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.”
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.