Erica Enders will start the Pro Stock season as the defending champion for the third time in her illustrious career. This time, though, she’ll be doing it as the class celebrates its 50th anniversary.
It’s an honor Enders doesn’t take lightly as she heads to this weekend’s 60th annual NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The No. 1 sticker will be emblazoned on her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro for a third time, but this one will be extra special as the 50th anniversary year kicks off in Pomona.
“I’m really excited about the 50th year for Pro Stock,” Enders said. “The changes that have been made in our class and what we’ve all done to get more competitors – and we have more entries than any other professional category this weekend – it’s been a long road and taken a lot of work. But it’s been fun to be part of and watch it grow, and I’m honored to be the defending champ for this prestigious year. It’s humbling and it’s surreal to be part of Pro Stock’s history and what the class is becoming.”
In the special 50th anniversary Pro Stock program, Enders name is listed alongside legends like Bob Glidden, Warren Johnson, Ronnie Sox and others, and it’s well-deserved.
The 25-time race winner and her standout team thrived down the stretch in 2019, qualifying No. 1 three times in the Countdown to the Championship and winning twice. The win in Vegas helped clinch the third world championship, but there has been no let-up for the Richard Freeman-owned team.
“You cannot get complacent and that’s not something anyone on our team has been,” Enders said. “Everyone has been full go at the shop, working hard each and every day. All the guys have an incredible work ethic. It’s been pretty awesome to see and I’m excited to show what we’ve learned. I feel like we learned a whole bunch during testing and we’re definitely optimistic.”
The entire Elite Motorsports team spent six days testing in Bradenton leading up to the opener in Pomona, with Enders estimating they made more than 100 runs as a team. When not in the car, Enders mentored new teammate Marty Robertson, who joined the team in the off-season and got licensed in Pro Stock during testing.
He praised Enders throughout the process, giving him a comfort level to quickly find his rhythm in the car. It also proved to be a worthwhile experience for Enders.
“It was very special and I’m honored that he trusted me,” said Enders, who has 51 final round appearances. “The way I looked at it was my goal was to teach him what I’ve learned and make his journey to get to this position be very successful without all the hardships. I was proud of him and he did an excellent job.”
It was another impressive mark for the Elite Motorsports group heading into Pomona, with momentum continuing to build.
The team worked hard on horsepower gains in the off-season and Enders, who was named Pro Stock driver of the decade by NHRA, saw plenty of potential in testing. Now, she’ll try for her first Winternationals victory with hopes of kicking off the 50th Pro Stock season in impressive style as the reigning champ.
“I definitely think we’re in a great spot to keep doing well,” Enders said. “There were no wholesale changes to our package, which is good because we’ve got something that works. We’ve worked hard in the horsepower department and learned a lot of things, so we’re definitely optimistic. What we have as a team is unique and it makes it fun. We’re just going to go out and do the best we can.”
NHRA qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. PST on Friday and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday. Television coverage on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) begins with live action at 6 p.m. EST on Friday, continuing with qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. on Saturday and eliminations at 5 p.m. on Sunday.