Defending NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champion Erica Enders inched closer to a possible fourth championship with a win on Saturday night.
Enders’ path to the win in the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil began at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., two weeks ago and ended on Saturday at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas.
No, it wasn’t some crazy 670-mile drag race between the two racetracks.
But it was a bit crazy.
And not everyone was happy with the the way NHRA officials handled the event.
The category’s on-track action at WWTR was put on pause in the middle of the quarterfinals of the Mopar Express Lane Midwest Nationals because of safety concerns with the track preparation. Veteran driver Kenny Delco crashed violently in the first round. Deric Kramer’s tires ripped up chunks of the racetrack, and a handful of other qualifiers narrowly had missed wrecking their high-horsepower, low-downforce cars.
Scott Woodruff, director of media and motorports at JEGS, said the problem was that the NHRA applied the traction compound to the racing surface but didn’t drag the lanes to ensure the compound adhered. JEGS fields the car of five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Caughlin Jr., who aborted his second-round race early before losing at WWTR.
NHRA canceled the remainder of the action after that run, but let that run stand, saying it would just conclude remainder of eliminations from the Midwest Nationals as part of qualifying two weeks later at Texas Motorplex.
That didn’t sit well with some of the teams, including team Jegs, which wanted the entire eliminations re-run from the start of Round 1.
“I told them that’s bullshit. That’s not right. That’s not what NHRA was based on. This obviously was a safety issue,” Woodruff said at the event two weeks ago. “The track wasn’t safe, and that’s why you stopped running after two pairs in Round 2, when back-to-back runs in the right lane got out of shape at the same point in the track (and) both drivers were seasoned enough to pull the chutes to save their cars. The right decision is to rerun all of Pro Stock, starting in Round 1.”
Enders went on the win the delayed event during qualifying rounds in Texas, beating Greg Anderson in the semifinals and Jason Lane in the finals. Enders, who has beaten Lane in five of seven finals in her career, leads the points, and Line is second going into Sunday’s eliminations for the Texas event.
The way the Midwest Nationals event was run left Line and Anderson both disappointed.
Anderson wanted the event to carry on two weeks ago at WWTR. He was upset that the event was paused in the first place and wanted the NHRA and its teams to just power through the tough conditions.
“Some people were able to make it down the track just fine,” Anderson told Autoweek. “I was actually able to, and I wanted the chance to keep working on my race car and make it better yet. That was a hell of a challenge, but I didn’t want to give up trying. I wanted to keep trying to make our cars better and better to handle that surface, and I wish they would have kept going. I thought if we would have continued, we could have made our race cars and the racetrack better.”
“It was a challenging racetrack. But we’re supposed to be professional racers. We’re supposed to try to make changes. We got a good warning first round of what we had there, and, as racers, we needed to try to do something about it for second round. Some cars did a better job that than others. I don’t agree with finishing in Dallas, and I certainly don’t think we should have had any re-runs. I think we all should have kept trying.”
Line said that conditions were far from perfect for Saturday’s finals, as well.
“The racetrack was great all day, and then it wasn’t for the final round,” Line told Autoweek. “It comes down to racetrack prep and having it right for all the classes, but it’s the same fight we’ve been having for 15 years.
“It’s not the end of the world, but it’s disappointing.”
Who’s watching the NHRA today? Where is Erica Enders on the list of greatest female drag racers of all-time? Join in the discussion in the comments section below.