(Photo courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: Erica Enders goes from Pro Stock champ to superhero

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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.

Now comes word that Enders has been named to ESPNw’s Impact 25 list of 25 of the most influential females in sports.

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.

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”