CHICAGO — The life of Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens changed forever on July 1, 2012, when she scored her first career Pro Stock victory at Route 66 Raceway — and became engaged to Richie Stevens.
Enders-Stevens is hoping to recreate the same kind of magic when NHRA returns for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals this weekend.
“Chicago 2012 is obviously one of the best events in my racing career and in my personal life,” Enders-Stevens said. “We worked seven years to try to get a win in Pro Stock, and for it to finally happen in Chicago — and then for me to get engaged after that — it made for a dream weekend.”
Enders-Stevens has since risen to the top of the Pro Stock ladder, winning eight more times. Three of those victories have come this season, and she leads the points standings in the ultra-competitive class by a whopping 183 points.
Her pairing with Richard Freeman’s Elite team has been a boon to her career, as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones consistently have her near the top of the field.
Enders-Stevens has qualified fifth or better in every race, including one No. 1 qualifier and seven No. 2s, and she has won at least one round in all 11 races to date, including six semifinal appearances and four finals.
And now she heads to Route 66 Raceway, one of her favorite tracks.
“I’m looking forward to Chicago because it’s always been close to my heart,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s sentimental because it’s where I went to my first final round when I became pro, when I first started, and of course that’s where we got our first win in 2012. I’m looking forward to going back and starting with a clean slate this weekend.”
Her love of the track goes even further back than her pro career, back when she raced the Sportsman classes.
“Even before Pro Stock, I raced Super Comp and Super Gas there,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got a lot of memories there and am looking to making some great new ones with my new team.”
Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals will be held at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m., Friday, and 4:15 and 7:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all qualifying and elimination action, including live coverage of the final two rounds.