INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 8) - KLR Group driver Erica Enders reclaimed the No. 1 qualifier for the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway with a stellar pass in Saturday's final qualifying session.
Enders, who was provisional No. 1 in Pro Stock after last weekend's race was postponed because of rain, had slipped to No. 5 after Q3 and was No. 11 when she rolled through the waterbox for her final run.
But she then ripped off a pass of 6.550 seconds at 210.80 mph to secure her second consecutive pole and become the first woman to earn the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock at Indy.
"I'm just really excited to have taken it back," Enders said. "After that first session, I was a little ticked. I wanted it. I've always wanted to qualify No. 1 here since I was a little kid. To be able to steal it back is pretty awesome."
Enders now looks to become the first female winner in Pro Stock at the U.S. Nationals and extend her two-race winning streak.
"I'm really optimistic and excited about what's going on within our team and on the race track," said Enders, who won the last two Pro Stock races and three of the last six. "We've got a lot of good things in the works. This is something we've been working on so hard for a few years. To see it finally come together, I'm proud for my guys. They really deserve it. They work so hard.
"I have all the faith in them and me as a driver and our performance on the race track, so I do believe we can."
Enders begins Sunday's eliminations against Kurt Johnson, who qualified No. 16 with a pass of 6.622 seconds at 208.07 mph.
"I've said over and over that I go into every event with the same mindset, no matter who's in the other lane, no matter what city we're in or if we're at the U.S. Nationals," Enders said. "I know this is the biggest, most prestigious race of the year and it's definitely got a lot of pressure. But my team and I have kept our mindset the same. We've got to continue to be consistent, carry the momentum, qualify smart and race smart on Sunday. It's getting to be really, really important."
That's because the Countdown to the Championship begins next weekend in Charlotte, where every point will count as Enders chases the Pro Stock title. She inched closer to fourth place in the points standings with her qualifying performance at Indy and could move into fourth Sunday.
"We've been working hard on our setups," Enders said. "This is really important, those baby points, especially going into the Countdown. They put us within one round of Mike Edwards, so we can go around him provided we go one round further than him. We always have the big picture in mind."
But when she started her GK Motorsports Chevy for the final qualifying session, she was thinking about getting back to the top of the chart.
"Dave Connolly, my crew chief and my teammate, went out and blew the tires off the car," Enders said. "Larry Morgan did the same thing behind him, Warren Johnson did the same thing behind Larry, so I was getting a little antsy, because we were rolling up a couple cars behind them. I was hoping it wasn't the lane that was causing everyone to blow the tires off like that.
"I was really excited to hear them come on the radio and say '.550.' I didn't expect it either. It felt good when I let the clutch out, but then it started to blow the tires off and took a left-hand turn. It was a little interesting getting it down the track."