KLR Group driver Erica Enders felt like she and her race team let one slip through their fingers Sunday in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Enders lost a close quarterfinal-round matchup to Allen Johnson, though she felt a victory could have been hers.
A terror on the Christmas Tree the last three races, Enders left on Johnson with a sharp .024-second reaction time. Johnson, who was .073 on the Tree in the first round, had a much improved .038 light against Enders and then made a pass of 6.613 seconds at 209.75 mph. Enders' run of 6.637 at 208.46 mph left her about three feet short.
"AJ just walked through the door," Enders said. "I could've been a little better on the Tree, but I've been pretty consistent all weekend. The bottom line is, we need more power and I needed to leave sooner.
"The margin of victory was only a hundredth. It's a little tough to swallow. I'm pretty disappointed because I felt like it was there for the taking."
Seven of Enders' last nine reaction times have been .027 seconds or better, and she's scored holeshot victories in three of the last four races – including Atlanta.
Against Shane Gray in the first round in Atlanta, Enders left first with a .020 light, and then made a pass of 6.618 seconds at 208.75 mph to Gray's 6.617 at 208.36 mph. The difference was Enders' .017 advantage on the Tree.
A holeshot victory is nice, but Enders will take a win any way she can get it.
"A win is a win," Enders said. "That's great, and it's cool to have the most holeshot wins at the end of the year. It solidifies in your mind that you're doing the job. When they came on the radio and said, 'We ran a .61, and you got him on a holeshot,' I said, 'Awesome job, guys. Thank y'all.' It's about them and how hard they work. The least I can do is let the clutch out on time."
She's been doing that a lot lately, a crucial characteristic in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class.
"If I bet, my money would be on me, that's for sure," Enders said. "I know that every time I get in that car, I mean business. You've got to have that attitude. You can't go up there questioning yourself. You've got to be calm and confident. That's what I am."
She also remains confident in her race team, which will go back to work to find some more horsepower. Enders, car owner Victor Cagnazzi and sponsor Gaston Kearby met after the Atlanta race to strategize about the future.
"We've got a week off before Topeka," Enders said. "I was just having a meeting with my team owner and sponsor. We're going back to the shop and work in the engine department, and we're going to do some testing. We've got to come up with another two hundredths to be able to battle these guys every week.
"Our day will come. We've got a great team, and we're fighters."