Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 92

It ’ s a cold , gray January day as Erica Enders makes the drive from her native Houston to the Elite Motorsports compound in Wynnewood , Oklahoma , to start a new week . It ’ s a familiar five-plus-hour trip for Enders , and this time she ’ s reflecting on what she describes as a career-best season .
In 2022 , Enders secured her fifth NHRA Pro Stock world championship behind the wheel of Richard Freeman ’ s Melling Performance / Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro . Throughout the 19-race Pro Stock season , Enders appeared in 13 final rounds and won 10 of them : the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona , the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas , the Springnationals in Houston , the New England Nationals in Epping , the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk , the Denso Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma , the Pep Boys Nationals in Reading , the Midwest Nationals in St . Louis , the Texas FallNationals in Dallas , and the Nevada Nationals in Las Vegas .
And while Enders and her team have taken the time to celebrate their accomplishments , they ’ re not resting . On the contrary , Elite Motorsports is on track to have its biggest season yet with eight primary drivers and cars competing under the team ’ s umbrella in 2023 . Along with Enders and fellow world champion Bo Butner , the Elite group will include Fernando Cuadra Sr . and sons Fernando Jr . and Cristian , third-generation racer Troy Coughlin Jr ., and Aaron Stanfield .
While the Elite brain trust of crew chiefs , engine builders , and crew members work to prepare all the equipment for the season , Enders has been busy in her office in Wynnewood . Behind the scenes , Enders is one of the sales reps on the truck and trailer sales side of the Elite Motorsports business . She deals with racers who want to buy from the group ’ s inventory of semis , motorhomes , toterhomes , trailers , and other motorsports transportation equipment .
“ The offseason ’ s a really good time because everybody ’ s wanting to upgrade their existing stuff , or people that are putting new teams together are buying rigs , race cars , parts , and motors ,” Enders says . “ This is definitely a really busy time for that side of our business and that ’ s what I do every day . I ’ ve been pretty slammed .”
Enders , who studied marketing in college , also spends a great deal of time finding marketing partners for the team . Her success on the track and her efforts in the office have paid off , as a full slate of partners is on board for Enders ’ title defense campaign . Johnson ’ s Horsepowered Garage , Butner ’ s primary sponsor , has expanded its partnership to include primary sponsorship on Enders ’ car . Scag Power Equipment also came on board as a new major associate sponsor , joining returning partners like Melling , Gallagher Insurance , PEOPLEASE , CTech Manufacturing , C . H . E . Precision , and Stockseth Racing .
“ For the first time in my 19 years of Pro Stock racing , we ’ re out of real estate to sell ,” Enders says . “ As somebody who ’ s worked on the marketing side of it since day one , that ’ s huge because that ’ s always been the biggest challenge aside from ontrack competition : finding the money to do it .”
Going into 2023 , the sting of losing the 2021 world championship to Greg Anderson is still fresh on the minds of Enders and her team members .
“ In 2021 , Greg had a very dominant car ,” Enders admits . “ He had a performance advantage all year , and it still came down to the semifinals in Pomona where him and I had to go head-tohead , and we ended up losing there , obviously . But that lit a fire underneath us to go back . We did not love them having a leg up on us as far as E . T . goes .”
With the No . 1 back on Enders ’ familiar red Camaro , everyone under the Elite roof – especially in the engine development program – is working to make sure they don ’ t lose any ground to competition like Anderson and the Mooresville , North Carolina-based KB Racing , now known as KB Titan Racing . The obvious goal is to go back-toback like Enders did in 2014-2015 and 2019-2020 .
“ We ’ ve had some engineers , some really brilliant minds , come down to help us explore other avenues to continue to move our program forward ,” Enders says . Between the engineers and the great minds that are back there working on it , we feel like we ’ re definitely moving our program forward . You can ’ t get complacent just because we had them covered last year . Those guys in North Carolina aren ’ t sitting still , I can promise you that .”
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