CHARLOTTE (April 11) – The unique format of the 4-Wide NHRA Nationals at xMaz Dragway has a lot of drivers psyched out before the Christmas Tree even turns on for the first qualifying pass.
But Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders is keeping an open mind heading into this weekend’s race, determined to focus on her job – and not the three other competitors she’ll line up against each time she stages her GK Motorsports Chevrolet.
This weekend’s race is the only one on the NHRA schedule that uses four lanes for qualifying and racing, instead of the usual two. That puts a lot of pressure on drivers, who are already trying to get the best possible reaction time in the ultra-competitive class.
But Enders is trying not to place too much importance on this one race.
“Considering it’s the same points value as any other race, it’s as important as anywhere else we go,” Enders said. “We need to go out and run consistently and do a good job. With the 4-wide deal, the chances of other people screwing up are greatly increased. It could be anybody’s weekend.”
The national event victory could come down to who is best on reaction times, and Enders is coming off a terrific trio of lights during eliminations in Las Vegas.
“It’s very important to keep that going,” Enders said. “I need to keep it up all year.”
The Charlotte race is a big one for Enders’ team, as Cagnazzi Racing is based in Mooresville, N.C., not far from zMax Dragway. Her GK Motorsports team plans to have lots of visitors in their hospitality area over the weekend.
“It’s our home race,” Enders said. “My team’s shop is there, and all my guys and their families live there. We’ll have quite a few guests out. It would be a great weekend to do well, win some rounds. We’re going to do our best.”
Plus, Enders’ crew chief, Dave Connolly, returns to the driver’s seat in Charlotte, meaning Cagnazzi will have engines in four cars this weekend: Enders, Connolly, Rodger Brogdon and Steve Kent.
While Connolly focuses on his car, Enders will have long-time boyfriend Richie Stevens on her radio during staging, helping her back up and line the car up.
Also this weekend, Enders will be shooting a public-service announcement for the Progeria Research Foundation as part of her partnership with PRF. Enders and PRF Executive Director Audrey Gordon will participate in a press conference Saturday in the zMax Dragway media center to discuss the new alliance.
“I’m excited to be art of the Progeria Research Foundation,” Enders said. “I’m hopeful that our partnership will raise awareness among our NHRA fans and that they’ll get involved and help find a cure.”
Qualifying begins at 1 p.m. Friday.