Erica Enders knew the moment was going to be huge.
This woman’s intuition was spot on.
Enders defeated Greg Anderson to become the first female driver in drag racing history to win a Pro Stock event, regardless of sanction, as she won the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Route 66 Nationals.
The parade of positives flowed her way as she first beat the one driver who had repeatedly praised her but also said he didn’t want to be the first to lose to her.
Her crew was screaming in the team’s headsets and lined up the Safety Safari members and members of the NHRA race officials were offering praise.
Then, just moments after giving her ESPN interview following the win, her cell phone rang. It was the godfather of Pro Stock, Bob Glidden, and he was calling to congratulate her.
Just moments after holding the man she’s longed for, the NHRA’s revered Wally trophy, she was presented with another trophy – a marriage proposal from longtime boyfriend and fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens.
“Twenty years, from the time I was eight years old in the Junior Dragster this has been a dream of mine and I have worked my butt off to get here,” Enders said of the historical victory. “For all of the kids who were told they couldn’t do it. You CAN do it.”
Enders, whose rise as a youthful drag racer was portrayed in a Disney movie, was given her big break by Pro Stock team owner Victor Cagnazzi.
“Victor Cagnazzi gave me an opportunity in 2004 to come drive a Pro Stock car knowing I had never let the clutch out on a race car before,” Enders admitted.
Cagnazzi said in not so many words he knew she was a winner before she ever drove for him.
““She’s got focus,” Cagnazzi explained. “She’s got the eye of the tiger. She wants to win. That’s what we want her to do. Greg Anderson, one of the toughest competitors out there, to go toe to toe with him, I couldn’t be happier for the organization.
““This is the culmination of a lot of years of a lot of work. She has been so close so often. She is an unbelievable driver. This is the first time we’ve given her the car she deserves. She took it right to the winner’s circle. I couldn’t be happier.”
Enders began to solidify her march into history in the second round when she ran a 6.607 top beat Vincent Nobile and score low elapsed time of the round. She then eliminated a resurgent V. Gaines and scored lane choice for the final round.
In the final round, she was slightly quicker than Anderson off of the line and crossed the stripe first, winning by a 6.627 to 6.641 margin.
This was the margin Enders had long desired and Anderson considered kryptonite.
“I think if I could have planned it I would have asked to run Greg in the finals,” said Enders. “He made it very clear that he didn’t want to lose to me and he’s a very competitive guy, I love him to death, but I couldn’t wait to beat him.”
They did talk in the shutdown; although, some of it was one-sided.
“I walked over after my TV interview and gave him a hug and he grabbed me by the shoulders and said ‘Well deserved,’ Enders revealed. “It means a lot coming from an eight million time world champion that I’ve been trying to beat since I let the clutch out of one of these cars.”
Enders, who is not shy about her spiritual beliefs, praised God for the opportunity.
“I have to give God the glory because it’s through Him that I can do all things,” said Enders.
An hour after the win, she was still coming to grips with what had just transpired.
“It has and it hasn’t,” said Enders. “I remember my Super Gas win eight years ago it stayed with me for a couple of weeks. You wake up every day and you can’t believe it’s real and you get to look at the Wally and it’s there. For Shirley Muldowney and Shelly Anderson-Payne who were my idols growing up and all the women that paved the way. There are a lot of kids who look up to me and I’m blessed enough to be a role model for them through the Disney movie and I hope they see me win and know that anything’s possible. If you set your mind to it and follow your dreams, anything is possible.
Enders is living proof.
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