Archive for the Elite Motorsports Category

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders’ Las Vegas hot streak is unlike any other

Erica Enders | Gainesville 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV — The winning streak Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is on at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is likely some sort of Las Vegas record.

Heading into the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals this weekend, Enders has won four national events, two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, and 22 rounds — all consecutively — in Las Vegas. The last time she didn’t win there was in October 2013.

Only Greg Anderson has won as many national events in a row in Las Vegas, but the K&N Challenge wasn’t contested in Vegas at the time.

“It’s awesome to have that kind of run, and it’s pretty unheard of,” Enders said. “We’ve had an incredible two years there, and we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us to do well this weekend. Twenty-two consecutive round-wins in a row is huge, so Vegas has obviously been good to me. I’m hoping Lady Luck will get on our side this weekend. We certainly haven’t had the best start to the year.”

As her Elite Motorsports team has dealt with rules changes that mandate a switch to fuel-injected engines as well as a move to a new manufacturer in Dodge, the 2016 season hasn’t started as well as she would have liked, so Enders and her team would love nothing more than to continue their Vegas hot streak.

“It’s definitely on our mind,” Enders said. “We’re going to continue to do our best. It’s a tall order, but we’ve accomplished things with way more working against us than we have now. Anything is possible, and we’ll go in there with the right mindset and hope for the best.

“It would be really awesome to win this weekend for Mark (Lyle). He’s a huge asset to our sport, and we’re deeply saddened by his loss.”

Lyle, the NHRA chief starter, died earlier this week. He was the starter for all of Enders’ Vegas wins, including the two special K&N Horsepower Challenge races.

The K&N Challenge is a special race for Pro Stock racers based on qualifying points since the 2015 event. Enders is the No. 2 seed and will race Allen Johnson in the first round Saturday, which coincides with the weekend’s third qualifying session.

The winner of the Challenge will earn $50,000 and a custom K&N Horsepower trophy. The runner-up will earn $10,000, the two semifinalists $3,000 each, and the four first-round finishers $2,500 apiece.

“Everything has to go right for you to have a great day,” Enders said. “To be able to have two great race days in the spring for the K&N Challenge and then the national event and then one in the fall is pretty amazing. You think of all the hard work and preparation that goes into getting the car to perform the way it does, and having everything go right that many times in a row is just insane.”

No driver has won three K&N Horsepower Challenge races in a row since the event started in 1985.

Reigning champ Erica Enders nipped by .01-second in Gainesville

Erica Enders Gainseville 2016 Sunday

GAINESVILLE, FL — Back-to-back and reigning world Pro Stock champion Erica Enders went door-handle-to-door-handle with Allen Johnson in the opening round of eliminations at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, ultimately losing by a hundredth of a second, her third straight first-round loss.

“We’re getting so close to where we want to be, and we knew making the switch to Mopar would take some adjustments, but it’s still frustrating when you lose a drag race,” Enders said, “especially when you consider all of the success we’ve had the last two seasons.

“I know we’ll be alright and the guys are upbeat and telling me not to get down, but I suppose I’ve gotten a little spoiled. At the same time, I know we have the best team, the best crew guys, the best tuners, the best engine builders in the world under this awning, so there’s no doubt we’ll be back to our winning ways very soon. We just have to be patient.”

Johnson left with a miniscule .006-second head start but was able to hold off Enders’ Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart as the two streaked down Gainesville Raceway. The margin of victory at top speed was estimated to be about four feet.

“I could see ‘Brutus’ (Johnson) out of the corner of my eye the whole way down,” Enders said. “That’s one big advantage we have without the hood scoop any more — you can see everything. I just did my thing and tried to be perfect going through the gears, but we came up a fender short.

“I keep saying it but we’ve only had these Hemi motors for a month, so it’s new to all of us, but when Jake Hairston and Nick Ferri tell me there are big things to come, I believe them. The more and more runs we make and the more dyno time those two have, the better it will be. Like I said, we have to be patient.”

The next stop on the NHRA tour is the 17th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, April 1-3, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, although Enders thinks she’ll be in the seat before that race begins.

“I’d imagine the guys will want to test some more,” Enders said. “It’s easy for us to go to Keith Haney’s track in Tulsa (Okla.) because it’s close to the race shop and that track is so good it’s just like anything we see on the national tour. We’ll probably hit it hard when the truck gets back to Oklahoma.

“Thanks to the fans here in Gainesville. They’ve been awesome. I wish we could have done more for them, but their support hasn’t wavered one bit. I’ll tell them all the same thing: Be patient with us.”

Today’s race will be televised from 1 to 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

Reigning world champion Erica Enders progressing nicely with her new Mopar hot rod

Erica Enders | Gainesville 2016 Qualifying

GAINESVILLE, FL — Two and a half races into her newest era of racing, back-to-back and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is pleased with the progress of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. Through four rounds of qualifying at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Enders qualified 10th with a steady pass of 6.636 seconds at 208.33 mph.

“It’s no secret that we’ve struggled a bit the first two races with an extremely new program, but it’s just a matter of having more time to make more runs with this Dodge Dart and the Hemi powerplant,” Enders said. “We’re going to get better every race; I believe that wholeheartedly. My guys are so smart. They want it more than anything. We just have to be patient.

“Our test in Tulsa (Okla.) this week was certainly encouraging. We’ve improved so much since we got our first motor in February, for sure. Knowing what we found in Tulsa and applying it here to all four of the cars on this team was our first goal and we all came out okay. I think our four cars ended up fifth, sixth, ninth, and 10th, so that’s pretty good.”

Enders’ 6.636 pits her against good friend Allen Johnson when elimination action begins at noon ET on Sunday. Johnson’s best pass was a seventh-place 6.628 at 207.91 mph.

“I don’t think that where we qualified is indicative of what happened on the track because on our run of record I had something go wrong and it certainly cost us a few hundredths of a second,” Enders said. “We could have at least run a 6.62, so that’s extremely encouraging.

“We certainly weren’t looking for a bottom-half qualifying effort, but we will get our act together before tomorrow, and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate) has proved over and over that you can win from any position on the qualifying sheet, so we’ll treat tomorrow like a brand-new day. I feel really confident.

“We’ve all got a little extra pep in our step after today. I know things are for sure headed in the right direction.”

Race day eliminations will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX Sports 1.

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders chases first Gatornationals victory

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GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders has already amassed an impressive résumé in her illustrious career, from winning back-to-back Pro Stock championships in 2014-15 to going to victory lane 21 times, including at the prestigious U.S. Nationals last season.

A win at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals has eluded her so far, but she gets another chance at victory this weekend at Gainesville Raceway.

“It would be really cool to get a Wally at the Gators,” Enders said. “I’ve been to the finals twice and haven’t won yet, but I really want to win there. It’s a tall order right now, but we’ll certainly go in with a positive attitude and a winning mentality. You never know what could happen.”

Enders raced to the final round in Gainesville early in her Pro Stock career, losing to Tom Martino in 2006. She also reached the Gatornationals final in 2014, her first season with Elite, before falling to Allen Johnson.

Her tenure at Elite has netted two championships and 15 victories, including nine last year (a single-season record for women).

A switch to Dodge, compounded by NHRA-mandated changes to fuel-injected engines, has put Enders and her Elite team in development mode early in 2016, but improvements are coming.

“All of the new changes are a huge challenge,” Enders said. “We haven’t quite gotten a handle on it yet, but our test session was very productive. We feel like we learned a bunch and we have it pointed in the right direction now. Time will tell, but it definitely was encouraging.”

Enders tested this week at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park — not far from Elite’s headquarters in Wynnewood, Okla. — as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones continue to fine-tune the new Dodge Dart.

“We’ll keep working on our race car, we’ll keep getting better,” Enders said. “It would be awesome to have a Gatornationals trophy. It’s one of the most prestigious races on the tour, and there’s a lot of history there. It’s one of my favorite races. We’ll go do our best and let God do the rest.”

Friday night qualifying will air from 9 to 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, with a second qualifying show from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Race day eliminations will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. ET Sunday, also on FOX Sports 1.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders flashes driving brilliance in Phoenix loss

Erica Enders Phoenix 2016 Mopar

PHOENIX, AZ — Erica Enders’ 200th career Pro Stock race didn’t go as she wanted, but the two-time defending Pro Stock champion did show she hasn’t lost her touch.

Despite a first-round loss to Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Enders still managed to post the best reaction time of the day, .005-second.

That stellar light gave her an instant advantage over Skillman, but her pass of 6.705 seconds at 207.53 mph wasn’t enough to hold off Skillman’s 6.633 at 208.33 mph.

“Cutting a .005 light made me happy but it was short-lived,” Enders said. “I unclutched it and I thought, ‘Dang, Drew is probably in trouble because that felt pretty good.’ But our car has been extremely unhappy all weekend, and we’re trying to get her settled down and back to our real race car.”

Enders won the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships with a combination of her terrific driving, solid horsepower from Elite Performance, and excellent tune-ups from crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, but much has changed for 2016. NHRA mandated fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm, and Elite also switched to Mopar, building a new car for Enders, and that car is still being developed.

“It stinks that we are out early in Phoenix, but that round was certainly a step in the right direction,” Enders said. “It gives us a little positive breath of air throughout all of this interesting learning curve. It’s easy to get frustrated, especially coming off two successful years like we have had, but my crew continues to dig deep and have positive attitudes, and that’s what I feel champions are made of.

“I’m so proud of them and proud to be their driver. I know that this early elimination trend is going to end pretty quickly and the rest of the field will be in trouble. Until then we’ll just continue to work on our race car. The Dodge Dart is a great car and we’re going to test before Gainesville, and that will help get us moving in the right direction.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders confident of the future, looking forward to race day

Erica Enders Phoenix 2016 Qualifying

PHOENIX, AZ — By her standards the past two seasons, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders should be frustrated, but the two-time Pro Stock champion is far from being discouraged. The dominance Enders and her team showed in 2014 and 2015 is not apparent at the moment, but after a whirlwind off-season, she knows it’s coming.

Enders qualified No. 9 for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and she hopes to continue to make strides on race day.

“We went home from Pomona, and the guys worked really hard in the engine shop,” Enders said. “We certainly feel like we made moves in the right direction. We had the second-quickest mph yesterday, which is very encouraging, considering how new our Dodge engine program is.”

Enders and her team switched to Dodge in the off-season, and to comply with new NHRA rules, the team built all-new fuel-injected engines with a 10,500 rpm limit. Her best elapsed time of 6.689 seconds was ninth-best, but her speed of 208.26 mph was fourth-fastest this weekend.

“We made some significant changes with our race car, and it’s just not happy right now,” Enders said. “There’s no other way to beat around the bush. Once we get our race car happy, things will be OK.”

Enders will have to face an Elite Motorsports teammate in the first round for the second race in a row. She battled Jeg Coughlin Jr. at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., and will face No. 6 qualifier Drew Skillman here. Skillman’s best pass was 6.650 seconds at 207.43 mph. (Usually, the No. 9 qualifier faces the No. 8 qualifier, but because only 14 cars are entered, NHRA had to juggle the ladder).

“That was literally run No. 22 on this car, and eight of those are qualifying runs at national events,” Enders said of her pass in the final qualifying session. “It’s pretty crazy to think that the car is that new.

“In the grand scheme of things, it could be easy to get frustrated because of how we’re used to performing,” Enders added. “But if we look at the big picture and consider everything we went through in the off-season, with all the rules changes and with building two new cars and a motor program, it’s just going to take time. I keep telling people that.

“I’m very optimistic, very confident that things are going to get better.”

FOX Sports 1 will air live coverage of eliminations from 2-5 p.m. PT, Sunday. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to the first broadcast of the season.

Phoenix will be champion Erica Enders’ 200th Pro Stock race

2016 Phoenix NHRA marks Erica Enders' 200th race

PHOENIX, AZ — Erica Enders’ epic racing career will reach another milestone when she races at this weekend’s CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The event will be her 200th career Pro Stock race, dating back to her debut in Pomona in February 2005.

Over that span, Enders has become an NHRA superstar, winning the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships and 21 NHRA national events.

“It’s hard to believe in one sense,” Enders said. “In another sense, it’s like, ‘Are you sure it’s not 200,000 races?’ I feel like I’ve been out there forever.

“It’s definitely a cool milestone. I’m excited to have accomplished that. It means we’ve been out there for quite some time. With God’s grace, I’ll get 200 more races. We’ll see how it goes.”

In 199 career races in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, Enders has 21 wins, 14 runner-up finishes, 58 semifinal appearances, 18 No. 1 qualifiers, and a 217-128 win-loss round record.

Enders has been outstanding the last two seasons, winning 15 races and both championships. She set an NHRA record in 2015 by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots (Brainerd, Minn.; Indianapolis; and Charlotte).

Her nine victories last year broke Angelle Sampey’s single-season mark of victories by a woman (seven) set in 2001, and Enders remains second to Sampey (41) in career wins by a woman.

Enders’ 2016 season didn’t get off to the start she wanted, losing in the first round in Pomona Calif., against Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. The Elite team switched to Dodge in the offseason, compounding the issues relating to NHRA-mandated changes for the entire Pro Stock class (fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm and shorter wheelie bars), but Enders believes in her team, just as they believe in her driving ability.

“I think there will be a lot of improvement made,” Enders said. “We won’t be running at the top of the pack, but we’ll slowly claw our way back up there. We’re hopeful to pick up a hundredth and a half to two-hundredths before Phoenix, but the scoreboard will have to tell us there. We’re certainly going to go home and work on our stuff. It’s a new program, and I know with this group of people, anything is possible.

“I’ve never met a more determined bunch, which fits my personality perfectly, so I know they’ll dig deep. They’re super passionate about it, and they hate losing as much as I do, so you bet your ass we’ll be back where we belong. It’s just going to take some time, and we’ve got to keep that in mind, and that’s OK. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Phoenix is one of Enders’ favorite tracks, mostly because her brother, Tom, lives in the area. He’ll be in attendance with his wife, Stacy, and two daughters, Addison and Alexis.

Plus, Enders raced to a victory there in 2013 and to the final last season.

“Phoenix is like a second home track for me,” Enders said. “I’ve done well there in the past and am hopeful of doing well there again.”

FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying from 7-9 p.m. PT, Saturday, with live coverage of eliminations from 2-5 p.m. PT, Sunday. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to the first broadcast of the season.

Start of Pro Stock title defense doesn’t go as Erica Enders planned

Erica Enders burnout at Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders hates losing, so it’s fair to say she won’t love this Valentine’s Day.

Enders lost in the first round of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener, shaking the tires at the hit and almost immediately getting out of the throttle of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart.

She could only watch as Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. sailed to the victory, but Enders is far from distraught. After massive changes in the off-season — a manufacturer switch to Dodge and an NHRA-mandated change to fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm — Enders knows better times are ahead.

“We’ve got to keep a positive attitude and keep the mindset that this is only a beginning for us,” Enders said. “We just finished putting our motors together on Wednesday in Phoenix. We can only go up from here, and I know that with all my heart. It is a very tough pill to swallow. I hate losing, I hate losing first round. If there’s any consolation to it, at least it was to my teammate.”

Enders qualified No. 9 in Pomona, the first time since the Sonoma, Calif., event last August that she qualified outside of the top half of the field.

“We’ve got to do some work with these race cars,” Enders said. “That run marks run No. 15 under our belts, and that’s nothing, considering I had over 300 runs on my other car. We’ll learn it, we’ll get it, and we’ll be back to the top — you bet your butt.”

Enders had tempered her expectations for Pomona, knowing the new Dart and Mopar engine is early in its development by Elite Performance, but she didn’t expect such tire shake against Coughlin.

“The track was way different today than it was the whole weekend,” Enders said. “We run behind the fuel cars, and they did zero track prep, which is pretty detrimental to our class. Of course, being first out doesn’t help, but that was our own fault.

“All things considered, coming here we figured we’d be a middle-of-the-pack car, and that’s exactly what we were. We’re going to go home and go to work on this stuff. We’ve got a couple weeks until Phoenix, and in between Phoenix and Gainesville there’s another couple of weeks. I fully expect by the Gatornationals to be a lot more competitive. We’ll keep moving in the right direction.”

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