Erica Enders wrapped up her third Pro Stock world championship and barely took a moment to catch her breath before traveling with a handful of NHRA racers and Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman, to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the Global Auto Salon. She talked to NHRA on FOX broadcaster Brian Lohnes about her championship, her extension with Elite and Melling Performance, and what comes next for the newly crowned champ.
You obviously had an incredible season, winning the championship in Pomona, but let’s talk about how you started
It really wasn’t worth talking about much early on, to be honest with you. Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) had some success, but we struggled a little bit. Things started to come around mid- to late-summer, and we really turned the corner in Brainerd.
What do you attribute that to?
To begin with, it was just parts failure on my car, so once we figured out what the problem was and started to fix it, things started to come around.
We’ve talked about this before — you were leading in finals a couple of times right before the Countdown, and then weirdness seemed to strike.
Yeah, mid-summer — like we’ve talked about before — we had a bunch of bearing issues, which is not something we’ve typically had issues with in the past. That reared its ugly head and then, of course, in Indy we had a transmission issue against my teammate Alex Laughlin. I’m just thankful that stuff was happening before the Countdown.
Was that pressure or relief, knowing that you had a good race car when it really mattered?
It was a little bit of both, probably. I was kind of comparing the seasons where we’ve won championships. In 2014, we just had an epic run to the title, where we had a winner-take-all final round against Jason Line in the final of the season. The next year, we knocked it out in Las Vegas. But this year was a little bit different just because we struggled so much.
Getting into the Countdown — my sister and I were talking about this — in St. Louis is kind of where things started to turn around. We only had two wins all season, which is kind of crazy, but it is what it is. We had huge pressure in Pomona, so we went out there, played offense, and ran our race.
That first round of Pro Stock in Pomona was one of the most anticipated matchups in recent memory, and it lived up to the hype.
It absolutely did. We were just four-thousandths apart at the finish line and only one-thousandth apart at the starting line; that race could have gone either way, and I’m really thankful we turned on the win light. We did what we had to do in the next round to lock up the championship.
What was the fan response like?
The social media response was huge, but it was even more cool to see the fans come up in person. Like, even on Saturday when the ladder was set, people were coming by, and it was just awesome to see the amount of support that we got. I’m always excited when the fans are on our side. We had such great years in 2014-15, and the next three years were kind of crappy; so, I feel like we kind of regained that underdog status where people were rooting for us again.