Erica Enders-Stevens has decided to take a break help cut costs which is understandable, except for the fact that she's the championship leader.
If I had a good lead in NHRA’s Mello Yello Pro Stock category and had a strong, but not great weekend in the first of a three-race Western Swing, would I take my toys, go home and let other racers catch up to me in the following two weekends of competition?
She did what?
Hell no I wouldn’t, but that’s exactly what Erica Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports did. She did the same thing last year and still made the Countdown to the Championship, but I have to wonder whether she’s tossing away a possible title that would be the first for a woman in her category of racing, to save the money that goes with traveling from Denver to Sonoma to Seattle and home, plus the opportunity to test new components in preparation for that all-important six-race playoff.
Team owner Richard Freeman’s statement after announcing the decision to sit his star driver and her Chevrolet Camaro down said, “This has been the game plan for us from the start… we never intended to run the entire schedule,” he noted. The facts show that they’ve had such a great year, leading the points in this ultra-competitive class since March and claiming four Wally trophies for wins along the way. Enders-Stevens also won the non-points K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas and, at Norwalk early in July, scored her fourth victory of the year.
Her lead is shrinking
At the start of the Western Swing, Enders-Stevens had 241 points over good friend Allen Johnson, her nearest competitor. After bowing out in the second round the lead was down to 184, after Sonoma it was a 122-point lead and by the time the troops departed Seattle, that lead had fallen to 32 from Johnson, who won in Denver, went to the quarter-finals at Sonoma and the semi-finals in Seattle. That’s quite a give-away, don’t you think?
This is the first time in NHRA’s short playoff era that a class points leader has skipped races willingly and it still seems perplexing. There were quite a few drivers and teams that decided to forego the truly grueling Western Swing; it’s a tough haul from the east or midwest and not everybody’s got the funds needed for a trek of this nature. There were only 15 Pro Stock entries at Seattle this weekend. But the points leader? It is still a baffling decision three weeks later.
I don’t believe this will affect our plan of attack at all
Enders-Stevens has been enjoying herself, as some of her tweets show and she claims that she and her team have “lots of goals left to accomplish, not the least of which is winning the championship. The guys will have this Camaro ready to win Brainerd (Aug 14-17) and Indy and all six races in the Countdown,” she proclaimed.
“I don’t believe this will affect our plan of attack at all; it’s a team decision and obviously every decision Richard has made this year has worked out perfectly.”
In the meantime, Johnson and his Dodge Dart keep racking up his points tally with solid results over these three races, Jason Line is creeping up with two straight wins, Line’s teammate Greg Anderson is showing his old moxie and reigning champ Jeg Coughlin can’t be counted out - no one can over those two events leading up to the Countdown to the Championship, which commences after the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Labor Day.
Will Freeman’s decision to sit his star out of competition for two races make a big difference in the total scheme of things? We’ll have to wait and see.