U.S. Nationals champion Matt Hartford is another racer among young guns angling for supremacy in the Pro Stock class.
Dallad Glenn, 2021 NHRA rookie of the year, confident in his driving skills this season
Long list of contenders weigh in on their chances.
Erica Enders called it a “pinch-me moment.”
At the Texas Motorplex’s Champions Dinner last October, Greg Anderson—who has five NHRA Pro Stock series championships, multiple records, and a class-standard 101 victories, along with a keen, longtime desire to keep Enders at bay—conceded the championship to her. It was a kind of passing-the-torch moment.
Nevertheless, in spite of all the chatter about the young guns taking charge in the factory hot rod category, the chase came down to the two familiar foes.
Now, with Anderson stuck back in seventh place in the 16-driver Countdown order, Enders finds herself representing the “old guard” of Pro Stock. No. 1 playoff seed Dallas Glenn is poised to outduel her, No. 2 Matt Hartford, and a line-up of eager young racers.
Recent NHRA Pro Stock Champions
2022 - Erica Enders
2021 - Erica Enders
2020 - Greg Anderson
2019 - Erica Enders
2018 - *Tanner Gray - Currently racing in NASCAR.
And he just might be the first since Tanner Gray in 2018 to give the Pro Stock class a first-time champion.
Enders said she “raced for seven years before I ever won anything,” but Glenn has been fortunate to find a home early in his career with newly branded KB Titan Racing.
And the points leader, the 2021 Rookie of the Year who drives the RAD Torque Systems Chevy Camaro, has made the most of his opportunity. Glenn has led the standings virtually all season, and he brings a 29-8 race-day record into this weekend’s Pep Boys Nationals at Reading, Pa. He’s a four-time winner this season who has advanced to the final round four times in the past seven races.
So he indicate he has plenty of confidence that he can ward off the likes of Countdown-qualified class newcomers Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield, and the Cuadra brothers Cristian and Fernando Jr., all of nemesis Elite Motorsports as Enders’ posse. His own teammates—Kyle Koretsky (whose family owns Maple Grove Raceway and he manages the property), Camrie Caruso (last year’s outstanding rookie), and top-five driver Deric Kramer—pose serious threats.
As this fall Maple Grove Raceway classic approached, Glenn said, “I feel like I’ve done a fantastic job, as far as the normal routine of each lap—of staging well every time, of hitting all my shifts well. I feel like I’ve done a really good job this season of that so far,” Glenn said. “I haven’t missed very many [gear] shifts, and I haven’t made too many mistakes in the car. We’re all human, and we make mistakes here and there. But I’ve kept them pretty limited.”
Hartford is coming on strong, with his recent U.S. Nationals victory punctuating his breakout season. And Glenn acknowledged his chief rival for the moment.
“He has had an absolutely awesome car,” Glenn said of Hartford and his Total Seal Camaro. “When we go out there and make good runs and we are absolutely on par with him, we can compete with him. There’s times when I might be a little bit better and times when he might be a little bit better. We’ve gone back and forth. He’s a fantastic driver.”
In looking back at the June race at Norwalk, Ohio, where Hartford defeated Glenn in the final, Glenn called that a perfect example of the way they’ve traded friendly punches. (Glenn is 4-1 against Hartford in head-to-head battles this season.)
“He did a 100% better job of driving that day, and his car was better than mine. I totally went up for the final round, throwing the kitchen sink at him. And it didn’t hold,” Glenn said. “That day he was better at everything.”
Taking into consideration a car’s elapsed times and speeds (horsepower output), 60-foot incremental times, and consistency among other factors, Glenn said, “You can (have) the fastest car every now and then, but if you cant do it consistently from run to run to run, then I don’t think (your car) can be considered one of the best cars. We’ve had consistency from run to run, from race to race, all season long. We’ve (had) a top-five car. That’s what justifies (having) one of the better cars out there.”
With his overall performance, Glenn doesn’t really need to justify anything. And Enders isn’t conceding anything.
“We have reached the point in our season where everything matters. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this year’s Countdown. We have battled our way from 15th in points to third in just a matter of a couple months. There is no doubt that the competition is tough and we are surrounded by some guys gunning for their first championship. This is where experience and heart will come into play,” Enders said.
Stanfield said, “We are starting the Countdown just 60 points out from the lead, so now is the time to make some big moves.” Likewise, Coughlin is amped up: “My personal goal is to stay in the moment and get up on the wheel! At Team Elite, we love this time of year! It’s what we work for!
Emboldened by his career-first runner-up finish at Indianapolis, Cuadra Jr. said,” I’m unbelievably excited to get back behind the wheel. I told my teammates that I finally felt like I could sleep again, after experiencing such a great weekend. I’ve got renewed confidence and a stronger vision for what I can accomplish in the Countdown. This Corral Boots Camaro is a mean machine. I think you can expect big things from us over the next six races.”
His brother, Cristian Cuadra, said his team is “continuing to fine-tune our car, and I think we are finding some things that will take our performance to new levels. Finishing the regular season in the Top 10 was a really big deal for our team. Now that we know that we can accomplish big things, we want to turn up the heat in the Countdown.”
Bo Butner, the 2017 champion, said “This is the time of year to really get excited, because anything can happen.”
That could be encouragement or a warning for Dallas Glenn.