POMONA, CA — Two-time world champion drag racer Erica Enders has a long and storied connection with Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, the site of this weekend’s 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. It’s a bond that dates back two decades, and one that’s immortalized with her own display at the heralded Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum across the fairgrounds from fabled Pomona Dragway.
“Some of the biggest moments in my drag racing career have happened at Pomona, going all the way back to my Junior Dragster days when we hauled our little dragster all the way from Houston just to race here,” Enders said. “Now that dragster is on display at the Wally Parks Museum, and I always go and visit her when we’re in town. It’s a great chance to reflect for a minute on how far we’ve come.
“I remember as teenager coming here and enrolling in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and earning my Super Comp license on this strip. That was a huge deal for me; kind of signaling my transition to ‘big’ cars.
“Of course, we came in here and won this race in 2014 with that crazy finish to the season. We needed every round, every point to get it done and we did it with so much pressure on us. That clinched our first championship and remains the biggest moment of my life. So yeah, this place is as special as it gets for me.”
Enders, 33, hopes to stir up a little more magic this time through as her 2016 season draws to a close with an unsightly zero in the ins column. After winning six races in 2014 and a whopping nine more in 2015, coming up empty was not what her Elite Motorsports team was expecting, even with big rule changes and a shift to Dodge Darts.
“It’s no secret we’ve had a tough year but in many ways it’s picked me up because I’ve seen a level of fight in this group of guys that is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve always said this team is exceptional and through all the struggles we’ve endured this year that feeling has only grown.
“It would be very cool to have a big weekend for the guys, to give them some sort of reward for the effort they’ve all put in this year. I will darn sure try my best to make something happen and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Although the car hasn’t been up to snuff, Enders herself remains one of the top drivers in the class, routinely leaving first on her opponents, a trait that helped her tremendously during her two championship charges.
Her expert ability to drive a Pro Stock should work well next season when the team launches a new campaign to reestablish themselves as title contenders.
Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 12 and 3 p.m., on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 8:30-9:30 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).