Enders Starting Season-High No. 2 in Dodge Dart Pro Stocker at Mopar Mile-High Nationals
Morrison, Colorado – Qualifying is complete at the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, and back-to-back Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders is set to start from the No. 2 position in her Mopar Performance Dodge Dart – her highest qualifying position of the season and best since she was No. 1 at the NHRA Las Vegas event last fall. Team Mopar driver Enders, who races out of the Elite Motorsports stable, rocketed to a 6.933-second pass at 198.04 mph to secure the lofty position. Enders will race fellow Dodge Dart campaigner Alan Prusiensky in the first round on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway.
On Friday at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Enders had possession of the pole for the first time this season on a strong 6.963/197.74 that had the fans in the Bandimere Speedway stands on their feet. She barely missed keeping hold of the top spot when Alex Laughlin surged ahead in their head-to-head meeting in the final pair of Pro Stockers to race down the track on Saturday. Laughlin was quicker by just .007-second to snatch his first No. 1 right out of Enders' grasp.
"No. 1 doesn't mean anything to me, except it's cool to get a green hat," said Enders, a 21-time NHRA Pro Stock winner, who will be chasing her first Denver title on race day and battling for a position in the Pro Stock top 10. "That's what I was talking to my guys about on the radio before we even made the run after we knew that a handful of people had run 6.93s. The benefit of running last is that you get to see what everybody does. I told my guys, either way – stay on the pole or not, get it back or not – that was an awesome turnaround we've had this weekend, and we will out-tune and out-drive them tomorrow. No matter what, it's such an awesome step in the right direction, and it goes to show that hard work really pays off.
"This is where we get to really, really dig deep and see if we can battle back into the Countdown [to the Championship]. I'm super proud of our showing thus far, and we've got our day cut out for us tomorrow. But I wouldn't want to go to battle with anyone else. I'm proud to have performed so well in our Mopar Dodge Dart at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, and we'll see if we can bring home a Wally trophy to Detroit."
Enders' Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., driver of the "Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar" Dodge Dart, qualified in the No. 8 spot and drew Elite Motorsports teammate Vincent Nobile for the first round.
Allen Johnson, driving his Mopar-powered Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart, will start 10th and race Drew Skillman, whom he last raced – and got the better of – in Houston earlier this season. HEMI®-powered Richie Stevens Jr. and Deric Kramer, racing under the American Ethanol umbrella, are No. 12 and 13, respectively. Stevens Jr. will challenge Bo Butner to kick off Sunday's competition, and Kramer will race Jason Line.
Mopar in Top Fuel
In the Top Fuel category, Team Mopar's newest addition, Leah Pritchett, ended the first day of qualifying with a speedy 3.881-second pass at 312.35 mph and opened up Saturday with an even better 3.866/313.37 in the Mopar/Pennzoil® Top Fuel dragster. The final round was a bit more of a challenge, however, and Pritchett did not improve. She will start from the No. 10 position in her HEMI-powered dragster and race fellow DSR driver and another former Jr. Drag Racing League participant in the first round, Shawn Langdon.
"The weekend has been just as high as the mountaintop that we’re on," said Pritchett. "Being able to make a couple of solid runs down the track like we have is extremely promising, and in large part due to the efforts of the crew chiefs working together. For [crew chiefs] Mike Guger and Joe Barlam, they’ve had a huge amount of success here being No. 1 qualifier with a setup that they’re familiar with, and within the past four races they have gotten familiar with the DSR setup. Unfortunately, we are running our teammate tomorrow, and that is not the picture that we wanted to paint. But at the end of the day, we've had a phenomenal showing, getting down the track consistently at our main sponsor's title event, the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.
"We have a lot of confidence going into race day. I’m feeling extremely confident and positive about our entire weekend so far. Tomorrow is a really big day for us. We’re going to persevere."
Tony Schumacher, the No. 9 seed in Denver, made his best pass of the weekend in his HEMI-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster in the second round on Friday, clocking a brisk 3.836/313.07. Last season's runner-up and two-time Mopar Mile-High Nationals winner will square off with Doug Kalitta in the first round.
Beckman Leads the Charge for Mopar Funny Cars
HEMI-powered Jack Beckman made a big move in the final qualifying session following an extended rain delay on Saturday at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals. Beckman, pilot of the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T and defending event champion, joined the Bandimere Speedway 3-second club with a powerful 3.985-second pass at 312.78 mph to send him up to the No. 6 position and line-up a first-round meeting with DSR teammate Ron Capps, whose best qualifying pass was a 4.062/309.84.
Beckman's first two passes down the racetrack included a pair of fairly sizable wheelstands that brought an unexpected challenge to the team.
"We were looking for anything steel last night that wasn't bolted down to bolt onto the front of the Infinite Hero Dodge," said Beckman. "Two runs, we wheel-stood the car. That's what happens when you're pushing hard. It's the first time we've been back here with this style of header – and you don't want to hurt the race car too badly. We emptied every piece of scrap metal out of the cabinets that we could and bolted it on the front of the car. We're heavy, and we know it's a weight penalty that's going to affect us a little bit, but the car is very drivable, and we can tune around that. We made good improvements in the third and fourth qualifying sessions, and I know we're heading in the right direction. I don't know if you have to throw everything out that we learned at the night sessions once we go into raceday in the heat of the sun, but we figured it out last year okay. It's nice to go into Sunday feeling like you can get that trophy."
Tommy Johnson Jr., who was runner-up to Joe Amato in Denver in 1991, clocked a best time of 4.029/283.01 and will start from the No. 9 position. He will race Chad Head in round one. Matt Hagan, driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, qualified in the No. 7 position and will race Tim Wilkerson.
Championship eliminations at the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will begin at 11 a.m. MT on Sunday, July 23, 2016.