Archive for the Elite Motorsports Category

Elite Motorsports pro Erica Enders has first chance at NHRA trophy in 32 races

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Atlanta 2017

COMMERCE, GA — It may be too early to say Erica Enders is completely back to the championship form that carried her to back-to-back world titles in 2014 and 2015, but she certainly seems to be trending in the right direction. That seems to be the general sentiment after her impressive runner-up finish Sunday at the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, which was highlighted by a pair of Enders’ trademark holeshot wins.

“It should have been three holeshot wins today but yes, this race was definitely a confidence booster,” Enders said. “I wish we were holding the Wally right now but there are a lot races left this year and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for us. The coolest part is everyone knows we’re back and we’re back to being a force to be reckoned with again.”

Enders scored her first big holeshot victory in the quarterfinals when she dusted three-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line at the starting line with a humongous .048 seconds headstart. That early advantage translated to an easy 6.578-second, 210.77-mph win in front of Line’s quicker-but-losing 6.563 at 210.93 mph.

It was more of the same in the semifinals against rookie Tanner Gray with Enders leaving the line with a near-perfect .002-second light to Gray’s decent .020-second reaction time. Just as it was against Line, Enders slower lap of 6.611 at 210.77 mph was enough to earn a holeshot win over Gray and his 6.600 at 210.83 mph.

The second most prolific female winner in NHRA history tried to pull off the trifecta in the finale, leaving .010 seconds ahead of Bo Butner, but on this day he simply had too much muscle under the hood, driving by Enders and taking the win by. 014 seconds, his 6.569 at 211.26 mph in front of her 6.593 at 210.97 mph.

“I’m proud of my team and the performance we’ve found lately,” Enders said. “Jake Harrison and Nick Ferri, who build our motors, along with all of the guys back at Elite Performance, have been working around the clock and the scoreboards are finally indicating the hard work that goes on to make us look good. I’m proud of them.

“I’m really glad I did my job, especially after red-lighting in Houston and getting timed out in Charlotte — two moments I would like to forget. I’m a better driver than what I’ve shown the last two weeks. Getting a little bit of redemption here, even if it was just for myself, is what I needed.”

Enders racked up 15 of her 21 career victories during her championship run but remarkably this was her first chance at a “Wally” trophy since the fall race in Las Vegas at the end of 2015, a span of 32 national events.

“We nearly didn’t get a chance at the trophy,” Enders said. “I went to fire up this morning and just hitting the starter button I could tell something was wrong. We ended up having to pull that engine out and replace it and we hurried up for first round. Thankfully Alan Prusiensky went red against me because we hurt that motor as well and I barely limped it to the finish line.

“We had to make another engine swap for Round 2, which was a huge round against Jason Line, and we were able to get the win there. And then go on to beat one of our rivals Tanner Gray in the semifinals, that was definitely an exciting couple of rounds for everyone here at Elite Motorsports and Transportation Impact. I’m proud, I’m excited and I cannot wait for Topeka.

“Lastly, happy birthday to Sheila Holt from my oldest sponsor, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants back in Texas. Also, get better soon!”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew will enjoy a week off for Mother’s Day before resuming action May 19-21 with the 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka.

Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders wants Atlanta trophy for her collection

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock 2017 Atlanta

COMMERCE, GA — Two-time world champion Erica Enders’ 21 national event trophies places her second on the all-time list of female professional drag racers, but the Houston, Texas, native has yet to score one at Atlanta Dragway, something she’d love to change Sunday at the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

“Atlanta is one on the to-do list for sure,” Enders said. “We’ll get there. Our performances across the board have been trending up all year and if we’d been able to make four runs here instead of two we’d have shown a little better. No matter what, we’re in the top half of the field and we’re ready to battle.

“We’ve had a lot of different winners in the class this year and that shows the parity we deal with every week. Anyone that qualifies is capable of winning and if you’re not 100-percent on your game, you can get beat in a hurry. After getting timed out last week in Charlotte, I will definitely plan to get some redemption tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the Pro Stock class was shortened to Saturday’s two runs, with Friday’s rainstorms wiping out the first two sessions on the schedule. Even so, Enders was a picture of consistency, opening with a 6.614 at 209.10 mph before dipping to a 6.603 at 210.21 mph in her powerful Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

The run was good enough for sixth place on the race day grid and sets up a first-round race with Alan Prusiensky, who topped out at 6.647 at 207.98 mph in qualifying 11th overall.

“We have a good car, although one that we changed quite a lot on between last weekend and now,” Enders said. “Like I said, we really wanted all four qualifying runs to make sure the changes we made are showing up in the data. So far so good with the two runs we did get to make, but having two more runs would have given us a chance to move even higher on the qualifying ladder.

“Last week me and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate) qualified 1-2 on the ladder, which really got everyone’s attention. When we lost Friday, we played it a little safer today to make absolutely sure we got down the track both runs. I think everyone was cautious. Throw that out the window for tomorrow, though, we want to win.”

Pro Stock with eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports airs at 6 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

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.”

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