Story By: NHRA – PHOENIX, AZ – The last time Erica Enders was at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park it was 2020 and she was holding a Wally trophy as the Pro Stock winner en route to her fourth NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series world championship.
That was two years ago, and Enders is now after the same success heading into this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals.
The 2020 event was also the most recent NHRA race at the track and, two years later, Enders is thrilled to return and she’s coming back with plenty of momentum as well. She opened her 2022 campaign with a victory at the season-opener in Pomona, picking up her first career NHRA Winternationals victory in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Enders qualified No. 1 and was remarkable on the starting line throughout eliminations, winning the 900th race in Pro Stock history. Heading to Phoenix, Enders is locked in on keeping the hot start going as she aims for a fifth world title.
“I’m going for it,” Enders said. “We’ve done this for 18 years and you’re going to have your off days, but I know the battles ahead of us and all we can do is prepare the best we can. This fire is lit under this entire team, and we are ready to go. I take a lot of pride in how we do this, especially those times when the cards are stacked against us.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Enders (Pro Stock) all won the 2020 race. This year’s event will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations action at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, and the Duel in the Desert is the second race in 2022. After finishing second in points to longtime rival and five-time world champ Greg Anderson a year ago, Enders’ motivation is at a high level.
Her take-no-prisoners attitude was evident in Pomona as the 34-time event winner knocked off 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year Dallas Glenn in the second round and Anderson in the semifinals. It was the perfect start to 2022, but Enders is also aware of the huge challenges that await in the class.
While Enders and Anderson lead a strong group of veterans, there’s also an exciting young crop of drivers that includes Glenn, her Elite Motorsports teammate Aaron Stanfield, who advanced to the final in Pomona, Mason McGaha, Kyle Koretsky, Fernando Cuadra Jr. and Troy Coughlin Jr. It’s a noteworthy evolution in the class and Enders is thrilled with the direction, even if it means even tougher challenges.
“The landscape has completely changed in this class,” Enders said. “There’s Greg and myself, and we’re taking on this class of kids, which I think is so cool. We’ve got all these young drivers interested in the class, and it’s really exciting. I always try to soak in all these moments and it’s a dream come true. We’ve been able to accomplish a lot and I’m definitely thankful for it.”
Torrence, the four-time defending Top Fuel world champ, is after more success in Phoenix, but it won’t be easy in a star-driven field. Tony Schumacher, who has returned to full-time racing, is after a sixth Phoenix victory, while others to watch include Pomona winner Justin Ashley, Austin Prock, Shawn Langdon, Leah Pruett, Pomona No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, Doug Kalitta and Antron Brown.
Robert Hight opened the 2022 Funny Car season with a victory and he’s eager to make it back-to-back wins to begin the season. Trying to stop him will be a marquee list of names, including reigning world champ and Pomona runner-up Ron Capps, John Force, J.R. Todd, Alexis DeJoria, 2020 world champ Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon.
The event also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, as well as a special Big Tire/Small Tire shootout. After nitro qualifying on both days, fans can also enjoy a thrilling wheelstander exhibition from the “Little Red Fire Truck” driven by Mike Mantel, as well as a can’t-miss jet car exhibition from a pair of Team “Muy Caliente” jet cars. The NHRA Arizona Nationals marks the first Electric Exhibition presented by Pep Boys Electric Vehicle Service, showcasing exciting specialty electric vehicles making runs down the track. Among the featured drivers for this weekend’s electric vehicle exhibition is Steve Huff, who became the first person to make a 200-mph run in an electric dragster.
Throughout the weekend, NHRA fans can take part in the special walking tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits and can attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Wild Horse Pass Motorsport Park will also host the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners celebrating their NHRA Arizona Nationals victories.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4:30 p.m. PT on Friday, Feb. 25 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on FS1, and then eliminations action at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.