As the chase to be one of the top seeds for the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge season rolls heats up, NHRA Pro Stock competitors are really mixing things up, as of late, compared to the first half of the season when there were just two or three drivers taking turns at the top of the qualifying field for each event. Erica Enders managed to carry her qualifying momentum from Brainerd to take the top spot in Pro Stock again during the most prestigious NHRA event of each season, the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.
NHRA Pro Stock racer Erica Enders blasted her way to the early number one spot by posting a 6.624.
Preparing for and competing at the biggest race of the season can always add some additional pressure for any professional team, but for this year's running of the U.S. Nationals and the persistent rainy weather that pounded the event, it was even more daunting than usual. Qualifying for Pro Stock got underway as scheduled, with their first hit of five sessions taking place on Friday afternoon, but with the remnants of Hurricane Isaac drenching the area over the next few days to come, that was the only part of the schedule that went as planned.
Erica Enders NHRA Pro Stock GK Motorsports/KLR Group Chevy Cobalt
During the first session, Erica Enders blasted her way to the early number one spot by posting a 6.624, edging out 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge champion, Vincent Nobile, who made a nice 6.631 pass and Allen Johnson's 6.634 that was good enough to start him out at number three. Teams were scheduled to have two more attempts on Saturday, and while they were nowhere near the original scheduled times thanks to the on and off rain that was quite heavy at times, they almost got them both in.
Session two was interrupted with a quick rain shower right after Dave Connolly made the first lap of the round, forcing the remainder of the contenders to wait it out in the staging lanes while officials dried and reprepped the racing surface and the always stubborn shutdown area. When action returned to the track, Enders once again made the quickest lap of the pack, just shy of her earlier number and held on to the number one spot.
Erica Enders grabs her first U.S. Nationals Pro Stock number one qualifier.
Pro Stock teams rolled to the staging lanes a few hours later to make one more attempt for the day, but after only a handful of cars went down the track, NHRA's Safety Safari shut them down. After a check of the track and a second look at the current weather conditions, the temperature and dew point were both in the low seventy's and conditions had become quite unfavorable to send anyone else down the quarter mile.
Although there were two more days of activities planned for the U.S. Nationals, Mother Nature and the remnants of Isaac had plans of their own that completely washed out the remainder of the event. Officials not only made the decision to bring back all the teams the following weekend, but allow qualifying to remain open for the professional teams. A decision that wasn't unprecedented in the history of the sport, but still one that stirred a vast mix of emotions with all involved.
After the week went by and team's made it back on the track, Enders made a nice run for session number four, but it was Greg Anderson who would bump her and several other down when he made a 6.556 pass, which was a whole tenth of a second quicker than just the week before. K&N's Mike Edwards also improved more than a tenth over his best time the prior week, 6.563 to place him at number two and a testament to the much better and dryer air conditions than the racers faced prior to the rain delay.
But Enders and her GK Motorsports/KLR Group Chevy Cobalt were not done yet and with one more session later that day, she jumped right back up on top with a clean 6.550 to grab her first U.S. Nationals Pro Stock number one qualifier and the $3,000 bonus check from K&N Engineering.
"We were able to hang on to the number spot, even through the second week and that was huge," Enders admitted. "The Summit guys stole it from us, but we were able to go right back up there and steal it back on the last session. Really pretty excited about that because it was Indy, because to be a number one qualifier there is something really good to add to your résumé."
"When you throw in rain delays and days when the track isn't prepped quite right, it just makes for an extremely long weekend," Enders added of the race. "Then since we had to come back the following weekend, well it was definitely long and drawn out."
By adding her accomplishment at Indy, Enders is slowly making her way to the top of the list in the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge standings. "I am just really excited to be a part of the K&N Challenge and all that it takes to make it in for the bonus race," she pointed out. "Everyone in Pro Stock is extremely grateful and we all can't thank K&N enough for putting this special program on for us and it certainly keeps exciting for us to have a shootout race to work hard for, like the fuel guys do."
"I'm really stoked about it and we are at a great point to continue to carry the momentum and to keep adding those K&N qualifying points to our total for the big $50,000 shootout in Vegas next spring," she added.
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