POMONA, CA — The first Junior Dragster Erica Enders ever drove to the winner’s circle is housed just across the compound from Auto Club Raceway in Wally Parks’ Drag Racing Museum. She also started her Sportsman career here and collected one of her record 21 Pro Stock race trophies at Pomona. Additionally, she clinched the first of her two world titles at this track in 2014.
Now the spunky Texan is back, hoping to add a few more memories to her So-Cal resume when this weekend’s season-opening 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals turn to Sunday’s eliminations.
“This place means a lot to me,” Enders admitted. “It has a lot of history for our sport in general and for me personally, from racing Junior Dragsters here to getting my Super Comp license and starting my big car career in the Lucas Oil series. Plus, I was able to wrap up my first Pro Stock championship here.
“There’s just a lot of fun memories here already and then to have my first Junior Dragster over in the museum is just surreal because I still feel like I’m just a normal kid. It’s really through a lot of hard work and the support of my family that we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of cool stuff, including at this track. It’s one of the things that makes you want to pinch yourself.”
After racing to back-to-back titles and 15 race wins in 2014-2015, Enders came up empty last season racing for a different manufacturer. But her Elite Motorsports team has returned to its reliable Chevrolet Camaros and the results in testing, where she was quickest overall, and here in Pomona show they made the right decision.
“We are really proud of how we performed in testing and the first couple of days of qualifying,” she said. “Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) and I are both really proud to be back in Chevrolets, back in competitive race cars where we have a shot to win every Sunday.
“I’m proud of all of the hard work my team put into making all of this possible. It wasn’t easy to switch over everything, to build a new car for Jeg and get my 2014 car ready for me but they never quit, they never stopped trucking, so my hat’s off to them for how incredibly hard they worked to make this possible for both me and Jeg.”
Enders has qualified sixth with a best pass of 6.553 at 210.90 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Up first in eliminations is a first-round showdown with Matt Hartford, who qualified 11th with a best of 6.596 at 210.44 mph.
“Jeg and I can’t meet until the semis if we both win early in the day so that’s the first goal,” Enders said. “We’ll wake up tomorrow fresh and ready to roll. I know exactly what this team is capable of and what we can accomplish under pressure. It reminds me of 2014 and 2015 when we had the capability to win anytime we stepped foot on the property.
“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve been through in the past 12 months and how strong it’s made us.”
Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon PT, Sunday, with three hours of live coverage running from 4-7 p.m. ET, on FOX.