(Photo courtesy NHRA)

NHRA U.S. Nationals: Erica Enders goes from Grand Marshal to Pro Stock winner in Indy

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BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Defending NHRA Pro Stock series champ Erica Enders may have made sports history on Monday.

Enders may be the only athlete ever to serve as Grand Marshal of an event – and then went out and won the whole thing.

After attending to her Grand Marshal duties before Monday’s final eliminations, Enders went out and beat rookie and Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Spillman to earn her first career win in the NHRA’s biggest race of the year, the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“They normally have retired people (as Grand Marshals),” Enders laughed. “They called me a couple weeks and asked me to be the Grand Marshal. I thought they were joking.

“But it’s a huge honor. I’m a Chevy girl through-and-through, I’m very proud to drive a Camaro and proud to win their banner race. I have to pinch myself to believe we’re doing what we’re doing.”

MORE — NHRA: Final results, updated standings after U.S. Nationals

This was Enders’ series-leading sixth win of the season and 18th of her career, but there are none more important or meaningful to Enders than Monday’s accomplishment.

And as a bonus, Enders is now tied with legendary and three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney for second place on the NHRA’s all-time wins list for female drivers.

“This goes right up there with the championship (she won) last year,” she said. “Obviously, that’s every driver and every team’s goal, and to win the ‘Big Go’ (the nickname of the U.S. Nationals) is just incredible.

“This is something I’ve dreamed about and worked for my entire life. I made my first pass in this race in a Junior Dragster when I was nine years old in 1994.

“I have a lot of great memories. I went to the finals that year (but lost when she red-lighted). I went to the finals in 2012 in Pro Stock. It just seemed to elude us for so long, but it makes it worth it to be able to do it with the right people, and that’s exactly what I have with Elite Motorsports.”

Enders goes into Pro Stock’s portion of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff now as the No. 1 seed.

“I want to be the best driver, we are the best team and we’re at the top of the list,” Enders said.

NOTES: Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie defeated pole-sitter Chip Ellis to win Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.