The success of Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders in the world of NHRA Pro Stock would be difficult to miss, and her accomplishments have already secured her place in history. Enders became the first female to win an NHRA Pro Stock race in 2012 when she beat veteran competitor Greg Anderson in the final round at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago. Two years later, she made history again and became the first woman to win an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world championship. She was only the third female to win a professional title in the series, and it wasn’t a fluke; the very next season, Enders won nine NHRA Wally trophies – the most of any female driver in a single season of NHRA competition – en route to her second consecutive championship.
Yes, this year has been a very different story. She hasn’t yet qualified in the top half of the field in 2016, and for the first time since 2010, Enders logged three consecutive first-round losses. The native Texan, though, is anything but rattled. She has the utmost faith in her team as they work to master the electronic fuel injection system and fine-tune a brand new program with their switch from Chevrolet to Mopar at the conclusion of 2015.
“We definitely knew this year was going to be a challenge, not just because of the new rules implemented by NHRA, but also because we switched manufacturers and had to build two new race cars and a new race team with Jeg [Coughlin Jr.] coming on board,” said Enders. “Our off-season was a little busy, and we didn’t have our first engine assembled until just prior to the Phoenix test. Having said all that, given just a little more time, we’ll get better. And then it’s going to progressively get better and better. The first [few] races didn’t go as planned, but that was to be expected.”
Perhaps the qualities of faith and resilience come a bit easier for Enders than for others. The brightness of her career in recent times may have caused some to forget the facts: she did not walk right into success, and for many years, Enders struggled to even qualify in the extremely competitive category. Her 21 victories were all earned in the past four seasons, but they followed 50 DNQs since 2005, when she made her Pro Stock debut. In 2010, Enders attempted to make the Pro Stock field at 17 NHRA events. Only three times was she successful. Three times.
But she kept coming back. She kept showing up. Okay, sometimes she cried. But she never gave up. This year, we can expect more of that attitude as the Elite group works out the bugs and sets the ship right for the team as a whole, and for Enders and her Mopar Performance/Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart GT.
“I feel like we’ve made some really big steps in the right direction, and we’re just going to keep working at it,” said Enders. “We’re not running with the KB Racing cars – we’re not even close – but we will get there, I promise you that. We’re not quitters. We welcome the challenge.”