Erica Enders Looks To Defend NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Victory From ’23 This Weekend

Story By: SARA SLAUGHTER / ELITE MOTORSPORTS – BRISTOL, TN – Erica Enders and the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage / Melling Performance / SCAG Power Equipment team enter this weekend’s Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway looking to pick up their fourth win at the fan favorite facility.

Six-time defending world champion Enders has reached the final round of the Thunder Valley Nationals for two consecutive years, winning the 2023 event against rival Greg Anderson from the No. 1 qualifying position and finishing runner-up to teammate Aaron Stanfield in 2022. Her two other victories have come in 2015, also from No. 1, and 2014 with runner-up accolades in 2013 and 2011.

“I absolutely love racing at Thunder Valley,” Enders said. “We have so many great memories at this facility and we are looking forward to adding to that list this weekend.”

Enders victory in 2023 was the first of her season, acting as a catalyst for four more victories including three in the Countdown to the Championship that would lead her to her sixth Pro Stock world championship.

“Bristol was the turning point in our season last year,” Enders said. “As we near the halfway point of our 2024 season, we are working on our strategy and race day set up to obviously prepare for the countdown.”

Enders is coming off her second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the season and a runner-up finish to teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. at the NHRA New England Nationals. It was the third time Enders and the JHG / Melling team reached the finals. Currently sitting second in points, Enders picked up her first win at the season opening Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, an event she had previously never won, and followed it up as runner-up at the Winternationals.

“The guys have been working hard, studying up. Our brain trust as I like to call our crew chiefs, made some changes and we saw the positive results in Epping with TJ [Troy Coughlin Jr.] and I qualified No. 1 and 2 and racing against each other in the finals. We almost had an all-Elite semifinal,” Enders said. “We’re in a good spot but I think we’re due for a visit to the winners circle.”

Troy Coughlin Jr. in the / White Castle car enters this weekend after picking up his first win of the season at the New England Nationals. His picked up his fifth Pro Stock victory from his second consecutive No. 2 qualifying position. He’ll start the weekend sitting No. 7 in the points.

Returning to full-time competition after three years away, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and the SCAG / Outlaw Mile Hi Light Beer team is currently fourth in points after a No. 1 qualifying start in Phoenix and a victory at the Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals. He’s looking for his third win at Bristol Dragway (2018, 2007).

Aaron Stanfield and the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage / Melling / Janac Brothers team are racing for their second win at Bristol Dragway. Stanfield’s first came in 2022 when he defeated Enders and was also the No. 1 qualifier.

In his sophomore season, Jerry Tucker is looking to get the Outlaw Mile Hi Light Beer / SCAG machine in the winners circle for the first time in his career. Already this season he’s earned a No. 1 qualifier at the Las Vegas Four-Wide event before finishing runner-up to Jeg Jr. He’s coming off back-to-back semifinal appearances at Route 66 Raceway and New England Dragway.

Fernando Cuadra Jr. will be reunited with his twin brothers David and Cristian this weekend after the twins missed the New England Nationals for business. The three are competing to bring the first Pro Stock win to the Corral Boots, Cuadra and Columbia Impex branded cars.

Coming off the first win of his career, Mason Wright continues his Congruity Pro Mod Drag Racing season at the Thunder Valley Nationals. Wright sits second in the points standings after his win at the New England Nationals. Wright also had a semifinal finish at the Arizona Nationals.

Competition at the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begins with four rounds of qualifying Friday at 5:45 and 8:00 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m. Eliminations are slated for noon on Sunday. Television coverage of the event will be on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with qualifying shows Friday at 7 p.m. ET and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Eliminations will air Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. Pro Mod will have qualifying Friday at 1:30 and 3:45 p.m. and Saturday at noon and 5:30 p.m. Eliminations will begin Sunday at 1:40 p.m.