With the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season opener at Gainesville Raceway quickly approaching , Enders sat down with Drag Illustrated for a candid interview to look back on the season that helped her earn the 2022 DI Racer of the Year Award .
You kicked off the year with a win at Pomona over your teammate , Aaron Stanfield . How did that weekend set the tone for the rest of the season ?
I think just the mindset coming in , not that you take it for granted or you get complacent by any means , but I wanted to come out swinging and I said , “ No more nice Erica .” But I wanted to make every round count .
Not that I ’ ve ever drug our stuff up there and had the mentality that I was being lazy or whatever , but I felt like I let a bunch get away in the past , and my goal last year was to not allow that to happen . So , we definitely started off on the right foot in Pomona and being able to win that 900th Pro Stock race was really cool .
Going to Phoenix and Gainesville after that , those two losses were 100 percent my fault and it didn ’ t sit well with me . So , for lack of a better term , I got real pissed off and went to work on me in the driver ’ s seat . After we left Gainesville , we went on to win the next four races in a row and went to five of the next seven finals . Pretty substantial comeback right there , and I think that goes to show you that when you get mad enough , you make stuff happen .
One of those wins came at Houston . What did it mean to win what was likely the last NHRA national event at your home track ?
Man , it was definitely huge . That track means an awful lot to me because before I started Jr . drag racing when I was 8 years old , I was a kid watching my dad race . He was just a hobby sportsman racer , but it ’ s still what our family did on the weekends .
So , from my earliest memories , that ’ s what I have . And to see it going away is definitely emotional , but I wanted to come out and win . We all wanted to . And I told my crew chiefs , I ’ ll trade anything if we can just win Houston . I ’ m sure a lot of teams go out there and say , “ I really want to win this weekend ,” and it just doesn ’ t happen . But we were able to get together and make it work , so it was huge .
And the way that it all came together , seven people that won that day were from Houston . People that I grew up racing with in the sportsman ranks , from the Emmons brothers winning , to the Arnold family winning in Top Sportsman , to Michael Holcombe in Super Comp , to us in Pro Stock , it was a really neat day . I joke and say it ’ s cool how God laid all that out to have seven Houstonians win the final race out there .
Then , to go on and win in Dallas too , we call that the Texas two-step . We did it in ‘ 15 and it was definitely cool to do it again one last time .
Moving ahead to Seattle , one of the big moments of the season for the Elite group as a whole came at the Northwest Nationals , where Troy Coughlin Jr . got his first Pro Stock win by . 0001 seconds . What was it like to be in the other lane for that race ?
It was a part of history , right ? He ’ ll never forget his first Pro Stock win , and I just so happened to be in the other lane and to be his teammate . I think that was really cool how it all went down . And I also think it speaks volumes for our program that we run so closely together and it ’ s usually decided on the starting line .
So , I think I was . 020 (. 026 ) and he was . 030 (. 032 ) and we got down there and it was one ten-thousandth of a second like you said . I ’ m always surprised when I look over and I don ’ t see my win light come on . I think it ’ s burned out or something . But that ’ s part of trying to just speak the things you want into existence . But to be there for his first victory and to have an all-Elite final , I think that ’ s all you can ask for .
Skipping around again a little bit here to Maple Grove , the Pep Boys Nationals , where you evened the score with a final-round win over TJ . How important was that to start the Countdown to the Championship with a win ?
Huge . It ’ s something I joke around with my sister about , but in the past , I have not had much success at Reading . And ‘ 21 was the first time I think I had been out of the second round there .
ENDERS ’ DUTIES AT THE TRACK DON ’ T END AT DRIVING . SHE ALSO WORKS CLOSELY WITH THE MARK INGERSOLL- LED TEAM ON BETWEEN-ROUND MAINTENANCE ON THE 500-CUBIC- INCH PRO STOCKER .
94 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 180