Behind the Wheel: Erica Enders-Stevens

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While Memorial Day Weekend may mean time to kick back and relax for some, for others it is time to get to work.  This is definitely the case for RacingJunk.com‘s  recent Ask A Racer featured driver, 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Champion Erica Enders-Stevens.  Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team spent a busy weekend not only working hard but proving that their Racing in Red Chevy Camaro had what it  took to take home the Pro Stock Series “W” at the NHRA Kansas Nationals, in Topeka, KS.

We had an opportunity to spend some time with the queen of speed who not only accomplished her goals this weekend, but even defeated four-time world champion and four-time Topeka winner Greg Anderson in the final round.

“I am living the dream right now,” said Enders-Stevens.  “This just speaks of what my guys are capable of when they are given the tools that they need.”

This was not only her third win of the 2015 season, but it has also moved the only Pro Stock female driver into the points lead.

So where did all of this championship talent come from?  The now 31-year-old Pro Stock phenomenon began her drag racing career at the tender age of 8-years-old.

ees-juniordrag“After watching my dad drag race his whole life I knew that I wanted to go drag racing,” said Enders-Stevens.  “While other families were involved in other sports like soccer and baseball we were always drag racing.”

It was obvious that this would be only the beginning of a very bright career for this championship built driver as she racked up her first Jr. Dragster championship in the eight to 9-year-old class in only her first year of competition in her home state of Houston, TX.  Only two years later,
Enders-Stevens would be named Junior Dragster Driver of the Year.

“I really enjoyed competing at a young age and believe that kids coming up, even at the age of 5-years-old, should compete in the junior division because it’s a great way to get started and learn about drag racing,” said Enders-Stevens.  “I will never forget traveling the country and competing with my family.  This is definitely something that any kid would learn a lot from.”

After racking up over 30 wins in her eight years of junior dragster competition, Enders-Stevens continued to follow in her father’s footsteps in the Sportsman division.  Shortly after obtaining her driver’s license, Enders-Stevens became the youngest  NHRA national event finalist while also being named the NHRA Sportsman Rookie of the Year.

As she continued to climb the proverbial drag racing ladder, Enders-Stevens continued to accept any challenge that stood in her way, including competing in the Super Gas class and becoming the 35th woman to win a national event.

With all of her continued success Behind the Wheel, it would only be a matter of time before this extraordinary woman was ready to compete in the big leagues.  In 2005, Enders-Stevens would see her wishes to race in her favorite big league division come true.  In fact, Enders-Stevens would not only compete in NHRA’s Pro Stock division for the first time, but she would also be the first to qualify in the top-half of the field while also being the first female Pro Stock driver to reach the final round.

“Pro Stock has always been my favorite class to watch,” said Enders-Stevens.  “The challenge of shifting, leaving with the clutch as well as other challenges involved just spoke to me.  In fact, I was and continue to be a huge fan of drivers like Bob Glidden, who I learned a lot from.”

While Enders-Stevens also admits that she loves being a driver, there was a time when her drag racing career almost came to a stand still.  After spending six years with NHRA Pro Stock team Cagnazzi Racing, where she not only broke the national speed record in a Pro Stock in 2011, at a speed of 213.57 mph, but also become the first woman to win in a NHRA Pro Stock in 2012, Enders-Stevens also started to learn the true meaning of loss.

“At the end of 2013 season my deal with Cagnazzi Racing was coming to a close and it was probably for the best because I was pretty unhappy at the end,” said Enders-Stevens.

So unhappy that this drag racer at heart, was ready to step into an entirely different chapter of her life.  “I have a college education and was ready to fall back on this and take my career in a whole new direction just so I wouldn’t leave the track with my stomach in knots because I was that miserable,” said Enders-Stevens.

Shortly before giving up her dream of continuing to compete in the sport that she loved most, the drag racing femme fatale sat down with now Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman who worked with Enders-Stevens husband, Richie Stevens, Jr., in the past and now wanted to work with Erica.

“When things looked their darkest Richard saved me and now I am driving for what I consider my dream team,” said Erica Enders-Stevens.

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God’s timing truly worked out for Enders-Stevens as she would not only rack up wins with her new team but take home her first NHRA Pro Stock championship in 2014.
“After learning a valuable lesson from Freeman who helped me to remember that it’s just drag racing, I was able to let go and realize that the past is the past and that I can still have a successful future” said Enders-Stevens.  “This made all the difference and it made me realize that all of the crap that I went through in the past was worth this and every wonderful moment since then.”

ees-charityNot only is Enders-Stevens seeing a continued rise in success on the track, but she is also using this to help others off the track.

“I became involved with the Progeria Research Foundation after meeting a little boy named Zack at a car show in 2011 and I immediately fell in love with him and wanted to get involved with helping more kids like him,” said Enders-Stevens.  “I am also on the board of directors for Saving Orphans Worldwide, which is very important to me because these kids deserve to have good homes.”

While inspiring others with her charity endeavors, Enders-Stevens is also assisting her Elite Motorsports team with a pretty exciting opportunity.

“In order to inspire other up-and-coming drivers as well as to give an inside look of what it takes to be a championship team, myself and my Elite Motorsports team are currently working on a documentary appropriately entitled Racing In Red,” said Enders-Stevens.“Red is Richard’s favorite color and of course we are a small team that is literally ‘racing in the red’ but we love what we do and want to share it with others,” said Enders-Stevens.


Racing in Red Official Trailer from Design con Carne, Inc. on Vimeo.
With a little support from fans and other supporters, Elite Motorsports is hoping to release this documentary in 2016.  To check out more or to show your support check out the Racing In Red Kickstarter campaign here.

As the 2015 race season continues, we will be jumping Behind the Wheel with more of the rising stars of drag racing.  If you would like to see your favorite driver featured please contact us at [email protected].

 

About Ellen Richardson 166 Articles
Ellen Richardson is the author of Behind The Wheel for RacingJunk.com. This automotive sports junkie has a passion for telling an athlete's story while also covering various racing activities. Find out more about her at ellennrichardson.wordpress.com or follow Ellen on Twitter at @ellennrich or Instagram at elnrich33.
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