Archive for the Elite Motorsports Category

Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders ready to blaze another new path

Erica Enders wins 2015 U.S. Nationals at Indy

HOUSTON, TX — No NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver had a better run over the last two years than Houston native Erica Enders. Not Antron Brown, not Tony Schumacher, not Matt Hagan, not even the legendary John Force.

Enders, who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow racer Richie Stevens, won back-to-back Pro Stock World Championships, winning 15 times in the last two seasons, including a dominant nine-victory 2015. Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew were the team to beat nearly every week, as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll were able to tune their hand-crafted Elite Performance horsepower to perfection.

In 24 races in 2015, Enders qualified No. 1 six times and started from the top half of the field 22 times, thanks to powerful engines built by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

Enders herself was on top of her game, too, setting an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots. No one in 64 years of organized drag racing had done that.

But that combination is gone.

“We were pretty good at what we were doing before: My guys tuning on the carburetors and me driving it,” Enders said. “But now it’s all different and all new, so we start over.”

They start over because of new NHRA-mandated changes to the Pro Stock class. Trying to catch up with the times, the sanctioning body eliminated carburetors for the cars in lieu of fuel injection.

Plus, those new engine combinations have a limit of 10,500 rpm, much lower than before, and in another big change, shorter wheelie bars are mandated, changing the dynamics of the launch from the starting line.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” Enders said. “Everybody is starting with a clean slate. None of us have run fuel injection before, and there’s only been a few teams so far that have done any on-track testing.”

Enders and her team plan to test this weekend in Denton, Texas, and again in Phoenix the week before the season opener in Pomona, Calif., in mid-February. Elite is a team that doesn’t test as often as others, but that hasn’t seem to hurt them, especially the last couple of seasons.

And there’s another ingredient to an already busy off-season: Elite Motorsports is switching to Mopar for 2016, running a two-car team with Enders and five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. Needless to say, things have been humming between the Elite shop in Wynnewood, Okla., and RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., where the Jones’ have been building the new Dodge Darts.

“The guys at RJ Race Cars — Rick and Rickie Jones and all their people — have been working really hard on getting mine and Jeg’s new Mopar Dodge Darts done for the 2016 season,” Enders said. “My car just got back from paint, and everything is on schedule.

“Rick and I are going to get together on when they’re going to be done assembling it. We built a chassis, sent it to powdercoat, put the body on it, and sent it to paint. There’s a process of assembling it, and once everything is put together in the cockpit, I’m going to fly up there (to RJ Race Cars). They built the inside just like my championship car, so everything should be the same for me, but I’m going to go up there and fine-tune everything.”

Enders said her new Dart is a masterpiece.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said. “They both have said these two cars (for her and Coughlin) are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

The team is also building new engines, basing their Dodge motors off their tried-and-true Chevrolet engines they will now put in teammates Drew Skillman and Vincent Nobile’s Camaros.

“We’ve had our dyno converted, and my guys have been working non-stop on trying to figure that out,” Enders said. “Their dynoing all our GM stuff now, and everything should translate to our Mopar stuff. We don’t have all the parts for mine and Jeg’s stuff, but they’re working on that.

“The plan is to test for a week or so in Phoenix before Pomona. We won’t be on-track until right before the season starts, but that’s the same schedule we have every year.”

Still, Enders remains confident in her team, which has proven itself with back-to-back championships. No title is earned without perseverance and hard work, and that continues with the switch to Dodge and the new rules.

“I always put my money on us,” Enders said. “My confidence in my team is as strong as ever, and I know there’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. There will be some bumps, I’m sure, and it comes with a learning curve.

“We’ll get through it. We’ve gotten through everything we’ve had thrown at us. We had fun doing it, we did it with class, and we were able to come out on top. My money is on us.”

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First look: Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ new ’16 Dodge Dart

Erica Enders' new 2016 Dodge Dart

WYNNEWOOD, OK — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ striking new ’16 Dodge Dart was unveiled Wednesday, a month before she begins her pursuit of a third consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title.

Like her championship-winning cars from 2014 and 2015, Enders’ car was built by RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., the famed shop led by Enders’ crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones.

Enders’ Elite Motorsports team is beginning a partnership with Mopar this season and will field Dodge Darts. The car is built to new NHRA Pro Stock specifications, including several new rules for 2016 and beyond: fuel-injected engines with a 10,500 rpm limit, plus the removal of hood scoops and shortened wheelie bars.

RJ Race Cars is also building a new Dodge for Enders’ teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said. “They both have said these two cars are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team are expected to test the new Dodge in Phoenix the week before the season-opening event, Feb. 12-14, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Erica Honored with 2016 Autoweek Driver Award

Erica Enders: 2016 Autoweek Driver Award

From Autoweek

NHRA superstar passed legend Shirley Muldowney for most career wins by a woman

Erica Enders continued her assault on drag racing’s record book in 2015 with an impressive run to a second straight NHRA Pro Stock title.

The 32-year-old Texan racked up nine wins, including three in the playoffs, giving her 21 for her career. She clinched the championship with a race weekend to spare and along the way passed NHRA legend Shirley Muldowney, who won 18 times, for most career wins by a woman.

Enders’ 58-14 elimination record over 24 national events easily topped all professional categories. Her nine 2015 wins broke three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey’s NHRA single-season record (seven in 2001) for a female driver.

“To actually top what we did in 2014 in what started out as a very challenging year for us with the new tire and fuel they made us use, it’s really satisfying and says so much about this Elite Motorsports team,” Enders said. “The 20-plus years it took to get to this point, all the heartache and struggle, it was all worth it to feel like this again.

“By our standards, we struggled at the first four races, and when we qualified dead last in Charlotte, we knew something had to give. We stayed after and tested the wheels off our Rick Jones race car and finally we found something that worked.”

The challenges continue for Enders in ’16 as Pro Stock transitions to fuel injection. With all the teams on equal footing, 2016 provides yet another chance for her to prove her mettle.

Enders and Coughlin to carry Mopar NHRA Pro Stock banner in 2016

mopar-cars

From NHRA.com

A pair of champions will team up and carry the Mopar banner in 2016, as back-to-back NHRA Pro Stock champ Erica Enders and five-time overall Pro Stock title winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. will lead the charge for the brand in the popular factory hot rod class. The combination of Elite Motorsports teammates Enders and Coughlin steering fuel-injected, Hemi-powered Dodge Dart cars puts winners of the past three NHRA Pro Stock world championships under the Mopar banner.

In the NHRA Funny Car class, Mopar and Don Schumacher Racing will extend one of the most successful and longest-running partnerships in the sport. Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan will once again pilot the flagship Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.

“The Mopar brand is excited to announce that two proven champions, Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., will fly the Mopar colors in the NHRA Pro Stock class next season,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “We couldn’t ask for greater competitors or brand ambassadors to represent us at the drag strip. We’re also very proud to once again partner with Don Schumacher Racing and work together to bring home a fourth NHRA Funny Car crown in six years.”

Defending and two-time champ Enders, who competed in a Mopar-powered car in 2006-2007, will chase a third consecutive title behind the wheel of her new Mopar Performance Dodge Dart GT NHRA Pro Stock car for Elite Motorsports.

Enders didn’t lose a step after breaking through for six wins and her first Pro Stock crown in 2014, stringing together one of the most impressive seasons in Pro Stock history with nine victories, 11 final-round appearances and six No. 1 qualifier spots on her road to the 2015 overall title.

The nine wins by Enders, a 32-year-old from Houston, Texas, who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, broke the single-season mark of victories by a female racer, set by Angelle Sampey in 2001 with seven wins. Enders’ total of 21 career victories ranks 39th on the NHRA all-time win list and just second among women, trailing only Sampey’s 41 wins.

“We’re entering a new era of Pro Stock and it’s going to be awesome to take a new Mopar-powered Dodge Dart into 2016 and beyond,” said Enders, who began her career at age eight racing half-scale Jr. Dragsters, with her childhood racing story featured in the 2003 Disney Channel movie Right on Track. “We won the last two championships with carburetors and now the goal is to win the first one with fuel injection. The Dart Pro Stock cars look awesome and I’m already very familiar with Mopar because I’ve driven for them in the past. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent them moving forward, along with my teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.”

Teaming up with Enders in the new Pro Stock era of fuel injection and scoop-free hoods is a driver who has already placed himself among the legends of the sport and who is also no stranger to the Mopar brand. Coughlin clinched his most recent of five Pro Stock championships driving a Mopar-powered Dodge Dart in 2013.

Coughlin will man the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart GT NHRA Pro Stock car in 2016, looking to add even more milestones to a Hall of Fame career that includes 76 victories, with 58 in Pro Stock, good enough for fourth all-time in the class.

Coughlin is the first and only driver to score wins in seven NHRA classes (Pro Stock, Comp, Top Dragster, Super Gas, Super Stock, Stock and Super Comp), the only driver in NHRA history to win in four different classes in the same season (1997, Pro Stock, Super Stock, Super Gas, and Comp) and the only driver in the pro ranks to win from every qualifying position, No. 1 to No. 16.

“The 2016 season is a turning point for the NHRA and the Pro Stock class,” said Coughlin, a Delaware, Ohio, native who raced a Mopar-powered Pro Stocker in 2005 and 2012-2014. “We’re really looking forward to the upcoming challenges. We are fortunate to have great partners with Mopar and the Magneti Marelli brands, Elite Motorsports, JEGS, and Stockseth Racing. It will be a great next chapter in our careers.

“Also, I am looking forward to working beside one of the greatest drivers in the NHRA, Erica Enders, and the greatest crew, including Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll and Brian ‘Lump’ Self, all talented and championship-proven crew chiefs. It will be a great year for the entire Elite Motorsports team.”

Rare mistake yields semifinal finish for Erica Enders at NHRA Finals

Erica Enders Pomona Finals 2015

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders didn’t become a two-time Pro Stock World Champion without being competitive, so one can understand why she was disappointed after falling in the semifinals of the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

An extraordinarily rare mistake cost Enders against Allen Johnson, ending her triumphant season with nine victories and the 2015 championship.

“I didn’t drive like I wanted to this afternoon, but our season was great,” Enders said. “The competitor in me is really mad that I screwed up. I am human and it’s the first time I’ve done so probably since the spring. I guess we’re all entitled, but at the same time I’m better than that.

“I hate it because we probably win the race if we get through that round. It’s just one of those deals. There’s nothing to hold our heads down about.”

Enders clinched the championship at the previous race, in Las Vegas, winning her second consecutive event and third in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

But after beating Vieri Gaines and Larry Morgan on Sunday in Pomona, Enders had some issues on the starting line against Johnson. She decked the engine before Johnson was staged, and then after backing off and hitting the throttle again, Enders had a rare poor reaction time, .068-second. By comparison, she had an average light of .016-second in the playoffs.

Johnson got off the line with a .005 light, and his pass of 6.572 seconds at 209.17 mph was enough to hold off Enders’ quicker 6.542 at 212.43 mph.

“What happened on the starting line was really screwed up and was my fault,” Enders said. “I didn’t rise to the occasion. I hate it; I wanted to win 10 on the year. But what can you say? I had a career season. People in drag racing would give anything to have a season like I did.

“If you put everything in perspective and look at the big picture, it’s kind of hard to be mad about one race. I just know that I’m better than that.”

Still, Enders will celebrate with her Elite Motorsports team at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony on Monday night at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

“My guys were the first ones to pick me up,” Enders said. “We carry each other. We’ve had a lot of races where things didn’t go right setup-wise, and we’ve had a lot of races where the driver hasn’t been very good.

“But that’s where we’re different than everyone else. We stand by each other, we’re not critical, and we don’t pile on each other when the other messes up. That’s how we roll.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for 10th victory of 2015

Erica Enders Pomona 2015 Auto Club Finals

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders has already captured the biggest prize in the Pro Stock class of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: the 2015 championship. But the two-time series champion is far from finished with the season. Enders is a nine-time winner in 2015, meaning she already holds the record for most wins in a season by a woman, but she wants No. 10.

“I’m proud that we locked the championship up last weekend,” Enders said. “But I’m going into tomorrow with the mindset that I want to win No. 10 on the season. That is my job, that is my goal, and that is what I will do.”

Enders, who clinched the championship during her victory in Las Vegas, qualified No. 2 for the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a stellar pass of 6.503 seconds at 213.33 mph.

“That was our first decent run of the weekend,” Enders said. “Obviously, that’s nice to be able to go to sleep on Saturday night with that run. (No. 1 qualifier) Greg (Anderson) made a killer run and he had us by a hundredth in the 60-foot, and that’s what he outran us by. We know where we need to improve.”

Enders starts her pursuit of victory No. 10 on Sunday against V. Gaines, who qualified No. 15 with a top pass of 6.570 seconds at 211.63 mph.

“We have a great race-day setup,” Enders said. “That’s something my guys are excellent at, giving me a fast, consistent race car on Sunday. We’ve proven all year that’s what it takes to win, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Enders will also keep an eye on Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman, who qualified No. 4 and is on opposite sides of the ladder from her. Skillman, the leading contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as the NHRA’s top rookie, is fourth in the points standings but has a shot at finishing second.

Enders is also looking to cap a spectacular Countdown to the Championship, in which she has won three of the five races in the playoffs, including two in a row. Plus, she has raced to the final in four of the five Countdown races.

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders not resting on laurels in final race of 2015

NHRA Drag Racing

POMONA, CA — The 2015 Pro Stock championship belongs to Erica Enders and the Elite Motorsports team, but don’t think for a second that Enders will coast her way through the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Enders wrapped up her second consecutive Pro Stock championship in Las Vegas two weeks ago, winning her ninth race of the season, but she and her team want win No. 10.

“We’re all racers, and we all grew up at the racetrack,” Enders said. “I started in a Jr. Dragster. (Co-crew chief) Rickie Jones was at the track when he was a little kid as well. We stay hungry because it’s our passion and we want to be the best.

“My guys are perfectionists. We go out and make an excellent run and win the race, then come back and analyze the data and say, ‘We needed to do this and that.’ They just want to be perfect. Even though we were the best that day (in Vegas), they want to get better.

“I’m the same way as a driver. I want to go in and just do the best that I can for the guys that work so incredibly hard for me. We accomplished what we wanted to as far as the championship is concerned. That pressure is off of us, but we definitely want to go out there and finish the season strong.”

Enders and her Elite team have made an amazing run in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. Enders has three victories and four final-round appearances in the five Countdown races, proof that championship athletes perform their best when under pressure.

She heads to Pomona on a two-race winning streak, too, having won in Dallas before clinching the title with the victory in Vegas.

“All this stuff is so storybook, so awesome,” Enders said. “I’m really blessed to be a part of a great team and great organization at Elite Motorsports. Our season’s not over yet. We get to go to Pomona and plan on winning that one, too. We’ll see how it goes.”

Enders’ two-year run at Elite Motorsports includes two championships, 15 race victories, and 12 No. 1 qualifiers.

“My career took a turn for the best when I joined Richard Freeman and Elite Motorsports,” Enders said. “It just goes to show that with the right people, anything is possible. Money and sponsorship doesn’t hurt, horsepower doesn’t hurt, but those things don’t win races, those things don’t win championships. It’s been proven over and over again because the wealthiest guys in the sport haven’t been able to get it done.

“We run on a very limited budget and we’ve been able to do it. It’s just the right group of people in the right places. We have great team chemistry, we’ve jelled so well, we work well together, we trust each other. Most importantly, we have fun. Having that much fun, I feel like it makes us even more successful on the racetrack. It has been a whirlwind to have been able to win (15) Pro Stock races in (two) years. It’s crazy. I had always hoped, but I never thought it would happen. Just goes to show that God’s timing is perfect.”

With championship in reach, Erica Enders snares No. 1 spot in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — First things first.

Erica Enders, the 2014 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and current points leader, grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot for the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, she can clinch her second consecutive championship.

Enders increased her points lead to 162 over the Pro Stock field by being quickest in all four rounds in Las Vegas. She needs to finish the race with a 151-point lead to wrap up the title.

“Tomorrow is going to take consistency,” Enders said. “I say it all the time: A to B, focus one round at a time. Every round is tough. There are no gimmes in Pro Stock. I know better than anybody that you can go from hero to zero really quickly.

“Las Vegas has been really great for me in the past, so I’m looking forward to continuing that trend tomorrow. We’re going to just do our best and see what happens. My goal is to not think about the championship, even though everyone keeps asking me about it. I want to win the race, and that is my first goal. Tomorrow is one round at a time.”

Drivers receive 20 points for each round victory, so Enders needs to match or exceed the performance of her closest competitors in the points race, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Drew Skillman, Allen Johnson, etc.

Otherwise, Enders would take a sizable lead to the final race of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 13-15 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif.

But after earning her sixth No. 1 of the season and 18th of her career, Enders is focused on winning the race, too. She has won three national events in a row in Las Vegas, and counting the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, Enders has won 18 rounds in a row here.

That prowess continued into this weekend, as her track-record pass of 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph earned her the No. 1 spot. That run was Friday, but she was also quick in the two qualifying sessions Saturday.

“We did have some great runs today,” Enders said. “Today’s conditions were a little bit different than yesterday’s. It was obviously warmer, so the track was warmer. We made two really nice, consistent passes just getting ready for tomorrow. It is going to be the warmest of the three but not much warmer than today.

“I’m excited that we were able to make those four consistent passes and fine-tune some things. I am confident going into tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens.”

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