POMONA, CA — After winning two championships in a row and pushing her career win total to 21 national events, Erica Enders came into 2016 hoping to add to her legacy in a brand-new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. But things don’t always go as planned, and Enders instead went an entire year without reaching the final round.
Now, after equaling the best outing of the year by racing to the semifinals of the season-ending 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Enders can finally turn the page on a forgettable year and begin in earnest her comeback story.
“We always have high hopes every race and to get to the semifinals today is something we have only done twice previous to this race this year so it’s definitely a good weekend for us,” Enders said.
Flashing the driving prowess that made her a two-time champ, Enders fought hard Sunday, beating fellow Texan and good friend Alex Laughlin with a massive .049-second holeshot advantage, .023 to .072, which gave her a comfortable win at the other end, with a 6.623 at 209.33 mph beating his 6.596 at 209.82 mph.
In Round 2 it was teammate Vincent Nobile in the other lane and once again Enders had the better reaction time, .032 to .051, to get an early lead. That was really all it took because Nobile’s car got squirrely and he had to abort the run, giving Enders the win with a 6.649 at 208.91 mph to his coasting 15.635 at 47.85 mph.
With the championship on the line, Jason Line was Enders’ semifinal foe, and with memories of 2014 dancing through both driver’s heads, the race was on. This time, instead of Enders pulling off the victory, it was Line getting it done, sealing his third title.
“Of course, when you get that close you get that Wally in your sights and if we could have gotten the car to go from A to B I think we could have won that round,” Enders said. “Either way, I am really proud for Jason Line. He’s a tough competitor and an even better guy so I am super happy that if we weren’t able to win the championship or one of my teammates win the championship, that Jason was able to get it done.
“My guys did a great job this weekend. They gave me a good racecar and I used my left foot as best I could today. I definitely wanted to close out 2016 with a win. It will be the first year to not get a win in awhile but there are bigger and better things to come in 2017 and we are ending on a high note. Me and my guys went down fighting.”
Switching manufacturers and a slew of significant rule changes to the Pro Stock class combined to wreak havoc with the Elite team, but finding a silver lining in it all, Enders said she’s learned a lot about herself and her team along the way.
“The struggles were endured are a testament to what my team is made of. It’s not always about the trophies. Yeah, we want to win races, that’s what we get paid to do, but it’s more about the chemistry and the camaraderie we share. It’s something money can’t buy, that’s why it’s so coveted, and it’s a big reason why people are envious of us. I so proud to be this team’s driver. I am so blessed. Richard Freeman could have chosen anyone, and he chose me and our puzzle is complete.”