Enders-Stevens moves Pro Stock campaign to Elite Motorsports
Erica Enders-Stevens is on the move, taking her prodigious talents from Cagnazzi Racing to Elite Motorsports. Elite is the team that won the most recent, season-ending NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA, the ancestral home of professional drag racing. New teammate Rickie Jones earned his first Pro Stock title at that prestigious race.
Enders-Stevens is the first – and only – woman to win an event in the Pro Stock category, which is certainly the most competitive and technologically-advanced class in the NHRA pro ranks. She has six Wally trophies to her credit over a nine-year period, most of it spent with Cagnazzi’s squad. Despite a partial season in 2013 due to financial difficulties, Enders-Stevens drove her Chevroelt Camaro into the Countdown to One playoffs for the third straight year and was in the hunt for the title until the final few events.
That she managed to get to that point despite missing several mid-season races spoke to Enders-Steven’s consistency and overall competitiveness in the races she was able to run on a limited budget. A sponsor came onboard for the Countdown playoffs and with Husky Liners backing, she was able to complete all six races of the Countdown.
“I’m really excited to start this next chapter of my career,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that 2014 will be my 10th year in Pro Stock but it’s true.” While not able to contest Pro Stock during the 2013 campaign, Enders-Stevens kept her hand in by driving in ADRL competition.
“The last three years we’ve been in contention for the championship very late in the season, and we expect to be there again with Elite Motorsports,” driving the team’s new Camaro that will be tuned by Rick and Rickie Jones, propelled by in-house horsepower from Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston. “Rickie just won the NHRA Finals, so it’s obvious the team has all the pieces in place to be successful.”
Still, it pains her to leave Cagnazzi Racing, where she got her start and where Victor and Brita Cagnazzi have helped her gain all of her Pro Stock wins thus far. “I certainly value our relationship, but the deal that Richard (Freeman, team owner at Elite Motorsports) offered assures me a full-time ride in his top car. At this point in my career, I thought it was the best move for me to make.”
Enders-Stevens, like most before her (including 2013 Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon) began her career in Jr Dragsters, moving through different Sportsman categories. Some of her immense fan impact came from the Disney Channel movie Right On Track, chronicling her time – with sister Courtney – in NHRA’s Jr Dragster ranks. The film showed young girls dragging their parents into the Pro Stock pits to meet their on-screen hero (Enders-Stevens) in person.
“I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far,” Enders-Stevens related after finishing sixth overall in 2013’s NHRA Pro Stock campaign. “For many years I got to race with my dad (Gregg), which was something we always dreamed about when I was younger and something I’d love to do again some day. I love this sport so much that I’ve fought to stay out here. The support I’ve received from my dad and the rest of my family, my longtime friends and all of the wonderful fans out there have made it all worthwhile.
“This new start with Richard and Elite Motorsports is exciting for me. I hope I can repay their faith in my by being competitive and chasing after another championship.”
The Elite Motorsports team intends to test extensively in Florida before the first, season-opening race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. The season kicks off February 6-9 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit