ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — From her first day behind the wheel of an Elite Motorsports race car, Erica Enders knew she was in a special situation.
Chemistry between Enders and her race team was solid on that first day and has only continued to grow. So despite some struggles during the 2016 season, Enders and her team remain a tight-knit group as they head to the NHRA Summernationals this weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Enders won the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships with Elite, going to the winner’s circle 15 times over that span. Why? People.
“I attribute most of our success to personnel, absolutely,” Enders said. “My guys build great horsepower, and my crew chiefs build a fantastic race car. But what we have is so unique and so special. Even through these hard times right now, it’s not wavered, not one bit.
“We used to say, ‘Horsepower is a great deodorant.’ But when things aren’t going right, it’s easy for people to have a shorter fuse and snap at one another.”
That hasn’t happened this season as Enders and her team develop a new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge.
“We still have a blast,” Enders said. “Does it stink not to run well? Absolutely. Are we mad we come back? Yeah, but it doesn’t change the bond that we have. It just makes us want to dig deeper and work harder. I wouldn’t pick anyone else in the entire world. I choose to spend my free time with these guys. They’re absolutely amazing, and I’m forever indebted to Richard (Freeman). He could’ve picked anybody, and he picked me.”
Team owner Freeman sets the tone for the solid team chemistry, hiring a group of people who work well together and have fun.
“I feel like people are the most important part of the puzzle,” Enders said. “Yeah, you need a good race car and good horsepower, but you can’t buy what we have. That’s what’s so cool about it. Every team out here has to be a little envious of what we have in that aspect, and that makes me proud.”
From crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll to engine builders Jake Hairston and Nick Ferri to crewmembers Chase Freeman, Robert Freeman, Royce Lee Freeman, and Brett McGehee, Enders’ team remains close.
“You couldn’t have hand-picked a better program,” Enders said. “I can thank Richard Freeman for that. He’s a really good judge of character, and he picked each and every one of us and put us together. I knew from the first test session we had together before the season opener in 2014 that it was different.
“I walked on the pit mat, and everything was different. It was fun, we were laughing, and we were doing well together.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday.