Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders plans to make her debut in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series at the upcoming NHRA SpringNationals at her home track, Royal Purple Raceway. The Houston native will be driving a new turbocharged Camaro built by RJ Race Cars and tuned by longtime Elite crew member Jake Hairston. Enders will also be competing in more familiar surroundings behind the wheel of her Melling/Elite Motorsports Pro Stock Camaro.
“A big part of Elite Motorsports' business is Elite Performance, our engine-building division,” said Enders. “We not only build engines for Pro Stock cars, we have other cars all over the country. We really wanted to have a house program for Pro Mod as it seems to be rapidly growing.
“Hairston Motorsports, which is Jake Hairston [lead Engine builder at Elite Performance] and family, had run the Elite Motorsports GTO in Pro Mod for years. Once that operation sold, Jim [Jake’s dad] and Richard Freeman decided to get with Rick Jones Race Cars to begin production of the 2018 RJ Race Cars Chevy Camaro Turbo car to run various Pro Mod races across the country.”
While Enders is known primarily for her success in Pro Stock, including 22 national event wins and back-to-back Mello Yello world championships in 2014-15, she has enjoyed success in other categories. Her diverse background includes successful stints in Jr. Dragster, a variety of sportsman classes, and the SAM Tech NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Enders' first national event victory came in 2004 when she claimed the Super Gas title at Royal Purple Raceway.
Enders has prior experience in a Pro Mod car after driving Keith Haney’s nitrous-assisted entry several years ago. She has also tested the new turbocharged Elite entry earlier this season in Florida and plans to test again before her official debut in Houston Enders’ Pro Stock Camaro typically runs in the 6.5s at over 210-mph and a competitive Pro Mod run is in the 5.8s at over 250-mph. According to Enders, the additional speed of the Pro Mod car isn’t as challenging as the different driving techniques necessary to succeed in both race cars.
“I drove for Keith in 2013 at a few ADRL races, but I have never entered into NHRA Pro Mod competition, so this is something new for us,” Enders said. “I've always wanted to [race Pro Mod]. Just for fun. I'll race anything. It's fast, it's exciting. The procedure is actually quite simple compared to a Pro Stock car. Haney's car was an automatic also, but his was a nitrous car, so there's a slightly different staging procedure, and there's a slightly different feel going down the track.”
The E3 Pro Mod series has grown to be one of the most popular attractions at NHRA Mello Yello series events. The season-opener in Gainesville, won by three-time series champion Rickie Smith, attracted a field of 35 cars and there are already 30 racers on the pre-entry list for the Houston event. Just 16 Pro Mod drivers qualify for final eliminations which provides an added importance to every qualifying run. The Houston Pro Mod field also includes Enders’ husband, Richie Stevens, who drives for the Al-Anabi Performance team.
“Our plan is to have me run all of the NHRA Pro Mod races with Clint wheeling the Camaro at Midwest Pro Mod Series races as well as a few other PDRA and NMCA races that our schedule allows,” said Enders. “We planned on debuting in Gainesville, but a few obstacles got in our way. We are on the road 300 days a year doing our best to make Pro Stock whole again and with that demanding schedule, we just could not feasibly run the number of races required to accumulate necessary grade points. We ended up ‘paying to play’ and will be attending the 11 remaining races.
“As a sort of interesting turn of events, my home track is now where we will debut the turbo car. We will test one more time in Tulsa this coming week along with the Pro Stock car and will roll into Houston ready for both classes. I’m looking forward to a lot about Houston, but debuting this program is extremely exciting. We have the car, and we've got a great crew to work on it. I'm learning to drive it, and I think good things are to come.”