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Relentless red: The cold, hard numbers behind Erica Enders’ fifth world title

Erica Enders won her fifth Camping World NHRA Pro Stock title thanks to a dominant performance but just how dominant was she? NHRA's Brian Lohnes takes a closer look at the numbers from 2022.
16 Dec 2022
Brian Lohnes, NHRA on FOX announcer
Erica Enders

In the world of NHRA Camping World Drag Racing there’s honestly just one overriding statistic that matters; the points count at the end of the season.

That’s the true measuring stick of success and failure in this sport. It is also a number that serves as the tip of the spear when it comes to telling a championship story. The methods and successes used to accumulate those points are where the real interesting stuff hides. We know that Erica Enders earned her fifth Camping World NHRA Pro Stock championship in 2022, and we know that she did it in seemingly dominating fashion, so what else is there to be impressed with?

An old-school mechanical watch tells you the time as the end result of some amazing happenings just behind its face, the time is like a points total for a season. Let’s dive into the guts of what the 2022 title looks like from the perspective of the NHRA Nitro (and gasoline) Research Department data.

Take it from the top

Enders won the championship by 242 points, the largest margin of any professional class. Obviously, this was due to a fantastic performance in the six race Countdown to the Championship. She appeared in five of six possible finals and her only measurable “shortcoming” was a semi-final finish at the Charlotte event. Of the five finals, she won four. Her only loss in that situation came against Greg Anderson in Pomona, long after the title was decided.

Looking back over the entirety of Ender’s 2022 season is when things get really interesting to consider.

There were 75 total rounds of competition in the 2022 Pro Stock season. Enders appeared in 64 of them. She had only two first-round losses during the season, both of them on holeshots. One came in Gainesville and a second in Denver. A quarterfinal finish in Phoenix and semifinals in Topeka and Indy are the only other blemishes on an otherwise flawless year. That’s just plain bonkers.

Enders’ best stretch during the regular season was a run of five races where she made five finals in a row. The Elite Camaro won in Las Vegas, Houston, Epping, was a runner-up in Bristol (due to a spectacular engine failure in the final), and then won Norwalk.

In terms of her control of the category, Enders ceded the points lead to Aaron Stanfield early in the year for a span of three races. Winning in Houston got her the lead back and she held it tight for the next 14 events. While the lead was massive at the end, few may remember it was a scant 35 points after a round-one loss in Denver. From there, it only grew larger.

Now, let’s dive even deeper.

When it comes to the starting line, Erica’s reputation is unassailable. She seemingly never fails to deliver in moments both large and small and the numbers for most of her career bear it out. The interesting twist here is that because of her tremendous success, she doesn’t lead a few of the categories you’d most expect her to.

Confused? Let us explain.

When it comes to leaving first, Troy Coughlin Jr. did the family name proud by having the best percentage of doing this in 2022, getting away from the starting line 63% of the time ahead of his opponents. What about Enders? She was off first 62.5% of the time. But here’s the rub. Troy made 44 competition runs and Erica made 64! He was out 28 of 44 times but she did it 40 times during those 64 passes.

Her average reaction time of .032 didn’t place her on top of the heap but did put her in the upper third of the class. The big number here is the fact that she recorded 24 lights less than .025. Next closest was Dallas Glenn with 18. Enders recorded three holeshot wins and had five holeshot losses. She was one of three Pro Stock drivers with five holeshot losses, yet they all trailed Greg Anderson’s nine. Yowza.

Another “no-brainer” stat that you’d expect Enders and the Elite team to lead is one we like to call the “speed index” this is a look at how many wide-open throttle runs a car makes laid up against how many opportunities it had to go down the track. In the case of pro stock, we used benchmarks of 6.700 and 205mph at sea level tracks and slight adjustments for those tracks at higher altitudes. These numbers also include the qualifying run of record along with elimination runs. So how does Erica, the dominating champ, not lead this one?!

For the same reason, she does not lead the leaving first stat line. She and her team made too many runs! Deric Kramer has the highest “speed index” making 42 of his 44 competition runs (and qualifying runs of record) for an average of 95.45%. In contrast, Erica’s car made an astonishing 79 of 83 runs at full throttle for an average of 95.18%! Sure, we’re splitting hairs here, but that’s simply the nature of this business.

What about stats that Enders did lead? Average qualifying position (2.58), average qualifying ET (6.582), Average qualifying mph (209.09), average points per race (105.74), round win percentage (85%), qualifying bonus points (103), number times recording top speed of the meet (11), number of times recording low ET of the meet (8), and number one qualifiers (6), among others. Case closed.

There’s an amazing amount of depth we can pull from the numbers over the course of a season, but this particular performance from Erica Enders and the Elite Motorsports team is one for the history books. It was a relentless assault from Q1 at Pomona in February of 2022 and it simply never let up.