Defending Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has a great fondness for Route 66 Raceway as it is where she claimed the very first win of her professional career. Now a 43-time Pro Stock winner and a five-time Pro Stock champ, Enders will be looking for rejuvenation on familiar territory at the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by PEAK Performance.
Enders made history at the 2012 Chicago event when she became the first female to win in the ultra-competitive category of naturally aspirated factory hot rods. The satisfying victory came in the seventh final round of a career that now includes 74.
"Chicago is the site of my first final round back in 2005, so I've always loved racing here," Enders said after the historic triumph in which she defeated Greg Anderson. She was off the starting line first by .002-second and clocked a 6.627-second pass at 207.40 mph to shut down a 6.641, 208.36 by .016.
"I've always felt like this was a lucky track for me, and when we rolled on-site, I had a really good feeling," she continued. "In the final round, when I saw the win light on the guard wall, my guys were yelling at me in my helmet and I was just in shock. But when I got out of the car and they handed me the trophy, it was a feeling that couldn't be surpassed by much in this world."
Enders, who made her first start at the Pomona Winternationals in 2005, reached the final round at the fall event held at Route 66 Raceway that same year. In 2011, just one year before locking into her first hard-fought trophy on the very same property, she fell to Anderson on a holeshot by just .009. Since her most recent win in Chicago, Enders reached the final in 2017 and 2019.
"In those 11 years since my first win, we've come so far," she said. "I'm excited to return to the place where it all began."
In addition to chasing her first Pro Stock trophy of the season, Enders will be competing in the NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout. The specialty race will be contested on Saturday during the Route 66 Nationals and feature eight drivers in the category. The callout portion of the event will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, where the top seed – Dallas Glenn – will make the first selection as a first-round opponent.
"We've had a bit of a lackluster start, but we're super-determined," said Enders, whose best outcome in the first five races was a second-round finish in both Pomona and Las Vegas. "It's pretty awesome to do this [All-Star Callout] with our class. We're looking at seven other people who have the capability of winning, so we're going to have to give it our best shot – and we're going to have some fun."
Enders will also be competing in Mountain Motor Pro Stock in Chicago alongside Elite Motorsports teammate Pete Berner. At the conclusion of 2022, the team announced an expansion of their program as they acquired J.R. Carr's Mountain Motor Pro Stock assets. The category features engines in excess of 820-cubic inches with nearly 2,000 horsepower, allowing for elapsed times just over six-seconds and in excess of 225 mph.
"I'm pumped to play double-duty," she said. "The Elite Motorsports team is ready to give it their all."