3.11.24 Erica Enders Dominates Gainesville Raceway for First NHRA Gatornationals Victory

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10, 2024) – In her own words, reigning world champion Erica Enders got the gator off her back this weekend after she powered her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/SCAG Power Equipment hot rod to the winners circle Sunday at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway for the first time.

Enders would earn her 49th career win, 48th in Pro Stock, against teammate Cristian Cuadra and his Corral Boots/Cuadra/Columbia Impex car. Enders left the starting line first and had a solid 6.494 second pass at 211.93 mph. Cuadra, who was the No. 2 qualifier, would experience tire shake almost immediately coasting to the finish line in 18.386 seconds.

“Two Elite Motorsports cars in the final round, that’s pretty awesome. The Cuadra Boys, they are a huge asset to this team and to our sport. Those boys are going be a force to be reckoned with, I promise,” Enders said. “Cristian and I joked and talked on Thursday that we should meet in the finals and then we qualified one and two and I was like, we can really do this.

“I’ve been trying to help him with his mental game and make him believe in himself because he is a true talent behind the wheel. He had a different look in his eye today and I told him he was going to get this done,” Enders continued. “Taking the victory with him shaking like that, it’s tough, that right lane was really tricky. Even my guys on the radio, it’s hard to get up when it’s your teammate over there in the other lane. But we’ve been chomping at the bit to get the win here, I’ve been in three final rounds here and we finally got it down.”

En route to the finals, Enders, who came into race day as the No. 1 qualifier, had to start eliminations going through two teammates. She’d start with Kelley Murphy, a full-time crew member who was making his Pro Stock debut. Erica would lay down the third quickest run of the event at 6.496 seconds and 212.13 mph bettering Murphy’s quickest pass of the weekend at 6.554 and 201.21 in his Jim Butner Auto/Industrial Rubber Technologies/JEGS entry.

The win set Enders up against Aaron Stanfield in his JHG/Melling/Janac Brothers car. Stanfield would have a respectable 6.534-second run at 211.76 mph but it wouldn’t be enough for the JHG/Melling car’s 6.508 at 211.46.

Enders would face a familiar foe in the semifinals. Lining up alongside Greg Anderson for the 55th time in her career, Enders and her Elite powered machine wouldn’t hold back putting up the quickest pass of the weekend at 6.483 seconds and 211.96 mph to take down Anderson’s 6.508 at 210.18.

Before getting to race his six-time world champion teammate Enders, Cristian Cuadra went through Larry Morgan with a stout 6.495-second pass at 210.67 mph. In the second round, Cuadra would face veteran racer and teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. Cuadra would get the win on the starting line after Coughlin Jr. went red by .007.

“It feels great to be back in the seat and set to race a full season. A great new look with SCAG, extremely grateful for their support and partnership,” Coughlin Jr. said. “Obviously, not the way I would have liked the first NHRA event of the year to end, but you pack up, move on, and look to be better in Pomona.”

Cuadra, has reached four final rounds in his career, all against Enders. He is looking for his first career Pro Stock win.

“All my final rounds are against her. Hopefully one day I can beat her. I’m really excited. I’m really happy,” Cuadra said. “We started the season really good. I didn’t expect to be this good. We qualified second, finished runner-up and we’re second in points. So it’s awesome.”

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season continues with the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona, California March 21-24.