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Publication: National Dragster
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 54249
ISSN: 04662199
Journal code: NDRG

So much more goes on behind the scenes than just racing. We've been to four test sessions this year, and we've only had three races.

Plus, I was in the Boston area for 10 days straight, talking to high school students about the importance of not driving distracted. I've pretty much lived out of a suitcase, and I miss my bed; my dog, Gucci; and my boyfriend - maybe in that order. No, I'm just kidding.

I was by myself in Boston a lot, though my boyfriend, Richie, did fly in for a couple of days. It's easier being away when I'm racing because I have all my crew guys and other drivers to hang out with. They really are like my second family.

My message to the kids focused on the importance of dreaming big, setting goals, and working hard to get there. I told them my story and all of the obstacles and challenges I've been faced with. It's an hour-long presentation, including a driving simulator. I presented the driving program to eight high schools with up to 1,000 kids a day attending. Six of the schools were in the Boston area, and one was in Rhode Island and one in New Hampshire.

It's not a "scared straight" program because we don't show crashes or anything like that. The intent is to show the kids just how quickly something can happen, especially when you are a young and inexperienced driver. Like all of us, I have texted and emailed while driving before, but this program really has shown me what can happen when you drive distracted. Even talking on your cell phone is a cognitive distraction.

Public speaking is actually much more difficult than driving a race car. However, knowing that the message and the simulator examples can save lives and property, I'm always happy to take on the challenge for such a great cause.

I signed autographs and took photos after the presentation, and the kids were really appreciative. A lot of them knew me from the Disney movie, which is pretty cool because the movie came out nine years ago. It's amazing to think that the 8-year-olds who saw the movie in 2003 now have a driver's license. Plus, I'm still getting thank-you emails, Facebook messages, and Twitter posts about it.

The one encounter that stands out the most is a girl came up to me and said, "I think it's awesome that you're a Christian." She was the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her school, and she watched the movie, too. It is extremely rewarding to know that even though I'm just a race car driver, we are reaching people in many ways.

It was warm and beautiful weather all week while I was working, but when Richie came in on Friday, the temperature dropped to 40 and it rained. But we made the best of it, spending all day Saturday in the city. We saw the site of the Boston Massacre and the Old North Church, where they did the "one if by land, two if by sea" notice that the British were coming.

We also walked around Faneuil Hall, toured the Quincy Market, and stopped by Cheers. We enjoyed refreshments and bought about 50 T-shirts and shot glasses for everyone back home. Our next stop was an old graveyard where Benjamin Franklin's parents and Paul Revere are buried.

We walked through Boston Common, which is like Central Park, and that was really nice. We toured the Holocaust Memorial, which was really moving and quite sad. For dinner, we headed to Little Italy, and I had the most amazing Italian meal I've ever had.

We capped the night off at Mike's Pastry, which is famous up here, and we had dessert with my new friend, Sam Berns, and his dad. Sam has progeria, a rare genetic condition that is characterized by accelerated aging in children. We're working to raise awareness and funding for the Progeria Research Foundation this year, and it was great to meet with Sam and his dad. Sam is 15 and couldn't be any cuter or sweeter.

Speaking of sweet and cute, my niece, Addison, turned 6 months old in March. Richie and I had a really great time spending six days with my brother, Tom; his wife, Stacy; and their new baby when I was racing in Phoenix. She's so precious.

We have a vacation planned for Easter weekend, something we haven't done since 2007. Richie and I are going to Sanibel, Fla., to stay at Allen and Pam Johnson's house. Justin and Gina Humphreys are going to be there, so it's a Pro Stock "reunion/vacation."

Richie's ADRL season is starting soon, where he will be driving Mark Eckman's CarSafe XPS Mustang. In between NHRA races, we will be attending the ADRL races as well. Right now, we're in an eight-week stretch where we are racing every weekend. After Gainesville, we had a weekend off, and we went to Boston and straight to Las Vegas without going home.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job and wouldn't trade this career for anything. Being on the road almost 300 days a year is part of it, but it's not always fun and games. Traveling can be stressful, but it's really all worth it when I get to drop the clutch and interact with the fans.

Victor Cagnazzi and all of my guys at the shop are working hard to find horsepower and chassis improvements. We are expecting great things early this season. My primary sponsor, Gaston Kearby, keeps ideas and finances flowing while he and my dad continue to work nonstop on the business side of our program.

To my supporters, thanks for all the emails, Facebook messages, and tweets. We are working hard to win races and make you proud. ND

Author affiliation:

Erica Enders is the driver of the GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt Pro Stocker.

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