TOPEKA, KS — Heartland Park Topeka has a special place in the heart of Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders, the two-time Pro Stock champion.
Heartland Park, site of this weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals, is where Enders became the first woman to earn a No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and it’s also the track where she scored a dominant victory in 2015, nine years after that first No. 1 qualifier.
Enders was in her second full year of Pro Stock in 2006, driving the Slammers car. In the second round of qualifying for the NHRA Summer Nationals, Enders made a pass of 6.785 at 203.06 mph to jump to No. 1. She held on to that spot to become the 52nd driver to earn a Pro Stock No. 1.
“It was a huge milestone for me and my young Pro Stock career,” said Enders, who was 22 at the time. “It was definitely exciting. The fans were crazy. I signed a lot of autographs that weekend and got a lot of congratulations from a lot of people: a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls. It’s definitely a neat memory.”
Enders got to share the memory with her father Gregg, who helped start Enders’ career as an 8-year-old driving a Jr. Dragster in her home state of Texas.
“It was cool to share that moment with my dad,” Enders said. “He’s the reason why I was in that position in the first place.”
Fast-forward to 2015, and Enders is now driving for Elite Motorsports. She had won in Las Vegas and Houston earlier in the year, repeating race victories from her 2014 championship, but her Topeka success had been limited to that No. 1 qualifier in 2006.
“At that point of the season, we had won the same races that we had won the year before,” Enders said. “Every race we went to where we hadn’t won, we were hoping to break that. Topeka was a track that we typically didn’t have much luck or success at, so to win in the fashion that we did was pretty cool.”
Enders was low for all three of the qualifying sessions (the fourth was rained out) and set the Pro Stock track record of 6.515 seconds at 211.43 mph to again win the No. 1 qualifying spot.
On race day, Enders was quickest in all four rounds, beating Greg Anderson in an early-evening final round to win the race.
“We were low for every session, No. 1 qualifier, and we beat Greg in the finals,” Enders said. “It was a rain delay on Sunday, and we finished under the lights. It was pretty cool.”
Rain had delayed the final, and the winner’s circle celebration had to be moved indoors — not that Enders or anyone on her Elite team minded.
“The winner’s circle was in the barn with the scales,” Enders said. “It was different, for sure, but still awesome.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, Saturday. Elimination action will be broadcast live from 2 to 5 p.m. ET, Sunday.
Enders will also compete in Sportsman racing this weekend, as she returns to the Super Gas ranks behind the wheel of the ORTEQ Energy Technologies roadster for owners Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski.