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Popular two-time champ Erica Enders has program right on track for Phoenix race

Erica Enders 2017 NHRA Pro Stock

CHANDLER, AZ — Before she even turned professional, let alone captured two world championships, drag racer Erica Enders had a Disney movie made about her and her sister Courtney’s lives in the NHRA Junior Dragster ranks. The film, the most watched movie in Disney Channel history, was entitled Right On Track.

Heading into this weekend’s 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Enders says the same title could easily be used to describe Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports race team, the group she’s been with for four seasons.

“Everything is right on track, for sure,” Enders said. “It’s no secret we had a down year in 2016, and it was a big deal because we’d just won back-to-back championships (in 2014-2015). We just struggled with the car we had and never got the engine right.

“Richard made a big decision, a very expensive decision in the off-season to switch back to GM horsepower and Chevrolet Camaros. That’s the brand we had when we did all our winning and it’s already made such a difference. We are back in competitive form and come into this race knowing we have a darn good chance to win. It’s been more than a year since we’ve been able to say that.”

Enders won the Phoenix race outright in 2013 and was runner-up at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in 2015. She also was top qualifier at the track in 2015.

“It’s a really unique setting and a place where I really like to visit because I have family here,” said Enders, a 21-time national event winner. “The track can be good, depending on the weather, and it can also be tricky if the dust gets stirred up. We already tested there a lot this year so we’re ready for anything.

“I really enjoy the fans also. They are friendly and into what we’re doing. It’s always fun when the people are behind you and cheering for you because we all try hard to put on a great race for them. This year I’m feeling we can really do something special so maybe we’ll be celebrating with them in the winner’s circle again.”

There are three cars racing out of the Elite Motorsports camp and Enders, following her semifinal finish at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., is leading the way in fourth place. Teammates Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin Jr. follow in fifth and sixth, respectively. All three crew chiefs work together and share data.

“We’re a true team in every sense of the word and we have a lot of fun racing as a team,” Enders said. “That’s our secret weapon.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. MT, Friday and Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon MT, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows from 10-11 p.m. MT, Friday, and 10-11 p.m. MT, Saturday, followed by three hours of elimination action from 4-7 p.m. MT, Sunday.

Erica Enders fires plenty of warning shots during season-opening Winternationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Pomona 2017 | Elite Motorsports

POMONA, CA — Back in the comfy confines of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, two-time world champion Erica Enders didn’t walk away with the trophy of this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, but she certainly reminded everyone of why she dominated the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

A year with a different manufacturer made the category’s most prolific female racer an afterthought to many, but as soon as she got back in her Chevy, she quickly re-established herself as a top contender.

“Not a bad first Sunday, especially after the year we had last year,” Enders said. “I’m extremely proud of my guys this weekend, as I always am. We are still a little bit behind the top cars but they can bet their butts we’re going to catch up and if anything they definitely know we’re here again.

“I’m extremely pleased with our outing and Phoenix will be even better.”

With a stunning race-day average reaction time of .011 seconds, Enders powered past Matt Hartford and teammate Vincent Nobile before squaring off with four-time champ Greg Anderson in the semifinals. There, despite yet another stellar reaction time which gave her a .02-second headstart, she was beaten by Anderson by half a car length, 6.574 at 211.10 mpg to her 6.599 at 210.18 mph.

” It feels good that my left leg still works,” Enders said, referring to her clutch foot. “I should have been there a little better against Greg. I was actually set up to be a little bit better than a .020 but there are a lot of variables that go into a reaction time and things were just a little bit different up there.

“I’m pleased with the weekend. I’m pleased with my driving. I’m ready to keep knocking the rust off. It’s always hard when you’re out of the car for three months. If you’re a pro golfer, you don’t go three months without picking up a club, but that’s what we all deal with every year. We’ll get back in the groove. I’m just excited to be going rounds again on Sunday.”

The second stop of the year, the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, take place Feb. 24-26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“All three of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance powered cars are running really well and I think you can expect to see a lot out of all three of us,” Enders said. “It’s going to be a long year, it’s going to be a great year. I chose to believe that we’ll be on top at the end.”

History abounds, awaits world champion Erica Enders in Pomona

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Qualifying | Pomona 2017

POMONA, CA — The first Junior Dragster Erica Enders ever drove to the winner’s circle is housed just across the compound from Auto Club Raceway in Wally Parks’ Drag Racing Museum. She also started her Sportsman career here and collected one of her record 21 Pro Stock race trophies at Pomona. Additionally, she clinched the first of her two world titles at this track in 2014.

Now the spunky Texan is back, hoping to add a few more memories to her So-Cal resume when this weekend’s season-opening 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals turn to Sunday’s eliminations.

“This place means a lot to me,” Enders admitted. “It has a lot of history for our sport in general and for me personally, from racing Junior Dragsters here to getting my Super Comp license and starting my big car career in the Lucas Oil series. Plus, I was able to wrap up my first Pro Stock championship here.

“There’s just a lot of fun memories here already and then to have my first Junior Dragster over in the museum is just surreal because I still feel like I’m just a normal kid. It’s really through a lot of hard work and the support of my family that we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of cool stuff, including at this track. It’s one of the things that makes you want to pinch yourself.”

After racing to back-to-back titles and 15 race wins in 2014-2015, Enders came up empty last season racing for a different manufacturer. But her Elite Motorsports team has returned to its reliable Chevrolet Camaros and the results in testing, where she was quickest overall, and here in Pomona show they made the right decision.

“We are really proud of how we performed in testing and the first couple of days of qualifying,” she said. “Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) and I are both really proud to be back in Chevrolets, back in competitive race cars where we have a shot to win every Sunday.

“I’m proud of all of the hard work my team put into making all of this possible. It wasn’t easy to switch over everything, to build a new car for Jeg and get my 2014 car ready for me but they never quit, they never stopped trucking, so my hat’s off to them for how incredibly hard they worked to make this possible for both me and Jeg.”

Enders has qualified sixth with a best pass of 6.553 at 210.90 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Up first in eliminations is a first-round showdown with Matt Hartford, who qualified 11th with a best of 6.596 at 210.44 mph.

“Jeg and I can’t meet until the semis if we both win early in the day so that’s the first goal,” Enders said. “We’ll wake up tomorrow fresh and ready to roll. I know exactly what this team is capable of and what we can accomplish under pressure. It reminds me of 2014 and 2015 when we had the capability to win anytime we stepped foot on the property.

“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve been through in the past 12 months and how strong it’s made us.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon PT, Sunday, with three hours of live coverage running from 4-7 p.m. ET, on FOX.

Two-time world champion Erica Enders readies for season of redemption

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Pro Stock Chevrolet

POMONA, CA — For two glorious seasons from 2014-2015, Erica Enders was on top of the drag racing world, winning back-to-back titles in arguably the toughest category in all motorsports, NHRA Pro Stock. An impressive 15 victories during the stretch was punctuated by her incredible driving prowess. She was, quite simply, peerless.

Last season the proud Texan returned to earth after a switch to another manufacturer, going winless en route to a sagging ninth-place finish overall.

Now, with a new season set to begin with this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Enders is back in the same Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro that carried her to glory in the past with firm designs on returning to her winning ways.

“We are so anxious to get back on track, to be at the races with a car and combination we know can put us in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “It’s really all you ever want as a driver and as a race team; the chance to win. We have that again and we’re super excited to get started.”

To Enders, last season was a true blessing in disguise, as she found out the true mettle of her group, headed by team owner Richard Freeman.

“It was a challenging year but what we went through made us stronger,” Enders said. “What we went through would have torn a lot of teams apart but it didn’t hurt us at all. Yeah, we were upset we weren’t performing well but we still joked around, still had fun, and we smiled through it all.

“It was a character-building year, and it showed me there is zero ego on this team. It’s easy to be all happy when you’re winning but the true measure of people comes when times are tough. We’re tough.

“This year is gonna be great because I already know what we’re capable of and so does everyone else. At the same time, I learned we don’t need win lights and trophies to be fulfilled. Being a family, having each other’s backs no matter what, being together through it all, that’s what matters.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. PT, Friday and Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon PT, Sunday.

Live coverage of the 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals begins with a qualifying show from 1-2 p.m. ET, Saturday, on FOX Sports 1, followed by three hours of eliminations from 4-7 p.m. ET, Sunday, on FOX.

Drag racing champions Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders return to Chevrolet

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman announced Thursday at the PRI Show that multi-time world champion drag racers Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders will fight for the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock crown in a pair of RJ Racecars-built Chevrolet Camaros.

The move back to Chevrolet was widely anticipated as Freeman and Enders used the bowtie brand to capture the 2014 and 2015 titles for Elite Motorsports. Coughlin drove a Chevrolet to four of his five Pro Stock championships and also piloted a Chevy when he won the 1992 Super Gas world title.

“It comes down to what works best for us,” Freeman said. “My brothers and I have just about always been GM guys. Our engines builders, Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, have had their best success with GM motors. Our crew chiefs Rick Jones, Mark Ingersoll and Brian Self are very comfortable with Chevrolets. It’s a natural fit for us.

“We want to get back to winning races and contending for championships and we feel Chevrolet gives us the best chance to do that at this point in time. We all know Pro Stock races come down to thousandths of seconds and as tough as the competition is out there you can’t give an inch.”

Under Freeman’s guidance, Jones and his son Rickie Jones, who left the team this offseason to start a family, tuned Enders to six victories in 2014 and nine more in 2015, all with Chevy power propelling them down the track. Coughlin, a winner of a massive 76 national events, won 72 of his trophies with GM power.

“The Camaro is a great car and one I’m very comfortable with as a driver,” Coughlin said. “Rick and Rickie build awesome race cars and getting the latest and greatest one out of their shop makes me feel like a kid at Christmas. I can’t wait to see this yellow and black JEGS.com/Elite Camaro on the racetrack.

“I know we’re all anxious to get back out there and prove ourselves. Drag racers are most certainly graded by their last event and we want to get back to the top of the class once again where we feel
like we belong. There’s a mountain of experience at Elite Motorsports and I know we’re in for a big year ahead.”

It’s very possible Coughlin’s biggest rivals on the racetrack will be Elite Motorsports teammates Enders and Vincent Nobile, who returns to the team with his Mountain View Chevrolet.

“The dream scenario is one of us is in the winner’s circle at every race,” said Enders, the most prolific female in Pro Stock and one of only three women in the 65-year history of the NHRA to win a pro title. “The KB Racing team dominated the field with their three cars this last season and we did a pretty good job ourselves in ’14 and ’15 so we know it can be done.

“As Jeg said, our guys are really hungry to win again. I believe the move back to Chevrolet is by far the best one we could have made and we plan to show everyone that beginning in February in Pomona.”

TheBLOCK.com: One on One with NHRA Drag Racing Superstar Erica Enders-Stevens

Erica Enders-Stevens zMAX Dragway | The BLOCK

Chevrolet Performance’s The BLOCK recently caught up with Erica during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at Charlotte’s zMAX Dragway.

Check out Part One of their interview at TheBLOCK.com:

One on One with NHRA Drag Racing Superstar Erica Enders-Stevens | The BLOCK

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