Overwhelming crowd-favorite Erica Enders ready to defend hometown NHRA title

HOUSTON — Houston native Erica Enders realized a lifelong dream a year ago when she scored her first pro-level victory at her home track of Royal Purple Raceway. She used the victory to springboard a career year that ended in an historic Pro Stock championship, the first ever for a female racer.

Now the little girl that cut her drag racing teeth at the famous dragstrip in the Houston suburb of Baytown is back, ready to do it all over again, this time with longtime supporter Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants as her title sponsor.

“It wasn’t my first win as a pro, but it was my first one here, the place where I used to dream about winning when I was a little girl in a Jr. Dragster, and that made it one of the best moments of my life,” Enders said. “If we could win again for Stan and Sheila Holt (owners of Lupe Tortilla), the Holt boys, and everyone else at all 16 of their restaurants who have been so supportive of me over the years, that just might top it all.

“We’re in good shape. The Pro Stock class is ridiculously good now, and having the No. 1 on the door puts a big target on us. Everyone is taking their best shots against us and we have to be ready to fight every pass. This team knows how to win and we’ll get after it tomorrow, just like we have every weekend.”

Enders, who was victorious at the last NHRA race in Las Vegas two weekends ago, will start eliminations as the No. 4 qualifier. Her best pass in qualifying was a 6.540 at 211.99 mph. As such, she’ll open race day action against good friend Allen Johnson, who qualified 13th with a best of 6.574 at 211.46 mph.

“Home races are such a blast,” Enders said. “The support of the crowd has been crazy, and having everyone stop by and congratulate us on all the success we’ve had is very humbling. I’m blown away by my fans and I love them all.

“It’s going to be a fun race. My team owner, Richard Freeman, is breaking in our new Rick Jones race car and he’s in the field. My teammate (Drew Skillman) is running great, and our engine customer, Rodger Brogdon, who also is from Houston, is looking strong, too. It could be a big day for Elite Motorsports!

“We also started a Kickstarter campaign this weekend for an online TV show we’ve been working on, so I encourage everyone to visit RacingInRed.com and check it out.”

Sunday’s eliminations will be aired live from 1 to 4 p.m. CT on ESPN2.