When Erica Enders captured her second consecutive NHRA Pro Stock championship last month in the season-ending Auto Club Finals, she further established herself as one of the best drag racers the sport has seen in quite a long time.
Enders joins a list that includes UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, tennis star Serena Williams, gymnast Simone Biles, WNBA stars Tamika Catchings and Elena Delle Donne, dancer Misty Copeland, snowboarder Chloe Kim, golfer Lydia Ko, swimmer Katie Ledecky and soccer player Carli Lloyd.
In addition, Marvel (the folks known for comics and movies) decided to take the Impact 25 honor to the next level: creating caricatures of all 25 honorees and turning them into real-life superheroes.
How cool is that?
Enders’ new alter ego is known as Racer XX – and the moniker certainly fits her. Ask her fellow competitors and they likely will say Enders and her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro have proven to be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.
Enders has been a refreshing breath of fresh air in the NHRA ranks and has quickly become a fan favorite and star in her own right.
She is the first female to ever win one Pro Stock championship (2014), let alone a second in 2015.
She also broke two key records for a female racer in 2015:
* She passed Shirley Muldowney for second place on the NHRA all-time wins list for a female racer. Muldowney had 18 national event wins and three championships in her Top Fuel career. Enders now has 21 Pro Stock wins and two titles in her own career.
* Enders also broke Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Angelle Sampey’s record for most wins in a season by a female racer (seven) by earning nine victories in 24 starts in 2015. Sampey continues to hold the record for most wins in a career by a female (41); Enders is now 20 wins away from tying that mark.
But Enders wants to be known solely for her prowess behind the wheel, not her gender.
“I’ve always just wanted to be a racer,” she told ESPNw. “That’s exactly what I am. I’m not just the best female Pro Stock driver, I’m the best Pro Stock driver right now.”
Indeed she is, and likely will continue to be for a long time.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”