Erica Enders preview

Houstonian Enders says home track would be perfect place for first win

HOUSTON (April 26) -- If there were such thing as a fairy tale in sports, drag racer Erica Enders could slip on the proverbial glass slipper at this weekend's 24th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown.

We've got the car to beat, and I'm driving my butt off this year.

Erica Enders

For 19 years, Enders' dream has been to win an NHRA national event at the top level of the sport, and she perhaps has her best chance at a victory this weekend at her home track. Driving the ZaZa Energy Pro Stock Chevrolet fielded by Cagnazzi Racing, Enders knows she is as close as she's ever been to that elusive first pro win.

"We've got the car to beat, and I'm driving my butt off this year," Enders said. "I'm doing a good job leaving, a good job shifting, and a good job driving the racecar from to point A to point B. Without sounding cocky, I know that first win is right around the corner. It's gonna happen, we're gonna do it."

The 27-year-old Houstonian grew up dreaming of NHRA success, and she's tasted plenty in the Sportsman and Junior Dragster classes. For 2011, she rejoined team owner Victor Cagnazzi, who recently assigned Dave Connolly as Enders' crew chief. Things seem to be falling into place for a solid weekend – maybe even a victory.

"When I can't sleep at night, I think about that first win," Enders said. "I think about what I would say in my interviews and how I'd react. It'll be that one moment I've been working my entire life for. I don't know how I'll react. I'm sure it'll be so emotional.

"For people to understand is really hard because for 19 years I've been working toward this one goal. I've worked hard to get here, raising money to race. It's been very tough at times. I think that first win will probably be the coolest moment of my life, ever."

Enders is thrilled at the prospect of becoming the first woman to win a Pro Stock race, but she really just wants to win.

Erica Enders, driver of the ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt
Erica Enders, driver of the ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt

Photo by: Ted Rossino

"If you ask any girl driver out here, we'd tell you the same thing," Enders said. "We don't really care about the male/female stuff. It's great because it's different, and yeah, it'd be really cool to be the first woman to ever win a Pro Stock race, but I'm at a point where I just want get it out of the way, get it in the record books, then win another one.

"I know it's something that interests everybody and I hope it's me that gets it done. But at the end of the day, when you put your helmet on, being a girl doesn't matter."

Enders was the No. 1 qualifier in the season opener at Pomona, Calif., and set a national speed record of 213.57 mph at the next stop in Gainesville, Fla.

"I can't forget that we're in this position because of the guys at ZaZa Energy," Enders said. "They're a Houston- and Corpus Christi-based oil and gas company, so it's going to be a hometown race for them as well. We're really excited about that.

"We have a lot of confidence going in. We've tested well and we’ve run well all season. We've definitely had one of the top-five cars every weekend. That will continue. I'm very excited, very optimistic."

She's especially pumped up because she's preparing to race at the track she knows best, Royal Purple Raceway.

"Houston will be hot and humid," Enders said. "It'll be our first real summer race, just because of Houston's climate. The challenge will be getting your car down a hot race track on Sunday.

"Houston's a good track. The Angel brothers do a really nice job with it. I've had thousands and thousands of runs there, so I know that track up and down. It would be the perfect place for me to get that first win."