Enders eager to play a mentor role to new Elite Motorsports teammate Wildgust

Erica Enders is giving Sienna Wildgust the playbook to success in the NHRA.

“She’s going to have access to what I know and what I’ve been through,” Enders (pictured at right, above, with Wildgust) told RACER ahead of Saturday’s announcement that Wildgust has joined Elite Motorsports. “She’ll get all of our data and Mark Ingersoll’s playbook, too. So, she’s starting with the best tools, and I think that’s all anyone could ever ask for.”

Wildgust, who turned 18 earlier this month, will be under the wing of Enders, championship crew chief Ingersoll, team owner Richard Freeman and the rest of the Elite Motorsports team. It’s a move for Wildgust from one championship-winning organization, KB Titan Racing, to another. A move rooted in resources and family connection.


Wildgust’s father, Scott, has been a customer and friend of Freeman’s for quite some time and its well-known Elite Motorsports operates its large organization with a fun, close-knit, family atmosphere. Wildgust also looks up to Enders, the six-time Pro Stock champion and winningest woman in motorsports.

“She’s young and impressionable, and she hasn’t been tainted by the sport yet,” Enders said. “It’s kind of like a clean slate. She doesn’t have many bad habits yet, from what I’ve seen, because I watch a lot up there. She does a very nice job. She does better burnouts than half of the class that have been doing it for a really long time. So, she has a great baseline, and we at Elite can be a great asset to her.”

Wildgust (above) made her NHRA Pro Stock debut at the Gatornationals in March but is not competing full-time. A third-generation driver who, like Enders, started in the Junior Drag Racing League, Wildgust makes three active female drivers in the class.

“I’ve had many interactions with Erica and usually, it’s at the top end when I get out of my car,” Wildgust told RACER. “She’s always at my door, giving me a hug and saying she’s proud of me. That’s one of the biggest things — she was always there. We were on two different teams, so that was huge for her to come up to me and make me feel proud about what I’m doing. I know some of them, but I’m excited to join the family and get to know everybody better.”

Regardless of gender, Enders embraces competition. But there is no denying that being a female in a male-dominated profession makes it easier for Enders and Wildgust to relate and for Enders, it provides a chance to hopefully make someone else’s path easier than what her own was.

“I’m confident this can be a really good partnership, and I can be a mentor and friend to her,” Enders said. “People made my journey hard on purpose, and it took me over a decade to find my people. But when I found them, we lit the world on fire from the start. That shows how important it is to surround yourself with the right group because it allows you to do your job much easier. I feel like our group is the best, and that’s why I’ve been here for 11 years and will finish my career here.

“I’ve been through a lot on and off the racetrack and business side. I have a lot that I’ve been through that I can teach and help Sienna with, and maybe that’s something that will be beneficial, whereas another driver might not understand what she’s going through.”

Wildgust wholeheartedly agreed. She said it’s one of the primary reasons — along with the resources — that she wanted to move to Elite.

“She’s been doing it for 20 years, so she’s seen it all and been through it all, and she’s paved the way for the newer females coming in, including me,” Wildgust said. “I’m excited to get her insight and learn from her.”

It will be important to remember the process of a career path. Wildgust might have all the tools at her fingertips, but success will come through time and effort.

“This isn’t something where you write a check and get to go straight to the top,” Enders said. “You have to put your head down, go to work, go through the trenches and climb to the top. That’s what makes Pro Stock so intriguing to me: the true challenge. I don’t think we should overwhelm anyone with expectations because it is a process. But with the foundation we’ve worked on here at Elite Motorsports, I think that will be a great start for her.”

Wildgust isn’t worried about others’ expectations. She’s confident she’ll have the people around her to help her stay focused.

“I’m pretty driven and really excited about this journey,” she said. “As long as I keep my head down and am nice to everybody no matter what, it’ll work out in the end.”

Elite Motorsports is familiar with bringing in young talent and Enders is no stranger to the mentor role. Drew Skillman, Bruno Massel, Brandon Foster, and Jerry Don Tucker (to name a few) have gone through the Enders school of driving a Pro Stock car. The Cuadra brothers (Cristian, Fernando Jr., David) are still under the learning tree. It means just as much to the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer to see others succeed as it does when she accomplishes something.

Being selfish, after all, serves no one. A few years ago, Enders felt the class suffered from not having full fields because the thinking became “mine, mine, mine,” and “nobody can play with my toys.” Such a closed-minded mentality isn’t good in the bigger picture.

“You have to have the class at the forefront of your mind, in my opinion, if you want to see it flourish and grow and not tank,” Enders said. “We all had to work together to get it back to where it is today. … The legacy that I leave behind I want to be a positive one, and I want people to talk about me after I retire by remembering what I did to help better our class and our sport.

“I want to teach people. I wish people could understand the process and the time and sacrifice it took to get to where I am. It sucked so bad that no one should have to go through that. That’s my goal. As humans, we’re supposed to help the person behind us to get to where we are. We’re not supposed to just turn our backs and keep going. If I can make it better for the person behind me, I can hang up my helmet happy.”

Have no fear, though — Enders is not going anywhere anytime soon; she still plans to lay waste to everyone lined up against her on Sunday afternoons. But that’s what makes the mentor role a bit of a double-edged sword because if all goes well with Wildgust, she’ll have a protégé capable of keeping her from the winner’s circle.

“That’s something that I joked with Richard about,” Enders said. “We started as a one-car team 11 seasons ago on a limited schedule with eight people. Now we have eight and sometimes nine Pro Stock cars with 60 people on the road full-time and I joke with him, ‘You keep hiring my own assassins.’

“We have quite a few heavy hitters under our awnings here. So, yes, it’s another heavy competitor with Sienna. And we have those across the aisle at KB Titan, too. It’s not an easy feat to do this.”

Story originally appeared on Racer