As the NHRA headed into its 2020 season finals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Erica Enders’ fourth Pro Stock championship was far from guaranteed.
Tied for second behind her were Enders’ cross-team rival Jason Line and her Elite Motorsports teammate, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. The pre-finals standings only told part of the story, too. “It’s no secret that I’ve struggled this year—the last couple of years, honestly,” Enders said in a NHRA interview last weekend. “It’s been an uphill battle. I speak so highly of my team from the bottom of my heart. Richard Freeman organized the most amazing group of people. All of these guys, they give their lives to this. I could not be more proud—I’m so happy.”
After Enders won her first two Pro Stock championships back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, she and her team faced a significant break in momentum. They switched to EFI and and gained a new OEM supplier for the bodies and driveline, meaning that the program essentially started from ground zero in 2016. Fueled by a desire to prove that her consecutive championships weren’t a fluke, Enders and her team moved back to their well-developed Chevrolet roots. Their return to dominance started with Enders’ 2019 Pro Stock championship, which marked her third season win.
Ender had a soft start coming into the 2020 season. At Pomona, California, Coughlin, Jr. launched out of the gate with the the first round win. Enders gained traction at the following meet after winning in Phoenix, Arizona, where she managed to nudge Line out in the semifinals. Then, COVID-19 hit. Racing didn’t resume for nearly six months. With the NHRA’s return to Indianapolis in July, things kicked back into gear.
At Indy, Enders suffered an elimination in the semifinals at the hands of her teammate, Coughlin, Jr. She continued to struggle later in July, when the NHRA returned to Indy in response to local pandemic restrictions. Finally, the eye-lashed Camaro returned to the top of the ladder at the U.S. Nationals in September. Enders had managed to maintain the lead coming into the final event at Vegas, but with only a 55-point margin between first and second, it was anyone’s game …
… But not for long. In typical fashion, Enders relied on her stellar reaction times. She treed every single driver leading to the final round of eliminations and ultimately pressured Kyle Koretsky into red-lighting, thus securing her final round-win of the season.
“What an unbelievable day,” said Enders after the race. “This place has been so good to me but I couldn’t do it without my team. This wasn’t our best year by any stretch, but we persevered and dug deep and found a way to make it happen. I am a luck girl to live the life I do.”
Given the razor-thin margins of the abbreviated 2020 season, nothing other than absolute precision was required of the Camaro to notch Enders’ 29th Pro Stock race win. Together, the crew at Elite Motorsports and team owner Richard Freeman gave Enders a car on which she could truly rely.
Her fourth Pro Stock championship earns Enders a place among an exclusive group of NHRA legends—those with four or more titles in their class. She now ranks alongside Bob Glidden (10 championships), Warren Johnson (6), Jeg Coughlin, Jr. (5), Greg Anderson (4), and the late Lee Shepherd (4), according to NHRA historians.