How far has Erica Enders come in her NHRA career?
Consider the cover of a recently updated book, “The History of Pro Stock.” Right there, next to legendary Bob Glidden, is a photograph of Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro.
A little more than seven years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Enders was sitting on zero victories, as a near-decade-long struggle to simply make it in Pro Stock continued. A string of close-but-no-cigar races made it even more painful.
But then Enders won in Chicago in July 2012, and the floodgates opened. Now, three championships and 25 victories later, Enders can rightly claim her place among the Pro Stock elite.
“To say in seven years I’d win 25 races and three world championships, I’d have been like ‘You’re crazy,'” Enders said. “Of course you could only hope that, but the day of domination is over. Those years Mike Edwards had a half a tenth on the field and the year Greg Anderson and Jason Line tore away from everybody – it isn’t like that anymore.
“To have had the success that we have in such a story amount of time has been pretty awesome.”
But lest you think Enders will be satisfied with becoming the 25th NHRA driver to win three professional titles, you don’t know Enders. The motivation to get her to this point in her career still flourishes inside her.
“That’s what you have to have to continue to be a champion,” Enders said. “You can’t get lazy with it and go up there and be nonchalant. You’ve got to try to rip their throats out every single time. That’s something that will never change with me. I want to be the best ever, period – not just now. I have a long way to go to get there, but at the same time, we’ve had a pretty great start.
“My goal is to be the winningest ever. I have a lot of years left, I feel like, but I want to go out, starting in Pomona, and kick their teeth in. I want to win 18 races this year and the championship.”
Yes, Enders knows that’s a tall order. Every other driver has similar goals, but Enders vows to try to continue to be the best, each and every round.
“I don’t want to leave anything on the table, I don’t want to have any regrets,” Enders said. “The fire still burns bright.”
As if Enders needs any inspiration, she only needs to look at the past four seasons:
• 2016: zero wins
• 2017: one win
• 2018: one win
• 2019: two wins (and none until the Countdown)
“(2016), I didn’t win one single race,” Enders said. “’17, I won once; ’18, I won once; ’19, I won two. We haven’t exactly been crushing it either. Now that we’re on the upswing and have our program back headed in the right direction that me, Jeg Coughlin, Alex Laughlin, Aaron Stanfield, Marty Robertson, I feel that Elite is going to have a really big season. I’m excited for the challenges ahead, but I’m also excited to continue the path we’re on.”
Enders also continues to mature into her role as a leader in the Pro Stock pits and also as a mentor to younger drivers. Those roles also would have been unthinkable seven years ago, for even though she had the drive to be a winner, the confidence was still emerging.
Now, though, she knows she can – and perhaps more importantly – should speak up when matters within the sport dictate.
“I’ve always been pretty shy and humble and different,” Enders said. “Now, it’s a lot different. I kind of saw that after our Pro Mod incident in Norwalk where my voice was heard a little bit on suggested rules changes after we burned our race car to the ground.”
She caught flak from some competitors in and out of NHRA, as well as the keyboard warriors online, for some of her suggestions. But Enders won’t be deterred.
“I feel like my job, and our job, is to make the sport better and safer for the next person,” Enders said. “You don’t necessarily think about all this, but it can all go wrong in a hurry. … I feel like my voice was heard and our voice was heard. Rick Jones, my chassis builder and crew chief, stood behind me in all of that. It is our job to make it safer.”
And she also feels a responsibility to drop the learning curve for younger drivers who seek her tutelage. New Elite Motorsports teammates Marty Robertson and Brandon Foster were under Enders’ watchful eye during preseason testing last month.
“It’s definitely a different position to be in,” Enders said. “Here I am starting my 16th year, and 10 solid years of that are me trying to be the absolutely best I can be and learning from my mistakes. My goal was to try to short-cut them where they don’t have to go through all of that and learn it all themselves. I spent a solid decade screwing up, and I want to make them the best they can be and not have them waste a whole bunch of time and money getting there.
“It was a cool position to be in and I’m honored they trusted me enough to be their teacher.”
If Robertson and Foster were smart, they’d listen to Enders. Her resume has proven she knows what she’s talking about.
https://t.co/hnl9I76ihB is giving away a subscription to https://t.co/KoDGsTex0z. Actually, no. https://t.co/Reh86n8GFm is giving away SIX https://t.co/KoDGsTex0z subscriptions. Yes, SIX https://t.co/KoDGsTex0z subscriptions. please retweet link – https://t.co/hxXJtxEtNd pic.twitter.com/07Lji4IzMY
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) February 4, 2020