This weekend, drag racer Erica Enders hopes to nail down her sixth NHRA Championship in the Pro Stock class, a record for women. She recently became the female driver who has won more races than any woman in all of motorsports, with 47 victories – 46 in Pro Stock, and one in Super Gas. That eclipses Angelle Sampey’s record, who has 46 total wins in drag-racing.
What makes Enders tick? We thought we’d ask her a few questions. Following are edited excerpts from a recent phone conversation. At just 40 years of age, she’s still got a long way to go.
Jim Clash: You’ve done it all now in Pro Stock. Why not move up to say, Top-Fuel or Funny Car?
Erica Enders: Everyone asks me that because those classes are faster, but I love the challenge of what I do. Would I drive a Nitro car given the opportunity? Absolutely. But I’ve got a really great team here. I’ve been with Elite Motorsports for 10 years. Interestingly, before I went to Pro Stock I was working with a Nitro Funny Car team. I went out and got my alcohol Funny Car license, just below Nitro. I’ve also driven a Pro Mod car – we hold the world record in one of those at 261 mph.
Clash: The Nitro guys, they go from like zero to 330 mph in less than 4 seconds.
Enders: Yea, and that is in only 1,000 feet! They changed it from a quarter mile for more adequate shutdown when they lost Scott Kalitta some years ago [at Englishtown] in the quarter mile. Now they’re doing 338 – 339 mph in 1,000 feet – Brittany Force and that crowd. It’s absolutely insane.
Clash: What are you afraid of, and how do you handle fear?
Enders: On the racecar side of things, there’s a fine line between fear and respect. I absolutely have the utmost respect for what I’m doing and what it could do to me if things go wrong. But I don’t fear it. When you do fear it, it’s time to get out – you think differently when you’re scared, make different decisions.
As for fear, I don’t like the dark. I want to see what’s coming at me. I watch those crazy shows on television like Dateline and 48 Hours, and all of the police shows, too. I’m afraid somebody is going to get me [laughs]. So I have my concealed-carry. I always try to be prepared. I have lots of them, actually. I’m from Texas, so I’m kind of a weird chick. We have lots of weapons [laughs].
Clash: Talk about diversity in drag racing which you don’t necessarily find in other forms of motorsports, where everybody is equal, and all genders and races beat one another at any given time without handicaps.
Enders: NHRA provides a great platform for anyone to excel in. I started out in the Junior drag racing leagues, then went on through the Sportsman series. The kids there race with the same equipment at the same racetracks in front of the same fans that pros do. So I feel that the platform is there with NHRA. It’s one of those sports where once you put your helmet on, everybody is pretty much equal. As you say, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, what race you are, what religion you are – none of that comes into play when you’re behind the wheel. There will always be better-funded teams with nicer equipment, so that does play a factor, but that’s the same in any motorsports class.
Clash: You just turned 40. Happy birthday. Do you want to have a family someday?
Enders: I always thought I would have one. Maybe some day. My love has been motorsports so far.