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Pro Stock Driver of the Decade: Erica Enders

Erica Enders won three championships and became the defining driver of the decade
29 Dec 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Feature
Erica Enders

Erica Enders won her first race in 2012 and defeated the 2000s greatest driver to do it. Greg Anderson won three-straight titles from 2003-05 and won the first championship of the 2010s. K.B. Racing won four titles in the closing decade – so did Elite Motorsports.

Nobody won as many titles as Enders. She won all 25 of her Pro Stock Wallys in the 2010s, nine fewer than Anderson and four fewer than Line. Her deficit in wins largely comes in two areas: The beginning of the decade and the two years following her back-to-back championships. That deficit is, frankly, what makes any of this an interesting conversation.

Driver wins don’t belong to the person behind the wheel any more than a quarterback leads a 53-person team to victory. It’s an incomplete, albeit romantic (and easy!), way to look at success and failure in drag racing. Enders didn’t just win 11.6 percent of the races she showed up to (216 – nine fewer than Anderson and 14 fewer than Line), she also led the category in reaction time average nearly every year.

Enders posted a .0271-second reaction time (388 lights) over the 2010s compared to the nearly identical .0270-second reaction time of Tanner Gray (130 lights). The only other champion to get into the zip code as those two was Jeg Coughlin Jr. (.0310, 336 lights) while Greg Anderson started the decade better than he finished it (.0385, 561 lights).

Enders won her third championship averaging a .0263 reaction time, defeating Coughlin (.0321) and Line (.0496) while no one else quite had an answer for her starting-line excellence. Dave Connolly, Vincent Nobile and Gray are all in the conversation but Connolly is now thought about as a tuner-first, Nobile is driving Mountain Motor and Gray will be driving a NASCAR Truck full time in 2020.

There’s frankly not a better driver in Pro Stock than Enders right now, but as Anderson said earlier this season: You’re only as good as the equipment you drive. She’s had well-funded equipment since joining Elite Motorsports in 2014, but it has not always been cooperative equipment. You can hold the Dodge Dart year against her in 2016 if you want (and even the subsequent rebuild years) but it feels more like pettiness than logic.

Anderson and Line both make solid cases as they built upon incredible legacies in the 2010s. Few have given more to Pro Stock than Anderson and the tuning tandem he and Line formed makes the category one of the most interesting in Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing. It’s only a matter of time before Anderson ends up on top of the all-time Pro Stock wins leaderboard, surpassing Warren Johnson.

Those achievements matter to Anderson, as does the general high performance of K.B. Racing. But leaving a decade behind with only one championship does not live up to his high expectations, especially considering it’s below the performance of his teammate.

I’m not a count the rings guy, but Enders won three titles came close to topping the win totals of everyone in the category despite battling inconsistent equipment. She was also the best driver in the category throughout the majority of the decade, which matters in what has always been considered the driver’s category. Enders is the Pro Stock Driver of the Decade. Let’s see what she, and the rest of the category, delivers for an encore.