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Enders-Stevens crowned 2014 Pro Stock champion after NHRA Finals win

Erica Enders-Stevens hoists NHRA Championship trophy

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) — Taking fate into her own hands, Erica Enders-Stevens not only captured her sixth win of the season at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals but also the title of 2014 NHRA Pro Stock World Champion.

Surpassing Larry Morgan and Rodger Brogdon in the first two rounds of competition, Enders-Stevens’ Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro continued to step up round after round. But after both her and Jonathan Gray had perfect .000 lights in the semifinals, it was obvious Enders-Stevens wasn’t going down without a fight, advancing to the final round with a 6.494-second pass.

With the championship on the line during the final-round matchup against Jason Line, Enders-Stevens sealed the deal. Both drivers turned on the red bulb, implementing the “first or worst” rule, and Enders-Stevens’ -.002 reaction time beat out Line’s -.011 and secured her first season title.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Enders-Stevens said, “and that’s perfect proof that with the right group of people anything is possible and that’s all through God. I’ve got the right group, a group that stands behind me, and we have a blast together. That’s what it’s all about. Win, lose, or draw we love each other and that’s all that matters.”

Enders-Stevens beats Jason Line for 2014 Pro Stock Championship

Already with numerous accomplishments in the record books, Enders-Stevens joins Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey on an elite list of female NHRA champions.

“They are heroes of mine,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m so thankful for their help and support in this venture. It means a lot to me to have my name on a list with Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey. They’re incredible racers and incredible women.

“What a blessing; this is awesome.”

Starting the dream season with a fresh start at Elite Motorsports, Enders-Stevens always knew that they were capable of going all the way. Her win in Pomona proved that.

“I definitely grew a lot,” Enders-Stevens said. “I learned a lot, I became better, and so did our team. I have them to thank for that. It was a long, hard year. I had to sit out two races and we were still able to accomplish this dream, and it says a lot of what we’re capable of. The sky is the limit.

“We’ve got a lot of great things happening for 2015, and I just couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”

Pro Stock points leader Enders-Stevens ready to make history in Pomona

Erica Enders-Stevens during Friday qualifying at Pomona

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 15) — A fast Royal Purple Chevrolet race car, a solid Elite Motorsports team, confidence in herself, and legions of fans have Erica Enders-Stevens poised to make history.

On Saturday Enders-Stevens qualified No. 3 for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway, and she carries a 19-point lead in the Pro Stock points standings into final eliminations at the season finale.

“What a blessing to be in the position that we’re in,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s going to come down to the wire, and it’s going to be a dogfight. I’ve got a good feeling and I’m happy.”

Enders-Stevens was terrific throughout the four qualifying sessions with a best pass of 6.526 seconds at 211.99 mph. She was quickest in two of the sessions and second-quickest in the other two as she chases the first Pro Stock championship of her career.

“The car’s great and it’s been good every run,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re nit-picking thousandths of a second here and there and we’re happy. We’ve got a very consistent race car, and that’s what it takes on Sundays to win.

“We’ll go out there and do our best tomorrow, let the clutch pedal out on time, shift the car well, go A to B, and it could be a very good day. I feel confident and I’m excited.”

Enders-Stevens and Jason Line, who is in second place in the points standings, are on opposite sides of the ladder, so the championship could go down to the final round.

Should Enders-Stevens hang on to the championship lead, she would join Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey as the only female world champions in NHRA history and would become the first female world champ in Pro Stock.

She’s already had a stellar season, with five victories in six final-round appearances and six No. 1 qualifiers. She stormed back to the points lead in Las Vegas two weeks ago with a win from the No. 1 qualifying spot.

This weekend, her pit area has been swarmed with race fans trying to get a glimpse of the would-be champion.

“The fans have been incredible,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve spent hours at the back of the pit signing autographs and talking to people. I feel like I’ve got a lot of people pulling for us, which is really awesome. It shows, too, when we tow back to our pit in front of the grandstands. They’re hooting and hollering.

“I’ve been trying to take it all in because I know one day it will all disappear. I’m having the time of my life right now.”

Enders-Stevens begins her Sunday against No. 13 qualifier Larry Morgan, who made a top pass of 6.583 seconds at 209.30 mph.

Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

With the Pro Stock title in sight, Enders-Stevens is focused on having fun

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) — Even with the NHRA Pro Stock championship on the line during this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the No. 1 goal for Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team is to have fun.

That has been the goal since Enders-Stevens joined the team this year, and it has paid off with five victories and the points lead heading into the season finale. And there’s no reason to change now.

“It’s such an awesome environment to work in, and (team owner) Richard Freeman is just an awesome guy to work for,” Enders-Stevens said. “He’s great at managing people, making everyone feel important, and at communication. We have team meetings, and we all always just stay on the same page. I think that’s how you make any relationship work, whether it be business or marriage or whatever.

“He’s done a really great job with that, and he’s made it very evident that if we’re not having fun, we’re not going to do it. We have a blast together.”

Winning helps that attitude, of course, but Enders-Stevens and her team are always smiling and joking no matter what. That positive outlook has helped through some trying times this season and enabled Enders-Stevens to bounce back from losing the points lead to regain it at the most recent race in Las Vegas.

Enders-Stevens is 17 points ahead of second-place Jason Line heading into Pomona after she beat Line in the Vegas semifinal before winning the race.

“People are the most important part of the puzzle, and Richard has certainly organized an elite group of people,” Enders-Stevens said. “Rick and Rickie Jones as my crew chiefs and all of the guys that work on my car, it’s just awesome, and we do have a blast whether we’re out to eat or at the racetrack winning and losing together. It’s always a fun time.”

But they take racing seriously, too, as shown by their terrific season to date. She has led the points standings for 13 of the 23 events so far in 2014, even after skipping two Western Swing races to prepare for the end of the year. In addition to the five wins, Enders-Stevens has raced to one other final round and four semifinal appearances.

Plus, she has scored six No. 1 qualifiers, including the last three in a row. In 18 of her 21 races this year, she has qualified in the top three 18 times.

All those numbers could add up to Enders-Stevens becoming the first female champion in the history of Pro Stock.

“Yeah, it’s certainly a huge feat to accomplish,” Enders-Stevens said. “I would have my name on a list with just Shirley Muldowney and Angelle (Sampey), and those are two of my heroes. To be able to have the opportunity to get it done is awesome in itself.

“At the same time I think any female racer will tell you that we just want to be looked at as a driver. The car doesn’t know the difference in gender, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me, but at the end of the day I guess it would be very awesome to be able to make history and just show any other females that maybe even had a little bit of doubt that they weren’t capable or whatever that I’m a perfect example of a normal kid — through hard work and certainly surrounding myself with the right people and having such a solid support group — that anything is possible, and I hope that’s the message that comes across to them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry qualifying and elimination action.

Title push continues with Enders-Stevens locking up No. 1 spot in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1) — The Pro Stock championship charge of drag racing superstar Erica Enders-Stevens continued Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the 31-year-old securing her third straight and sixth overall No. 1 qualifying effort of the 2014 season.

Enders, who entered then weekend 35 points behind class leader Jason Line, managed to make up eight markers in qualifying, closing the gap to 27 points, but the Texan knows the real damage can be done in eliminations, where each round is worth 20 points.

“There was still some left in that last run that ended up putting us on the pole,” Enders said. “We’ve got to piece it together even better tomorrow, be consistent, and go A to B every run. If I let the clutch out on time, we can go to the winner’s circle with this Elite Motorsports Camaro. We’ve all got to do our jobs and not get ahead of ourselves.”

Aside from her four victories, 13 races atop the points standings, and six No. 1 qualifying efforts, Enders-Stevens has qualified in the top three another 12 times.

“That’s pretty neat,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve had six No. 1s and eight No. 2s, and several of those second-place efforts we just barely missed being on top. It’s definitely the most No. 1s in one season in my career by far. It just goes to show what this team is capable of.

“Being able to get the top spot in the fashion we did it today was pretty exciting because all the cars were hauling out there. I was optimistic going into the last round. Analyzing the data from the three previous runs, we hadn’t killed it yet. That was really encouraging, so we were able to get after it on that last run.”

For her efforts, Enders-Stevens will open race day against first-timer Jeff Isbell, who ran a best of 6.829 seconds at 204.29 mph. Should they both advance through the earlier rounds, she could face Line in the semifinals.

“I’m really excited and really proud of my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “All of this is so monumental to me. This is 10 years that we’ve worked to get to this point and it’s all coming together. Regardless of how the year ends, I’m just really proud of my team.”

Eliminations for the Pro Stock class will begin at noon. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Leading lady Enders-Stevens continues Vegas reign

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 31) – Looking to grab her third No. 1 qualifier in a row and sixth of the season, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens ended Friday’s first two qualifying sessions for the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on top of the leaderboard.

Laying down a fast time of 6.647 seconds at 208.01 mph, the Royal Purple Camaro continues to earn to earn those crucial qualifying bonus points.

“I’m really proud of my entire Elite Motorsports team,” Enders-Stevens said. “Those baby points are going to matter. They’re very significant, especially with as tight as Jason (Line), Dave (Connolly) and myself are right now. Glad to end the day with four.

“We were really conservative the first session. If you look at our 60-foor time, we were ninth and then went straight to the top of the page. We’ll throw something at it tomorrow and see what happens.”

Entering the Las Vegas race second in points, 35 outof the lead, Enders-Stevens wants to gain as many of those extra points as possible when she can. However, Enders-Stevens is more focused on having fun the remainder of the season and letting the chips fall where they may.

“I try to not focus on what’s out there,” Enders-Stevens said. “We all know what’s at stake, and of course I want that more than anything – and so does my team. But coming here, three weeks out of the car is a significant time. I feel like it’s been a year, but I’m glad to be back in the race car.

“The mindset is the same as any other race, the same as it was when we walked in the gate here in the spring race. It’s take it one round at a time and do the best we can.

“We had a team meeting, and my team owner, Richard (Freeman) said, ‘We’re going to stick to our main game plan as when we started this year. That’s to have fun. No stress, no drama.’ We’ve been able to do that all year long, and there are two races left, and we’re going to continue it.”

After sweeping the Las Vegas race weekend earlier in the year with both a Sunday win and the K&N Horsepower Challenge win, Enders-Stevens is glad to be picking back up where she left off last.

“I’m excited about the weekend,” Enders-Stevens. “I felt good when we walked in the gate here today, and it’s a really exciting time for us all. This is the first time any of us have been in this position. We’re going to try to execute the best we can and let God do the rest.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. PT, Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Enders-Stevens hoping for another dream weekend in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — No Pro Stock driver accomplished more at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March than Elite Motorsports’ Erica Enders-Stevens, but she is far from satisfied with her 2014 success in Vegas as she and her team prepare for this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals.

Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge race in Las Vegas in March and then doubled up when she went to the winner’s circle in the regular national event.

“I always enjoy racing in Vegas,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s one of my favorite tracks to run at. We had a lot of fun there in the spring and a lot of success, being able to win the K&N Challenge and then double up and win the race on Sunday. That was definitely an exciting showing at The Strip, so I can’t wait to go back.”

Another good showing in Vegas would help Enders-Stevens continue to move up the ladder in the Pro Stock standings. With two races left in the Countdown to the Championship, she sits second, 35 points out of the lead. She has gained two spots in each of the last two races, where she has qualified No. 1 both times and reached the semifinals in each.

Enders-Stevens has four national event victories, five No. 1 qualifiers, and five final-round appearances in 20 races this season, and she also set the national records for elapsed time and speed in 2014.

Winning her first Pro Stock championship is the ultimate goal, but Enders-Stevens and her team are focused on doing the best they can in each round of qualifying and racing.

“Of course, it’s crossed my mind, as far as being the champion is concerned,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s every driver’s goal and it’s our team’s goal as well. We’re going to do everything that we can to get it done.

“Having said that, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. God’s already got a plan, so we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens, who last raced at Maple Grove Raceway three weeks ago, is fired up to get back to racing.

“We’re not preparing any different than any other race,” Enders-Stevens said. “The guys have been working really hard in the shop, trying to find more horsepower. We’re excited to get these next two races underway.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all qualifying and elimination action.

Enders-Stevens Powers into Second Place with Semifinal Showing in Reading

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) — A strong semifinal showing at Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals has thrust superstar racer Erica Enders-Stevens back into the championship picture with two races left in the drag racing season. Enders-Stevens, who led the Mello Yello points for 13 races during the regular season, is now just 35 points behind Jason Line, who exited in the quarterfinals.

“I have such an awesome team,” Enders-Stevens said. “They gave me a great race car all weekend, from qualifying No. 1 to going to the semifinals today. I wanted to give them more — I wanted to get to the finals and win — but to close the gap on Jason to less than two rounds is really exciting.

“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and we’re ready for it. Having the quickest car here has given us so much confidence. Now we’ve got a couple weeks off to get back to the shop and regroup. The last two races will be incredible.”

After coming within two-thousandths of a second of resetting her own national record in qualifying, Enders-Stevens remained red-hot on race day, beating Frank Gugliotta with a 6.469 at 213.30 mph to Gugliotta’s 6.579 at 209.79 mph. She then downed Vieri Gaines with a 6.484 at 213.60 mph to Gaines’ 6.507 at 212.69 mph.

It wasn’t until the semifinals against good friend and past series champion Allen Johnson that Enders-Stevens was quieted, slowing to a 6.759 at 210.87 mph to Johnson’s 6.499 at 212.69 mph.

“The car just shook the tires really hard down low,” she said. “I pedaled it and got back on the gas as fast as possible, but when you lose all of that early momentum there’s not much you can do. I stayed after it just in case Allen had trouble but I saw him all the way down the track. That round was a bummer but we’re still smiling over here.”

The NHRA tour takes a two-week break before resuming action with the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We were undefeated in the spring race in Vegas, so we’ll try to keep that streak alive,” Enders-Stevens said. “We won both the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the regular national event, so we have nothing but good thoughts going through our heads.

“It’ll be good to get home, catch up on our rest, and have time to service the car and the motors. Having four races in a row was pretty taxing for everyone. Even so, we’ve put ourselves in an incredible position to challenge for the title. I’ve dreamt of this my whole life and it’s so cool to be living in the moment right now.”

Near-Record Run Puts Enders-Stevens on Top of Reading’s Pro Stock Heap

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 4) — Erica Enders-Stevens came within two thousandths of a second of her own NHRA national record Saturday night, running a lightning-quick 6.465-second, 213.16-mph quarter-mile pass down historic Maple Grove Raceway to earn her fifth low qualifier award of the 2014 season.

The stunning performance comes at a pivotal time for Enders-Stevens as she continues to chase down current points leader Jason Line with just three national events left on the schedule.

“Every point matters in this championship countdown and if we can run just a little bit quicker tomorrow and reset the national record one more time than we’d get 20 bonus points, which would be huge,” said Enders-Stevens, who held the points lead for a class-leading 13 races this year. “No matter what, we gained some ground with all the qualifying bonus points we’ve already picked up so we’re already pretty happy.

“It got cooler overnight and Rick and Rickie (Jones, father/son co-crew chiefs) did an awesome job of reading the conditions and getting after the track in Q4. We missed the record by two thou but it was a pretty big thrill any way. Normally Rickie gets on the radio and tells me what I’ve run after I throw the ‘chutes but this time he was just screaming so I knew we’d made a good pass. I starting screaming myself.”

Enders-Stevens entered this event 67 points, or about three rounds of action, behind Line. Her Elite Motorsports Camaro was the quickest car in three of the four qualifying sessions and second quickest in the other, yielding her 11 bonus points. Line earned just one bonus point during qualifying.

“We’re less than three rounds behind him now and with a national record pending we could be even closer,” Enders-Stevens said. “My team owner (Richard Freeman) reminded me right after the run that we already have the back-up run in place to set a national record so now all we have to do is go out there and do it.

“Of course that’s easier said than done and if we can run the record than a few other cars can as well so we won’t count any points until we have them. The bottom line is we need to go rounds tomorrow and try to win. If we can do that and set the record as well then we could have a big day. I do know that I’m on the best team with the best crew in the sport. I’m a lucky girl and I’m loving every minute of this season.”

Stevens has four victories this year in five final-round showings. She’ll begin her quest for another Wally trophy opposite No. 16 qualifier Frank Gugliotta, who topped out at 6.599 at 208.68 mph. Eliminations begin at noon with action being carried on ESPN2.

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