Enders maintaining contender status as Countdown approaches
BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 18) – With the Countdown to the Championship only two races away, the battle for the 2011 title in NHRA's Pro Stock class is coming into focus.
And Erica Enders and the ZaZa Energy team are clearly among the contenders. Enders, 27, has moved up three positions to fifth in the Pro Stock points standings over the last four races, winning eight rounds in that span. The strong move helped her clinch a spot in the Countdown with room to spare.
The Houston native is looking to continue building momentum in this weekend's 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
"Earning as many points as possible heading into the Countdown is very important," Enders said. "We've got two races until the Countdown starts, and we've got to perform well. It's crunch time. The points positions are separated by less than a round here or two rounds there, so it could be anybody's day. It just depends. We've got to continue to do well.
"Yes, I'm pleased with being fifth. I actually think we should be better and we're working hard to get better."
Enders knows her ZaZa Energy Chevrolet Cobalt has shown plenty of speed in recent weeks, as she's qualified fifth or better in seven consecutive events, including a No. 1 qualifier at Norwalk. And that speed has continued into eliminations, as Enders has built her won-loss record to 18-14 on the season.
"I'm pretty pleased," Enders said. "We've had quite a few tough breaks, but at the end of the day, we've got a consistent race car, and that's what keeps things looking promising. If we were losing rounds by getting flat out-run, then I'd be concerned. But I'm pretty happy with everything that's going on."
Enders has reached two final rounds in 2011 while looking for her first Pro Stock victory. She's also made two semifinal rounds and eight quarterfinals.
All the while, Enders maintains her starting-line prowess in the highly competitive Pro Stock category, even in the face of increasing pressure as the Countdown looms. But Enders has shown that she thrives under pressure, a characteristic that could bode well in the NHRA's version of the playoffs.
"I don't think any of that stuff gets to me," Enders said. "You try to get in each other's head on race day, but I feel like I perform well under pressure. The pressure is just part of it, and everybody has to perform under it. And I think that's where a lot of differences are going to be made in the Countdown."