POMONA, CA — The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least Erica Enders hopes so.
The Elite Motorsports driver has won the last two NHRA Pro Stock World Championships, with the 2015 title won in dominant fashion. She went to the winner’s circle nine times last year, clinching the title at the penultimate race of the season.
But big changes are on tap for 2016, starting with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona: The class is switching to fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm limit and wheelie bars are shorter. On top of that Enders and her team are switching to Mopar, and she’ll be driving a new Dodge Dart along with new teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.
“I’m excited to get the season started, to get a feel for where everybody’s at,” Enders said. “We’ve beaten all the changes into the ground talking about them, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. It’s definitely going to be a tough year.
“I’m excited about going back to Pomona. We’ve had some success there in the past and our plan is to continue that. We’ll head west after we finish testing Wednesday and see how it goes.”
Enders won the season-finale in Pomona in 2014, winning the championship by beating Jason Line in the final round of the final race. She won six times that year, but 2015 was even better.
“You learn a lot when you experience things with the right people,” Enders said. “I’d always hoped for what I have here at Elite, and to have finally gotten a chance to work with such an elite group of people and to win the championship our first two years together says a lot.
“What impressed me last year is we were able to top what we accomplished in 2014, which was an absolute dream season. You wonder if that’s even possible, and then we went out there and did just that by winning nine races, the U.S. Nationals for the first time, and then to wrap it up a race early was just crazy.”
Enders and her Elite team have succeeded through a combination of talent, hard work, and perseverance. They believe in each other, and Enders is convinced the team’s chemistry will help them get through the big transition this season.
“I pick them over anybody else in the whole world,” Enders said. “I know that if anybody can, we can. It’s very challenging and there’s definitely going to be a learning curve involved. It’s going to take time to get better, but at the same time, you’ve got to be optimistic, and we are — we’ll be just fine.
“A lot of the teams over the offseason worked on the horsepower they had, but we built two new teams, two new race cars, and a whole new Mopar engine program. We’ve jammed as much as you could pack into an offseason. And with EFI added to the equation with a lower rev limiter and shorter wheelie bars, it’s crazy.”
Enders, though, is motivated to take a run at a third championship in a row.
“It’s been an incredible run, and I feel like we’re nowhere close to being done,” Enders said. “Having said that, it’s tough out there every year. It’s going to be a real tall order this year, for sure, with all the changes involved and the new program that we’re building, but we’ll get there. It’s going to take time, but we’re going to be fine. I always say it, but my money’s on us. We’ve got the best group, the best crew chiefs, the best team owner, the best chassis builder, the best drivers. Game on.”
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. Qualifying action will be broadcast at 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 a.m., Sunday, on FOX Sports 1, with eliminations broadcast live at 5 p.m., Sunday.