BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 12) – Father's Day is often a special event for dads and their children, but for KLR Group driver Erica Enders, every day is Father's Day.
That's because Enders enjoys a special relationship with her father, Gregg. They are more than a father and daughter. They are best friends and business partners, and they talk or text several times each day.
What makes this Father's Day weekend special for them is that Gregg will be at Bristol Dragway to watch Erica run the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
"I always think of him," Enders said. "I call him before and after every run. I know he's with me when I get in the car. When he's not at the track, he follows me on the NHRA app or on NHRA.com. I don't think of him more on Father's Day than I already do because I don't think that's possible.
"Last year, we almost won this race for him. We runnered-up. I'm hoping to seal the deal this year."
Enders reached the Bristol finals in 2011 and left ahead of opponent Mike Edwards in the final round. But after her Chevrolet shook the tires, Enders was left with a runner-up finish.
This year, Enders is coming off a semifinal finish in Englishtown, N.J., and she's qualified in the top half of the field in the last five races. Plus, her GK Motorsports team has inched closer to the top of the Pro Stock ladder.
A victory, which would be her first in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, would be "awesome," especially with her dad in attendance.
"He's been instrumental in my career," Erica said. "For him to be there and share my first Pro Stock win would be completely different than if he had to watch it on TV and wait for me to call him. It would mean the world for him to be there because he's been there for every other race I've won in my whole life. It'd be nice to share this milestone with him there."
Erica's interest in racing came when she was a little girl watching Gregg race. When Erica read about the Jr. Drag Racing League that NHRA was starting, she went to her dad to ask about driving a half-scale dragster herself.
"He's the absolute sole reason why I am where I'm at today," Enders said. "If it wasn't for him and his racing, I would not even have had the chance to do what I do. I grew up watching him race, and when NHRA came out with the Jr. Drag Racing League in '92, I asked him if I could do it.
"He said, 'If you're a good kid and make good grades,' he didn't see why not. That was 20 years ago."
After success in Jr. Dragsters and several other levels of Sportsman racing, Enders moved to the Pro Stock ranks in 2005.
"He always stood behind me in whatever I wanted to do," Enders said. "He never, ever pressured me, never forced me, never even asked me if I wanted to do it. I read about it and came to him. He wasn't the dad who was like, 'OK, you're going to take dance, basketball and volleyball.' He let me and my sister do what we wanted.
"The only rule we had was once we started something, we had to finish it. We weren't allowed to quit."
Through the years, Gregg has stayed by her side, supporting her and encouraging her. Now, to see his oldest daughter race successfully is all he could ask for.
"For me, the whole reason I've existed since I had kids was for my kids," Gregg said of son Tom and daughters Erica and Courtney. "I put the kids in front of everything else. To see them do what they love for a living…there's no greater reward. To watch her grow into who she is, doing the community work she does, the role model she's become for other kids – there's nothing more rewarding for me."