After dismal 2016 season, the only way for Erica Enders in 2017 is up

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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Erica Enders spent the previous two seasons as the queen of the drag racing world, becoming the first woman to win a NHRA Pro Stock championship in 2014, and then making it two in a row in 2015.

En route to both championships, Enders won six races in 2014 and a career-best nine in 2015.

Aspirations and expectations for a three-peat were high when the 2016 season began. Not only did Enders’ team, Elite Motorsports, switch from Chevrolet Camaros to Hemi-powered Dodge Darts, five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. came on board as Enders’ full-time teammate.

Everyone on the Elite team was poised to dominate the class more so than ever – at least on paper.

But now with one race left, this weekend’s season-ending Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, Enders can’t wait to rip that paper up into little pieces.

After the two greatest seasons of her career, the 33-year-old Houston native is ending the worst full-time season of her career.

And it can’t come soon enough.


Not only has Enders failed to win even one race this season – the highest she’s reached this season has been two semifinals – she’s also had 14 first round exits in the first 23 races.

She also barely qualified for the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs – and then kicked off the Countdown by failing to qualify for the first race at Charlotte.

“It’s been a frustrating year for sure,” Enders said. “To go from the best two years of your career where everything was so awesome, winning two championships and a bunch of races to struggling like this has been hard on all of us.”

With the best Coughlin and Enders can finish is ninth and 10th in the season standings, the overall Elite operation has already begun making changes for 2017.

Testing is a major priority during the off-season. The team is already working on new motors for next season. And new cars are on the horizon: Elite’s website is already advertising two of its 2016 Dodge Darts for sale (the listing touts “all the best parts, every option”).

And there are rumors of a major announcement coming soon after the season ends.

As trite as it may sound, it is also truthful: the adversity Enders, Coughlin and the entire Elite operation have fought in 2016 has helped bring everyone closer together.

“What I’ve learned is that my team, this family we have here, they’re even more awesome than I thought,” Enders said. “It’s easy to have fun and get along when everything is going well but not so much when times are tough.

“But no one gave up or bitched. There has been no inner turmoil. In fact we may be stronger now than we ever were.”

Not only are they ready to put the frustration of this season in the rearview mirror with grace, they’re ready to bounce back in a big way next season.

If anyone thinks Enders’ two championships were flukes, wait until she comes back with a vengeance in 2017.

“I can’t wait for next year,” Enders said. “It’ll be great to have a fresh start and we have a plan to get back on top that I know will work.”

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Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points