Series spotlight: Erica Enders

NHRA Series press release


Pro Stock Driver Erica Enders
Pro Stock Driver Erica Enders

Photo by: Ted Rossino

CHANDLER, Ariz. – While NHRA has been busy celebrating the legends of the sport and their historic exploits during its 60th anniversary season, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders has been chasing a little bit of history of her own.

While a variety of world famous NHRA Legends have been featured at different tracks throughout year-long 60th anniversary celebration to honor all the great performances and personalities for many decades of NHRA competition, Enders has looked to one of them – Shirley Muldowney – for inspiration in her quest.

Enders is trying to become the first female driver to win a Pro Stock race in NHRA history. She is one of only six women who have ever competed in the 200 mph factory hot rod category in NHRA history. NHRA introduced Pro Stock as a professional eliminator category during the 1970 season.

With five career runner-up finishes, including three this season, Enders has come very close to accomplishing her goal. Teamed with car owner Victor Cagnazzi and crew chief Dave Connolly, Enders has been consistently quick all season long in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt.

She will be among the favorites to win the Pro Stock portion of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, Oct. 14-16 at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix. Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.

For the first time ever, the race will also feature competition in Pro Stock Motorcycle as the event is part of NHRA’s post-season playoffs, the six-race Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

Enders, who started her career in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League and won a national event in Super Gas in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, is fourth in the championship standings behind two of the drivers she’s lost to in final round meetings this season, Greg Anderson and Edwards.

She’ll try to draw inspiration from Muldowney, who will be one of three featured NHRA 60th Anniversary Legends at the event. It was Muldowney’s perseverance in the 1970s that ultimately opened the door for Enders and countless other successful female racers to pursue a pro driving career in NHRA competition.

“I just want to be treated like one of the guys,” said Enders, who would become the 12th different female to win a Full Throttle Series race in NHRA history. “Yes, it’s a male-dominated sport, but women work just as hard. A lot went on before we got here, and sometimes we don’t really think about it, but Shirley is someone I’ve looked up to my entire life.”

In 1976 Muldowney forever changed the landscape of major motorsports when she became the first female to win an NHRA Top Fuel race and later a world championship title in the 7,000 horsepower category. After breaking down the gender barrier, Muldowney went on to claim three Top Fuel world championship titles and record 18 career national event victories, her last coming at Firebird Int’l Raceway in 1989. In 2001 she was the only female named to the list of NHRA’s top 50 drivers. She was ranked No. 5 all-time on the historic list by an elite panel of drag racing journalists and historians.

Muldowney sees great promise in Enders, who has been driving race cars since she was eight years old.

“With all due respect for many of the ladies now competing in the sport, Erica is no doubt the best female driver I’ve seen come into the sport, in any class,” Muldowney said. “I really don’t know her that well, but well enough to call her a true professional with class and style. She’s shown numerous times that she not only can drive the heck out of her car, but also has real knowledge when it comes to the race car and the equipment. I also like the fact that she’s not a show-boater.”

Like Muldowney, whose life as a Top Fuel racer was portrayed in the 1982 major motion picture “Heart Like a Wheel,” Enders’ life as a junior drag racer was chronicled in the popular Disney Channel original movie “Right on Track.”

Perhaps Muldowney sees a little bit of her patented gritty determination behind the wheel in Enders’ driving style.

“It’s very obvious that Erica is not one to fluster or lose her timing when it comes down to the final,” Muldowney said. “I’ve watched her for quite some time now, and have always been impressed. She definitely has the ability to deliver when it counts. Nice girl...tough driver! Watch out guys.”

Should Enders become the first female to win a Pro Stock race during NHRA’s 60th Anniversary season, it would be quite a celebration indeed. And if it can happen at Firebird International Raceway this weekend, Muldowney will be there to make the winner’s circle party even more special.

“I’d like to get that off my back,” Enders said of her goal to win a Pro Stock race. “I can’t ask for a better team. I’m in love with my guys. They have a common goal, just like mine, and there are no ulterior motives there. I’m a firm believer that unity will make a team a success. I couldn’t be in a better position this year.”

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Jack Beckman , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards
Tags chevrolet, enders, muldowney