Reigning world champion drag racer Erica Enders expects excellence in Epping

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EPPING, NH — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports Pro Stock race team are expecting a memorable outing at this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals, and the world champions have plenty of reason to be optimistic, including three victories in the last five races, three top qualifying efforts, and an enviable 20-6 race day mark in the first nine races of the season.

“Everything’s been clicking for us,” said Enders, a Houston native who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow racer Richie Stevens. “We even switched to a new car a few races back but really didn’t miss a beat. In fact, we got even better. It speaks to the quality of work these guys put in every day. We expect the best from each other and they deliver it time after time.

“Our team owner, Richard Freeman, is really good at getting the best out of people and that attitude spreads throughout the team. We’re not cocky; we just know what we’re capable of, and we feel a huge responsibility to prove ourselves every weekend.”

Enders has chalked up national event wins in Las Vegas, Houston, and Topeka, Kan., this year. She also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas, a special non-points event for the category’s top-eight teams from the last 12 months. Her three national event wins are the most in the Pro Stock class and tied for most in the pro ranks with Top Fuel’s Antron Brown and Funny Car’s Matt Hagan.

“I’m sure if you asked Antron and Matt they’d tell you the same thing, that whenever you win a Wally all you really want to do is win another one,” she said. “It’s addictive. It’s the best reward for the crew and the engine builders for all the long hours they put in to make me look good. I get on TV, but they’re the real heroes of this operation, no doubt.”

With 15 national event wins in her career, Enders is just three behind legendary nitro pilot and trailblazer Shirley Muldowney, a longtime idol who has become a great friend and confidant to the 31-year-old Enders.

“I’ve been hearing about Shirley’s mark lately because the media picks up on the numbers, but there is no comparing me and her,” Enders said. “What she went through back when she raced was really tough. She opened the door for girls like me to even know we had a chance to race. Plus, they didn’t run near as many races every year back then, so to compare her numbers to mine is crazy.

“Bottom line, Shirley will always be the first lady of drag racing. She is a great friend and someone I know I can call at any time of the day or night to ask her advice. Her and Angelle (Sampey) were such a big help last year when the championship battle got intense. I’m honored just to be mentioned alongside of them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 4:30 and 7 p.m. ET, Friday, and 12:30 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 7:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 5 to 8 p.m., Sunday.