With the Pro Stock title in sight, Enders-Stevens is focused on having fun

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) — Even with the NHRA Pro Stock championship on the line during this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the No. 1 goal for Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team is to have fun.

That has been the goal since Enders-Stevens joined the team this year, and it has paid off with five victories and the points lead heading into the season finale. And there’s no reason to change now.

“It’s such an awesome environment to work in, and (team owner) Richard Freeman is just an awesome guy to work for,” Enders-Stevens said. “He’s great at managing people, making everyone feel important, and at communication. We have team meetings, and we all always just stay on the same page. I think that’s how you make any relationship work, whether it be business or marriage or whatever.

“He’s done a really great job with that, and he’s made it very evident that if we’re not having fun, we’re not going to do it. We have a blast together.”

Winning helps that attitude, of course, but Enders-Stevens and her team are always smiling and joking no matter what. That positive outlook has helped through some trying times this season and enabled Enders-Stevens to bounce back from losing the points lead to regain it at the most recent race in Las Vegas.

Enders-Stevens is 17 points ahead of second-place Jason Line heading into Pomona after she beat Line in the Vegas semifinal before winning the race.

“People are the most important part of the puzzle, and Richard has certainly organized an elite group of people,” Enders-Stevens said. “Rick and Rickie Jones as my crew chiefs and all of the guys that work on my car, it’s just awesome, and we do have a blast whether we’re out to eat or at the racetrack winning and losing together. It’s always a fun time.”

But they take racing seriously, too, as shown by their terrific season to date. She has led the points standings for 13 of the 23 events so far in 2014, even after skipping two Western Swing races to prepare for the end of the year. In addition to the five wins, Enders-Stevens has raced to one other final round and four semifinal appearances.

Plus, she has scored six No. 1 qualifiers, including the last three in a row. In 18 of her 21 races this year, she has qualified in the top three 18 times.

All those numbers could add up to Enders-Stevens becoming the first female champion in the history of Pro Stock.

“Yeah, it’s certainly a huge feat to accomplish,” Enders-Stevens said. “I would have my name on a list with just Shirley Muldowney and Angelle (Sampey), and those are two of my heroes. To be able to have the opportunity to get it done is awesome in itself.

“At the same time I think any female racer will tell you that we just want to be looked at as a driver. The car doesn’t know the difference in gender, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me, but at the end of the day I guess it would be very awesome to be able to make history and just show any other females that maybe even had a little bit of doubt that they weren’t capable or whatever that I’m a perfect example of a normal kid — through hard work and certainly surrounding myself with the right people and having such a solid support group — that anything is possible, and I hope that’s the message that comes across to them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry qualifying and elimination action.