Two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders understood early in her career being versatile was not an option, it was a requirement in order for her to become one of the more successful drag racers in today’s world.
This weekend, for only the second time since Enders became a professional drag racer, will she race another class other than her beloved Pro Stock.
Enders will compete in Pro Modified, while her traditional stomping grounds Pro Stock division remains on “vacation” as part of a six-race break from the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour.
Enders’ objective from the time she graduated from Junior Dragsters to full-size racecars has been to be the driver who could adjust to any challenge.
“I want to be able to be the driver that everybody says no matter what she gets in, she’s gonna be good,” Enders said. “I’ve strived for that since I got my big car license going from Super Comp to Super Gas to whatever the class may be. Pro Stock, Pro Mod, back to Sportsman. It doesn’t matter, I just want to be good.”
In Pro Stock, she’s more than good having captured back-to-back NHRA World Championships and 24 national event victories. More recently, Enders established a new class speed record in her latest arena, Pro Modified, where she drove her turbocharged Camaro to a 260.11 mph blast at Houston Raceway Park.
All Enders had to concentrate on that weekend was Pro Modified, but weeks earlier she had to pull double duty going back and forth from Pro Stock to Pro Modified – two diverse styles of fast doorslammer racing.
“When you run both of them on a race weekend, being the way the schedule is with NHRA, Pro Mod is usually right in front of Pro Stock and it requires two different types of driving styles,” Enders explained. “So I’ll run Pro Mod, and then hurry and go to the trailer and put my other fire suit and shoes on and my guys will have my car ready in the staging lanes. So there’s really not a whole lot of time to dwell or focus on much. I mean you just kinda gotta do your job.
“The negative part of that is you don’t get to really download with the Pro Mod car and go over the run with your crew chiefs because you’ve got to jump right in the Pro Stock car and do your job there. I think the biggest challenge is overriding the Pro Stock feel in the seat of your pants.
“It’s a different feeling because the Pro Mod car has 2,000 more horsepower than my Pro Stock car, it’s a little bit longer wheelbase, it’s got a bigger tire, it’s got more downforce and the Pro Mod car’s automatic. The Pro Stock car is a clutch car with no downforce. So it’s more about finesse where the Pro Mod car will handle a little bit more of the man handling type driving aspect. So that’s been the biggest challenge for me is overriding that feeling of finesse.”
This weekend at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, she’ll be hopelessly devoted, for the second straight race, to her whispering land-based rocket. Never did she envision racing Pro Modified at an NHRA event and not having the Pro Stock option.
“I hate it. It’s not cool,” Enders admitted. “Houston was the first time I experienced that and of course that’s my home track. It was just really, really different. Just not something I’m used to, not something I ever wanted. But it is what it is right now. It also allows us to focus one hundred percent of our attention on the Pro Mod operation having these four races without Pro Stock. So it’s got it’s positives and negatives to it, but it certainly is a weird feeling.”
With Pro Stock mastered, and Pro Modified seemingly next on the checklist, where does Enders see fuel racing in her future?
“I don’t have the desire to really,” Enders said. “I mean if you want me to be honest, it doesn’t do anything for me. I absolutely respect the drivers and the teams out there. I know what it takes to get that type of beast down the track. I know the effort that goes into it and the sacrifice and all of that, but I’m a race car driver, not a Top Fuel Dragster or Funny Car driver.
“I like the door car aspect of it. That’s just me. Having said that, I don’t believe I would turn down a well-paid opportunity to do it. I joke and say they call us taxi cab drivers, and we say they stab and steer. It’s just kind of an ongoing joke between the two types of classes, but there’s no lack of respect there by any means. I think that they smell and they’re really loud.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019