniversary season, Enders remains one of just 25 drivers that have won the U.S. Nationals in Pro Stock.

“This is really sweet and it means the world to me,” Enders said. “You work your entire life for something like this and it’s a dream come true. I’ve drag raced for 30 years and raced in Pro Stock for 16 years, and so many people have made this possible. This Chevy Camaro is mean, I’ve got the three baddest crew chiefs on the property in Rick Jones, Rickie Jones and Marc Ingersoll, and I’ve got the best team in the world. This is just amazing.”

The entire 16-car field was separated by less than a tenth of a second, and Enders narrowly escaped disaster in round one when she had an uncharacteristically late .080 light in her round one race against Kenny Delco. Enders survived that encounter and went on to beat Deric Kramer and rookie Mason McGaha to reach her 53rd final round.  

In four starts this year, Hartford had not been past the second round, but the Total Seal team dug deep at Indy to turn on three win lights on race day. Hartford turned in his best qualifying performance of the season when he drove his Eddie Guaraniccia-tuned Camaro to a 6.572 that landed in the No. 4 spot. From there, he began his march to the final with wins against Fernando Cuadra Sr., and Bo Butner, but he needed a holeshot to help get past Jason Line in the semi’s. Hartford grabbed a slight lead at the start and won by a 6.624 to 6.605 count, holding on to win at the finish line by just three-thousandths of a second.

Just a few months removed from his high school graduation, 18-year old Mason McGaha also made waves at NHRA’s biggest event when he reached the semifinals in his third start. No matter how long he races, McGaha will likely never forget his first round win over his father, Chris. Mason left first, .045 to .081, and held on for a holeshot victory, 6.62 to 6.60. McGaha got a free pass in round two after Koretsky’s two-step ignition malfunctioned and his Nitro Fish Camaro rolled the beams and red-lighted. His dream weekend came to an end when he slowed against Enders, but not before he threw a scare into her with a .001-reaction time.