INDIANAPOLIS - Erica Enders won't change the way she races, not even for the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway.
And why should she? Enders is the hottest driver in the sport these days, winning three of the last six races in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, including the last two in a row. Friday, she earned the provisional No. 1 qualifier position with a lap of 6.624 seconds at 208.84 mph in her KLR Group Chevrolet.
"I honestly have the same mindset going into every event, no matter what it is, where we're at, who we have to race," Enders said. "The wins didn't really change much for me. We've always had the confidence, the team chemistry. We had all the tools we needed to be successful. But to be able to finally get that monkey off our back and for me to finally quit answering the question, 'When are you going to win?' It does take a weight off my shoulders. But it by no means changes my thought process going into a race weekend."
Not even for Indy, drag racing's crown jewel. Enders is looking to become the fourth pro-level woman to win "The Big Go," joining Top Fuel's Shirley Muldowney, Funny Car's Ashley Force-Hood and Pro Stock Motorcycle's Angelle Sampey.
She's clearly one of the favorites after her recent uptick in performance with her GK Motorsports team, which also includes a No. 1 qualifier at Brainerd and a track record at Sonoma.
"We've just had a really, really great race car," Enders said. "My crew chief, Dave Connolly, spent a lot of time testing some stuff that we've been working on. We were hoping it would carry over to Indy. We all know this is our Super Bowl of drag racing, and it's a very prestigious race. I'm just really honored to be here and to be able to carry the momentum that we've had over the last few races into this event."
Her provisional No. 1 could last all the way to Monday's eliminations, as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac threaten to dump lots of rain on Central Indiana, possibly cancelling the remaining three qualifying sessions over the next two days.
"Isaac's been giving us hell all week long, being from New Orleans," said Enders, who left her home before Isaac hit. "It stinks that it's swinging up this way, but knowing that we're in the field solid, we'll have the data we collected from tonight and from what we've run in previous years and use that to our advantage if we don't get another qualifying session."
Her run wasn't perfect, she admitted.
"We wanted to be kind of conservative, knowing what the weather's going to do tomorrow and Sunday," Enders said. "We're hoping this is not going to be our only hit, but in case it is, we needed to get down the race track. I let the clutch out, and it was very soft. It kind of bogged through low gear, and I was surprised at the ET they called out to me on the radio."
Enders moved up to fifth in the Pro Stock points standings with the Brainerd victory, though she has her sights higher. The Countdown to the Championship begins in Charlotte, the race after Indy, and since the points will be reset, Enders will find herself in the thick of the title battle.
"Being that we're on a hot streak right now, we've got the momentum," Enders said. "We've obviously found something pretty decent in our engine department. We want to be able to carry that through. Our goal is definitely to win the championship this year. We're definitely not here to visit, and it's very important to us."
Source: GK Motorsports/Cagnazzi Racing