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Victory in Atlanta would be special for two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders - NHRA Pro Stock 2017

COMMERCE, GA — Erica Enders has two NHRA titles, 21 individual race victories, 14 runner-ups and 18 top qualifying efforts to her credit. One of the big things missing is a win at Atlanta Dragway, the home track for longtime series sponsor Coca-Cola. It’s something Enders hopes to remedy at this weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

“The Coca-Cola Company has been a huge part of drag racing for 16 years now,” Enders said. “They’ve been around as long as I’ve been racing as a professional. To me they are professional drag racing. I’ve been so lucky to have had the success I’ve had so far during the Coca-Cola era, but I still haven’t won Atlanta and I really want to get that done.

“Coca-Cola has a big party for past champions before the race, which is so cool. Then a lot of the top-level executives we meet that night come to the track over the weekend with their families. I really want to win one so they can all come down to the winner’s circle and celebrate with us.”

The “big party” Enders is referencing is the annual Night of Champions at Coca-Cola World Headquarters in Atlanta. Every champion from the four professional classes — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle — that earned their world titles in the last 16 years are invited to the exclusive affair.

“This particular race weekend definitely starts out special,” Enders said. “That night is a really big treat for all of us and I’ll get to go with my team owner, Richard Freeman, and my teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. so I’ll be feeling special. It’s a night to celebrate with so many past champions. It’s a huge honor to be a part of that. There’s a lot of racers and teams that have done this for 30, 40, 50 years that don’t have this opportunity so I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Enders will have more than good vibes from a special night to rely on when racing starts Friday. She qualified No. 2 last weekend in Charlotte, just a fraction behind Coughlin. It’s the first time the two have qualified 1-2 since Coughlin joined Elite Motorsports a year and a half ago.

“I think there will be no lack of motivation for either of us, especially after the weekend we had in Charlotte,” Enders said. “We had the two best cars on the property but neither one of us put together a race day performance like we were expecting so we’re focused on looking onward and upward. We’ll get our act together a little better this weekend and try to win Atlanta.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with qualifying show at 8 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 6 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Erica Enders gets timed out in first round of NHRA Four-Wide Nationals

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA 4 Wide | Pro Stock

CONCORD, N.C. — Erica Enders never got a chance to flex the horsepower of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Sunday at zMax Dragway because she was timed-out at the starting line after taking too long to stage. It’s one of the hazards of the annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and every year someone seems to get bit.

“For Jeg and I to qualify 1-2 on the ladder, run the kind of numbers we have run here, I would have bet the house that we’d be fighting for the trophy at the end of the day. At the very least we should have won our opening-round races.

“It just goes to show that even the best in the world have off days and today, Jeg and I did not rise to the occasion. He’s a six-time world champ and I’ve won two championships. Both of us are known for being sharp at the Tree. We just didn’t show it today.”

Coughlin also lost in the opening round due to some further confusion at the starting line caused by the driver in the adjacent lane rolling all the way through both staging beams.

“I just want to focus on the performance gains we had this week,” Enders said. “Unfortunately for Elite Motorsports, Transportation Impact, Mark Stockseth and JEGS.com, we didn’t get to impress them today.

“It’s one of those deals, you know, we win as a team and we lose as a team and days like today are ones that hurt. What was cool was when we got back to the pits our guys never question us. We all know there’s nothing we can do about it now, other than move on to Atlanta.”

Up next, Enders and team head to Atlanta Dragway for next weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga.

Qualifying a season-best second on the grid excites Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock 2017 | Charlotte 4-Wide

CONCORD, N.C. — After qualifying her Lupe Tortilla-backed Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro a season-best No. 2 on the elimination ladder of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, two-time world champ Erica Enders admitted it’s going to be hard to wipe the smile off her face.

“We definitely took another big step in the right direction this weekend,” Enders said. “I know this entire Elite Motorsports team is very excited to be back on top of the sheets. Granted, it’s just qualifying, but to be 1-2 with my teammate Jeg Coughlin for the first time since we’ve been racing together again is very cool.”

Enders used Friday night’s 6.583-second pass at 210.08 mph to secure the second slot on the grid, just behind Coughlin’s 6.578 at 210.24 mph. Like most in the class, Enders and Coughlin made their best runs during that lone evening session when the track temperatures were more agreeable for maximum traction.

Even so, running well in Saturday’s heat was important because Enders knows track conditions will be pretty similar when sudden-death eliminations start around 12:40 p.m. EDT, Sunday, at zMax Dragway.

“Today was hot and sticky so we worked on a race day set up,” Enders said. “We are just looking for a consistence race car for Sunday and hopefully we can drive our way to the winner’s circle.

“It’s nice to see the scoreboards show the hard work going on behind the scenes. My guys spend a lot of time away from their families for this team and it’s finally coming around. I’m excited for all of us. Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin, our other two teammates, are running better also and we are continue to work towards getting a better handle on their cars as well.”

Under the four-wide format, No. 2 qualifier Enders will race in a foursome of drivers that includes teammate and No. 10 qualifier Laughlin (6.617 at 208.68 mph), No. 15 qualifier Shane Tucker (6.758 at 204.14 mph) and No. 7 qualifier Tanner Gray (6.595 at 209.49 mph).

In each quad of drivers, the top two cars advance to the next round. In the final quad of the day, the first one to the finish line wins the race.

Television coverage of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT, Sunday, on FOX Sports 1.

Two-time champ Erica Enders says Four-Wide drag racing levels playing field

CONCORD, N.C. — Eight years into the return of Four-Wide competition at Bruton Smith’s “Bellagio of Drag Strips,” two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders says the unique format and the style of racing it requires makes for some of the best drag racing on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello schedule.

“Going four-wide totally levels the playing field,” Enders said. “Even now after many of us have had multiple races here, there are still a lot of drivers that tend to struggle. Pro Stock already is a really tight and competitive class so it will definitely be interesting to get there and see what happens this time through.

“You drag race for years in the regular two-car format and then once a year you have to reprogram your brain and add in the fact there are two other cars running out there. On race day you have to make darn sure you’re one of the two quickest cars each round in order to advance. There are so many things going on you have to pay really close attention. It sounds easy, but it’s not.”

Enders arrives at zMax Dragway with a lot of excitement surrounding her Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro race crew and her three teammates, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin.

“We are coming off of a really good performance weekend in Houston for our entire Elite Motorsports/Elite Performance group so heading into Charlotte we are going to hopefully carry all this momentum we’ve built,” Enders said. “Jeg was No. 1 qualifier and went to the final round in Houston and the rest of us all had strong cars capable of going rounds on Sunday. Things are really starting to click.

“We’ll probably get in some more testing this week. These Rick Jones-built Chevy Camaros are such great racecars and by sharing data between all the teams, we’re becoming a really strong unit. I’m excited to head to Charlotte and continue to do better there.”

A 21-time national event winner, good enough for second on NHRA’s all-time list of female racers, Enders will have two chances to score this weekend. Aside from Pro Stock, she’ll be racing Terry Peterson’s Omaha Track COPO Camaro in the Factory Stock Showdown.

“This will be the second Factory Stock Showdown out of the five they’re running so we really want to make our mark this time for the Patterson Elite gang,” Enders said. “I’m totally looking forward to driving Terry’s car again. It’s a great hot rod.

“I just want a big weekend for all of our teams. We’re ready to go.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12:40 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with a live qualifying show at 7 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Erica Enders suffers red-light disqualification in opening round race versus husband

HOUSTON, TX — Two-time world champion Erica Enders threw away what was the quickest and fastest pass of the 30th annual NHRA Spring Nationals by leaving the starting line nine-thousandths of a second early in a Round 1 loss to her husband Richie Stevens.

The automatic disqualification negated a stellar 6.523-second blast at 213.37 mph that would have delivered an easy win over Stevens’ 6.589 at 210.64 mph. It left the Cypress, Texas native more than a little perturbed.

“There was no showing off there,” Enders said, quelling talk she was trying too hard to best her husband. “That was just a simple A to B run. I was set up to be conservative on the tree so we weren’t showing our hand against someone we can easily outrun by six or seven hundredths of a second.

“It is an extremely unfortunate outcome that we red-lit. I’m pretty damn good with sitting on my clutch pedal and I gamble with thousandths of a second all the time and to miss it by nearly a hundred of a second, that just does not happen with me. I’ll risk sounding a little over confident because I think our track record speaks for itself.”

Enders immediately questioned the distant between the pre-stage and staged timing beams, which can sometimes get knocked out of alignment ever so slightly, causing fractionally quicker reaction times.

“I don’t think it was accurate,” Enders said. “Richie didn’t have better than a .040 light all weekend and he went red too (by .003). Go look at all of the other first round match-ups and how good the tree was for everyone. It doesn’t add up.

“I would bet everything I have the roll out (distance between beams) was messed with overnight. It had to been. There’s no way I missed it that much. They get messed sometimes, they absolutely do. They take the whole thing down every night and put it back up so when I’m out here gambling with thousandths of a second, that’s a big risk.

“We were set up there to have about a .020 light and that just wasn’t the case. I am sorry to my whole Elite Motorsports/Lupe Tortilla/Transportation Impact Chevy Camaro team. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow but the good news out of all of it is we finally have a racecar again and they know we are coming.”

Enders won’t have long to brood about her regrettable race as the tour immediately heads east for next weekend’s eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Hometown girl Erica Enders primed for big race day, starting against her husband

HOUSTON, TX — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders loves racing at home and her hometown fans love her for bringing so much glory to the Bayou City. It’s a relationship the Cypress, Texas native wants to expand Sunday when she races from the No. 4 qualifying spot for the trophy of the 30th annual NHRA Spring Nationals.

“So happy to be back in Texas,” Enders said. “It’s no secret I love this state and being at the track where I started racing as an 8-year-old kid is perfect for me. We won Pro Stock in back-to-back years in 2014-2015 and those were the same years we won it all so Royal Purple Raceway is obviously good luck for me.”

Behind the wheel of Richard Freeman’s Lupe Tortilla-sponsored Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, Enders blasted to a best of 6.573 seconds at 210.14 mph to set up a first-round elimination date with her husband Richie Stevens, who topped out at 6.615 at 208.52 mph during time trials to qualify 11th on the grid.

“We’re getting all our ducks in a row here at Elite Performance,” Enders said. “My teammate Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) is on the pole and Vincent (Nobile) and Alex (Laughlin) are both looking strong. We’re looking to dominate the class like we did during our championship runs and we’re definitely getting closer to that goal every weekend.

“Richie hasn’t raced in almost a year so it’s great to see him come out and make some good runs. But once we line up tomorrow I’ll treat him like any other competitor and do everything I can to rip his throat out. We’re here to win and it’s been more than 16 months since that’s happened so we’ll do whatever we have to do.”

Enders has now qualified in the top half of the field three times in the first five races of the season. She was third in Gainesville, Fla., and sixth in Pomona, Calif. Still, the 21-time national event winner knows qualifying well hardly matches a victory on race day, but it’s a great start.

“We won with Lupe Tortilla on the car two years ago and sharing the winner’s circle with (owners) Stan and Sheila Holt was a memory I will always cherish,” Enders said. “There are a million ways to say ‘thank you’ but nothing beats winning the race. That’s the ultimate ‘thank you.’

“Having them back on the doors this year is super special to me because they have supported me since I started drag racing as a kid. Plus, they’ve been feeding us every day so we’re feeling great and everyone is happy.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon with television coverage on FOX Sports 1 kicking off at 4:30 p.m., Sunday.

“It would be hard for me to say how much my team means to me,” Enders said. “These guys are so awesome and special and it’s really nice to see their hard work pay off with a strong qualifying effort like this. Now we’ll get back to work and see what we can do about winning this race.”

Erica Enders coming home to race Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Pro Stock racecar

HOUSTON, TX — Winning her hometown race always has been a great talisman for native Houstonian Erica Enders, a trend she’d love to continue at this year’s NHRA Spring Nationals, which take place Friday-Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown.

Enders, who was born and raised in Houston, won the Pro Stock title at her home track in 2014 and 2015, which propelled her to NHRA championships those same two years. Now, with sponsorship from Houston-based Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, Enders is hoping another Lone Star victory will spur a successful journey to this year’s Mello Yello world championship.

“We’re looking for nothing less than another win,” Enders said. “I love this race above all the others. It’s home, not only for me but for my guys as well because we’re close enough to the shop (in Wynnewood, Okla.) that all of our family members and friends are able to come to the race.

“We are all thinking about eating at Lupe Tortilla every day. Stan and Sheila Holt (Lupe Tortilla owners) have been my best friends forever. I love them so much and to have their support again for this race is extra special. We’ve won with Lupe Tortilla on the doors before so we know they are good luck!”

This year’s visit to Royal Purple Raceway will feature Enders racing the same Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro she piloted to the 2014 Houston title and world championship, giving her a real level of comfort.

“We’re definitely getting better,” she said. “I know none of us have been home very much because we’ve been constantly testing since even before the season started. We’re used to winning races and winning championships so anything less than that is not up to the standards we set for ourselves.”

Currently seventh in the championship points after four national events, Enders has a semifinal and two quarterfinal finishes to her credit. She also raced to the final four in the elite K&N Horsepower Challenge at the tour’s last stop in Las Vegas.

“We’ve got big horsepower,” Enders said. “We keep working at matching that power to the car. All this time we’re investing will pay off very soon. I can feel it. We’re ready to light up the scoreboard in Houston.”

Aside from her duties in Pro Stock, Enders will be competing in Super Gas in Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski’s ORTEQ Energy Technologies Chevrolet Camaro roadster. “Another chance to win,” said Enders, who won Super Comp at the Houston track in the past.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with a live qualifying show at 7:30 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in CDT).

Two-time world champ Erica Enders reaches quarterfinals at Denso NHRA Nationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Las Vegas 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will have to wait for another time to log a fifth career victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a one-up, one-down day at the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.

Enders drove her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro past teammate Vincent Nobile in Sunday’s opening round before losing to Bo Butner by a scant .014 seconds in the quarterfinals. As usual, Enders had superior reaction times in both races but her head-start in Round 2 wasn’t enough to hold off Butner.

“I think I could have done more behind the wheel to help us win but either way I’m pleased with today’s race,” Enders said. “Of course, we want to win every race we enter but we really turned a page today so I’m feeling very optimistic.

“We looked at everything from Friday and Saturday last night and decided to get back to basics and make damn sure the car goes from A-to-B every run. I know how to drive the car and my confidence in my abilities is high so it’s okay if we’re not the quickest and fastest every weekend. We just need to win races.”

Against Nobile, Enders got the jump by .004 seconds and lead the entire way down the track, winning with a weekend-best 6.683 at 207.11 mph to Nobile’s 6.785 at 205.94 mph. The story started the same against Butner with Enders logging another .004-second advantage at the launch. But Butner had the horsepower to track her down and win with a 6.695 at 206.45 mph to her 6.713 at
206.80 mph.

“The outcome could have been better against Bo but it’s still early in the year and we’re just getting all the new parts and pieces we have working together,” Enders said. “We’ll leave here and go back to the shop in Oklahoma and get some test passes in on both my car and Jeg’s (Coughlin Jr. teammate) car and be better next time.”

Enders will have two weekends off before returning to her hometown race, the 30th annual NHRA Springnationals, which will be held April 21-23 at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. Enders grew up on the other side of Houston in the Cypress area.

“I’m so excited to be racing at home,” Enders said. “I’ll be fortified with all the delicious food from Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants and I know we’ll have a ton of support from Stan and Sheila Holt and all our other hometown friends. I think we’ll have a good weekend, and that’ll be a perfect time to get our first win of the year.”

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