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Enders-Stevens accepts deal to drive for Elite Motorsports

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HOUSTON (Nov. 21) – Popular drag racer Erica Enders-Stevens, the most prolific female driver in Pro Stock history, has joined Elite Motorsports for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Enders-Stevens will drive the team’s new Camaro, which will be tuned by the father/son duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, with in-house horsepower crafted by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

“I’m really excited to start this next chapter of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s hard to believe that 2014 will be my 10th year in Pro Stock but it’s true. We want to make it our best year yet, and we’re all going to be working very hard towards that goal.

“The last three years we’ve been in contention for the championship very late in the season, and we expect to be there again with Elite Motorsports. Rickie just won the NHRA Finals, so it’s obvious they have all the pieces in place to be successful.

“I’m sad to leave Victor Cagnazzi. We have worked together for the majority of my Pro Stock career, and I will always be appreciative of Victor and his wife Brita. I certainly value our relationship. The deal Richard (Freeman, team owner of Elite Motorsports) offered assures me a full-time ride in his top car, so at this point in my career I thought it was the best move for me to make.”

Enders-Stevens has fought hard to earn her place in the drag racing world during her nine seasons in the factory hot rod class. Despite running partial schedules at times, she has successfully qualified for 102 national events, won six Wallys in 17 final-round appearances, and been the No. 1 qualifier on six occasions. All of those marks represent records for female competitors in the category.

Following a successful Jr. Dragster and Sportsman career, Enders-Stevens made an immediate impact in the Pro ranks due in large part to her immense popularity, which was a result of the Disney Channel movie Right on Track, chronicling her and her sister Courtney’s time racing in Jr. Dragster. For the first time ever, young girls were dragging their fathers into the Pro Stock pits to meet their on-screen hero in person.

And Enders-Stevens didn’t disappoint on the track, racing to the final round in Chicago during her rookie campaign with Victor Cagnazzi Racing. She later collaborated with her father Gregg Enders, purchasing a turnkey race operation from Don Schumacher Racing before moving to Jim Cunningham Motorsports, where she attempted to resurrect the Ford brand in Pro Stock. She returned to Cagnazzi in 2011.

Her next three seasons were filled with career highlights, including her first victory, her first foray into the playoffs, and her first top-10 ranking. She has now finished in the top 10 in three consecutive seasons with a best of fourth place in 2012.

“I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far,” said Enders-Stevens, who finished sixth in 2013. “For many years I got to race with my dad, which was something we always dreamed about when I was younger and something I’d love to do again some day. I’ve also raced on my own and, although it hasn’t always been easy, I love this sport so much that I’ve fought to stay out here. The support I’ve received from my dad and the rest of my family, my longtime friends, and all of the wonderful fans out there have made it all worthwhile.

“This new start with Richard and Elite Motorsports is exciting for me. I hope I can repay their faith in me by being competitive and chasing after another championship.”

The team plans to test extensively in Florida prior to the season-opening NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Husky Liners launches Vegas Race Experience with Enders-Stevens

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WINFIELD, Kan. (Sept. 30) – Husky Liners is giving race fans a chance to enjoy a race weekend with Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team.

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The Husky Liners Vegas Race Experience with Erica Enders-Stevens sweepstakes rewards two lucky fans with a unique, behind-the-scenes trip to the NHRA race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 24-27.

The winner and a guest will receive:

    • All-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas, including airfare and hotel
    • $1,000 cash
    • VIP access to the Cagnazzi Racing pit area
    • Meet and greet with Enders-Stevens
    • Access to the starting line

“It’s a cool opportunity for a fan to be able to have an experience like we do every weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “They’ll get to fly in, get put up in a hotel, and then come hang out at the racetrack with us. They’ll have the best seats in the house.

“It’s really generous of Husky Liners to hold the sweepstakes for a fan. Hopefully we’ll get some added interest from people who typically wouldn’t come to a drag race.”

Enders-Stevens partnered with Husky Liners for the Countdown to the Championship, the six-race NHRA playoffs. She won at Gateway Motorsports Park on Sept. 29 to move up to fourth in the points standings, and the Las Vegas race is the penultimate event of the 2013 schedule.

“Teaming up with Erica Enders-Stevens and Cagnazzi Racing has been an honor, and we are excited to provide the chance for our customers to join us in a VIP experience at the track in Las Vegas,” said Bob Tyler, president of Winfield Consumer Products, Husky Liners. “It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

For more information and to enter, visit www.huskyliners.com/sweepstakes. The sweepstakes ends Oct. 16.

Enders-Stevens wins St. Louis, powers into title contention

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ST. LOUIS (Sept. 29) – Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens added another chapter to her memory book Sunday, winning the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in spectacular fashion with a holeshot victory over Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards.

“I love St. Louis,” said Enders-Stevens, who also won this race last year. “I’m glad to be back. It’s a good place for me.”

Enders-Stevens has raced at Gateway since 2001 but never won here as an amateur. But in 2012, Enders-Stevens finally broke through, beating eventual series champion Allen Johnson on a holeshot to secure her fourth victory of the season.

“This is the place where I signed my deal with Victor Cagnazzi in 2004 to start driving for him,” Enders-Stevens said. “Then we won last year. This track holds a lot of fond memories for me. Now here we are back in the winner’s circle. I love coming here, the fans are great and the facility is awesome.”

Enders-Stevens left on Edwards with a .021-second reaction time, and her pass of 6.540 seconds at 211.23 mph was enough to hold off Edwards’ charging 6.532-second run at 212.36 mph.

Sunday’s victory was her second of the season and sixth of her career, tying her with husband Richie Stevens. She’s also tied with Karen Stoffer and trails only Angelle Sampey and Shirley Muldowney as the female with the most NHRA victories.

Plus, Enders-Stevens moved up two spots to fourth in the Pro Stock standings, now trailing Edwards by just 60 points with three races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

“The championship would have been out of reach had we exited first or second round here,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have to perform well, and we can’t make any mistakes. There are three races left, and that’s 12 rounds of racing. We’re three rounds out of first, and we’ve got to beat these heavy hitters.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world in my guys, and that’s our mentality. This is our championship, and they’re going to have to take it from us. That’s the attitude we have to have. We have to remain positive and optimistic. I’m excited about it.”

Enders-Stevens, crew chiefs Dave Connolly and Tommy Utt and her Cagnazzi Racing team returned to the Pro Stock wars thanks to a partnership with Husky Liners. Company President/Founder Bob Tyler spoke with Enders-Stevens by phone not long after she celebrated in victory lane.

“I just talked to Mr. Tyler and he’s really pleased with what we’re doing,” Enders-Stevens said. “I couldn’t thank him enough. It was four days before Charlotte, the first race of the Countdown, and I thought we were going to be sitting at home watching these guys compete for the championship. That changed really quickly when Husky Liners jumped on with us, and now here we are.”

And she has no intention of slowing down.

“My guys have been really great,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have team meetings and strategize our race-day plans. We got together and agreed that we’re going to have fun. You never know when it’s your last race, and we came back swinging.”

Enders-Stevens started her day by beating Deric Kramer in the first round, as the race was over when Kramer left -.007 seconds too soon. Enders-Stevens’ pass of 6.544 seconds at 211.16 mph was quick enough to secure lane choice against Shane Gray in the second round.

There, she made a pass of 6.556 seconds at 211.06 mph to beat Gray, who slowed to a run of 28.128 seconds at 24.81 mph.

In the semifinals, Enders-Stevens got down the track with a 6.555-second pass at 210.87 mph, beating a sliding Rickie Jones, who went 14.094 seconds at 60.23 mph.

Then came Edwards, who had taken over the points lead by reaching the final. But Enders-Stevens has her eye on the points lead, too.

“We’ve got three races left, and we’re going to do our best and let God do the rest,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens, Keith Haney Racing make improvements in Rockingham

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 8) – RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil driver Erica Enders-Stevens dropped a first-round matchup Sunday against the Pro Mod No. 1 qualifier, but her Keith Haney Racing team made marked progress during ADRL’s Dragstock X at Rockingham Dragway.

Pro Mod cars are notoriously difficult to get a handle on, and with a new, lighter driver they become more recalcitrant. But Haney, Lethal Acceleration’s Brandon Pesz, and the team made the right adjustments to allow Enders-Stevens to get down the track on two consecutive runs, including Sunday’s pass in hot, slick conditions.

“We’re making progress,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been fighting the car for a few weeks, but we made a good run last night and then getting down a 135-degree racetrack today was a feat in itself. Of course we wanted to win, but we took a good swing at it.

“I’m proud of the team. We put our heads down and worked through it, and we won’t give up. It’s encouraging to improve like that.”

The team made an adjustment for Sunday’s hotter conditions, and Enders-Stevens made a clean pass of 4.161 seconds at 185.64 mph, but that wasn’t enough to overcome No. 1 qualifier Chris Rini’s pass of 3.954 at 189.26 mph.

Now, though, the team has something to build on for the ADRL season finale in Houston at Enders-Stevens’ home track.

“I look forward to maybe some more testing and then heading to Houston for the final ADRL race,” Enders-Stevens said. “Thanks to RacingJunk.com and Lucas Oil for helping us get here. I’m appreciative of Keith and all of his guys for the opportunity to drive their hot rod.”

Team owner Keith Haney, who failed to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations, was appreciative of Enders-Stevens and the attention the five-time NHRA Pro Stock winner brought to his team and sponsors.

“The crowd loved her,” Haney said. “She sold out all of her hats and we sold out of T-shirts. ADRL and Kenny Nowling made us feel so welcome. She was on the cover of the local paper here, which was pretty cool.

“We need to step back and regroup with my car and look at some of the things we’re doing. We need to get better.”

Enders-Stevens in at No. 16 after crazy day for Keith Haney Racing

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 7) – Keith Haney Racing experienced the gamut of emotions during qualifying for ADRL’s Dragstock X on Saturday at Rockingham Dragway.

For starters, team owner Keith Haney failed to qualify for the race in his RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil Camaro, but Haney then watched as his other car, the RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil Camaro driven by Erica Enders-Stevens, bumped its way into the top 16 in the final qualifying session.

Enders-Stevens’ spot wasn’t secure, though, and she was knocked out of the field soon after her run. However, Tim Savell, one of the two drivers who moved her out of the top 16, crashed in his Q3 pass. Savell will be unable to make the call for Sunday’s eliminations, putting Enders-Stevens in the field at No. 16.

“I was excited that we could get the car from point A to point B,” Enders-Stevens said of her Q3 pass, which was 4.071 seconds at 187.08 mph. “So far that’s my quickest run in the car: 187 mph is pretty dang good in an eighth of a mile. I’m really excited for the team.”

But then her heart sank when two cars went quicker and then sunk even more when Savell hit the wall after his pass.

“All the excitement went out the window when Tim crashed because we wanted to make sure he was all right,” Enders-Stevens said. “Being a new driver in Pro Mod, that’s not exactly something I like to see: a veteran crashing. It goes to show what a challenge these cars are to handle.

“But at the end of the day, we’re all safe and we get to race on Sunday. That’s what’s important for our team.”

Haney, unfortunately, was unable to get his Camaro down the track in Saturday’s three qualifying sessions, as he was struck by different issues in each run,

“It was a tough day for both of us but it was probably tougher for me,” said Haney, who failed to qualify for the first time this season. “The first one we shook, and the second one we blew the tires off. We had a mistake by the driver, but we blew the tires right off the hit, so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been dead on my game. Then the last pass we had a team malfunction, and I sounded like a popcorn machine going down the racetrack because I didn’t have enough nitrous.”

After Haney disappointingly crawled out of his car, he watched for Enders-Stevens’ run, which was a solid pass.

“I’m jumping up and down and Rickie Smith goes, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Haney said. “I said, ‘She went down the racetrack.’ I saw the chutes come out and said, ‘Oh, yeah! I don’t know what she ran but yeah!’

“I’m jumping up and down, don’t know what the heck to do. I’m ticked off because I’m not in, but I’m happier than hell and hoping she’s in.”

Enders-Stevens, too, was happy with the run but hopes to improve on Sunday against No. 1 qualifier Chris Rini, whose best lap was 3.876 seconds at 190.59 mph.

“We got back to our baseline with this car,” Enders-Stevens said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to tune from there for tomorrow. There’s no reason why we can’t run better. That Q3 run felt really soft. They can definitely hop it up a little bit and hopefully tomorrow is a good day. We have to face the No. 1 qualifier, but I’ve seen stranger things happen on Sunday. We’ll go in with a positive outlook and see what we can do.”

Enders-Stevens will race for NHRA title with new sponsor Husky Liners

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WINFIELD, Kan. (Sept. 6) – One of the most popular drag racers on the NHRA tour, Erica Enders-Stevens, will run for the 2013 championship with new title sponsorship from Husky Liners.

Enders-Stevens successfully qualified for the Countdown to the Championship two races ago in Brainerd, Minn., but was facing the prospect of watching the six-race playoffs from the sidelines until team owner Victor Cagnazzi struck an eleventh-hour deal with Husky Liners founder Bob Tyler.

“This is very exciting for us,” Tyler said. “There’s not a lot of things you can do that can make an instant impact on your sales, but we know that vehicle sales are on the upswing and this is the time of year that historically we do pretty well. To have Erica and Cagnazzi Racing promoting our line of Made In America products now is just an unbelievable opportunity for us.”

Cagnazzi and Tyler got together at the recently completed U.S. Nationals in Indy when the two COPO Camaros they own met in the final of the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown with drivers Dave Connolly and Todd Patterson going head-to-head. It was the second year in a row the two drivers met in the money round.

“We got to talking about Erica and I told Victor I felt she’s someone that should be out there,” Tyler said. “She’s so good for the sport. Of course, we’re always interested in getting more exposure for Husky Liners, so after a few texts back and forth we struck this deal. I think it’s going to be great. I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

Enders-Stevens certainly has proven herself a worthy title contender. She qualified for the Countdown despite missing six of the 18 regular-season races due to funding issues, winning her fifth career title during the Phoenix stop and taking runner-up honors in Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Bristol, Tenn.

“I can’t believe how fortunate we are that Mr. Tyler and his company have signed on to support us,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s pretty crazy because I’m a Texas girl and in high school I had a 4×4 pickup truck that had floor mats and mud flaps from Husky Liners. Their stuff is awesome. I know from first-hand experience.

“The guys are super pumped. This has given us new life, for sure. I think everyone in the class knows what we’re capable of doing and at the same time we know what it takes to compete at this level. We all kind of feel like we need to make a statement, and winning some races and contending for the championship would say a lot about us. We went to the final in Charlotte last time through, and that’s the home track for Victor Cagnazzi Racing, so we hope to get off to a fast start. We’ll be ready.

“I encourage everyone that supports drag racing and my team to go to HuskyLiners.com and check out their products. And when they order something, tell them thanks for the support. Sponsors are so hard to get, and I want to make sure these guys get their money’s worth from us.”

The team will unveil their Husky Liners Chevrolet Camaro Sept. 13-15 at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at zMAX Dragway.

Keith Haney Racing, Enders-Stevens ready to rock at ADRL Dragstock X

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 5) – A recent test session has Keith Haney and Erica Enders-Stevens pumped about ADRL Dragstock X this weekend at Rockingham Dragway.

Haney and Enders-Stevens tested Keith Haney Racing’s Chevrolet Camaro at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park last week, with Enders-Stevens testing two days in the black Racing Junk/Lucas Oil Camaro and Haney one in the Lucas Oil Chevy.
Keith Haney and Erica Enders-Stevens will team to race at Dragstock X.

“After adjusting chassis and making corrections on a lot of the nitrous setup, we finally did really well,” Haney said. “We found a couple of issues that we had in the black car. We believe we’ve fixed the issues from Memphis (Tenn.), so we obviously found a lot of things in the test that will allow us to do real well at The Rock.”

Haney said wiring issues with Enders-Stevens’ car were causing some problems, but once those were discovered crew chief Brandon Pesz of Lethal Acceleration was able to put in a solid tune-up.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in the car,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re getting closer with the setup. It’s always a challenge with a new driver and having to move weight around to get the car optimized for the best performance, but the test session definitely helped.

“Having Racing Junk on the car is pretty cool, too. I know how hard it is to get sponsorship these days, so for them to come on board is a feather in Keith’s cap. We’re excited to run well for them this weekend.”

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Enders-Stevens made her first appearance in a nitrous race car in Memphis last month, though she lost in the first round. Expectations are higher this time around.

“I’m excited,” Enders-Stevens said. “I wasn’t nervous the first run of the test session. I feel a lot better in the car, and I’ve gotten acquainted with the car. As a driver that is always helpful when it comes time to go racing.”

Enders-Stevens certainly knows Rockingham Dragway, as she has tested there for years while racing in NHRA Pro Stock.

“That is our home test track for Pro Stock,” said Enders-Stevens, a five-time winner in the ultra-competitive NHRA class. “I’ve been testing there for the last 10 years, at least a few times a year. I’m very familiar with the track and the personnel. It was one of ADRL’s biggest events in the past, so I’m looking forward to a packed house this weekend.”

Enders-Stevens’ appearances in ADRL has drawn plenty of attention for the league, Keith Haney Racing, and its sponsors: Lucas Oil, Pro Torque, Racing Junk, Five Star Bodies, Monroe Guest Motorsports, Regional Hyundai, Suburban Chevrolet, Classic Chevrolet, Miami Chevrolet Buick GMC, Nissan of Muskogee, and Tulsa Raceway Park.

Haney also sends a special thank-you to Kenny Nowling and the ADRL for the support he and the league have given Haney and Enders-Stevens.

“She’s a lot more confident,” Haney said of Enders-Stevens. “We were real happy with the whole test session. We had Brandon Pesz from Lethal Acceleration just concentrating on her and I and it went real well. We’re real excited about it.

“We’re going in with a chance to win. That’s what matters.”

Haney and Enders-Stevens will test on Friday in Rockingham, with three rounds of qualifying on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday.

Pro Stock winner Enders-Stevens to drive for Keith Haney Racing in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 31) – Five-time NHRA Pro Stock winner Erica Enders-Stevens will drive for Keith Haney Racing in this weekend’s ADRL Memphis Drags IV at Memphis International Raceway. Led by team manager John Collins, Keith Haney Racing will compete in the Pro Modified class in Memphis, with Enders-Stevens and Haney driving Chevrolet Camaros.

“It’s good for Keith Haney Racing to have a racer of Erica’s caliber sitting in the seat of one of the cars,” Haney said. “It’s big for me and big for her. She stays in front of the public eye with her stature and her reputation, and she gets to deliver to her fans and potential sponsors.

“My team couldn’t be more excited, and it’s a perfect fit for what we’re doing.”

Haney has ties to NHRA Pro Stock racing through fellow Oklahoman Mike Edwards, and several Pro Stock teams test at Tulsa Raceway Park, co-owned by Haney and Todd Martin.

Enders-Stevens, who won the NHRA Pro Stock race in Phoenix earlier this year, has been sidelined because of a lack of funding for the Cagnazzi Racing team, so when Haney asked if she could drive for him in Memphis, she jumped at the chance.

“He sent me an text telling me I could drive his Pro Mod car in Memphis if I wanted to,” Enders-Stevens said. “I wrote him back with one word, ‘Seriously?’ ”

Haney was serious, and after the two talked and Enders-Stevens got approval from Pro Stock car owner Victor Cagnazzi, the deal was done.

“It’s a competitive car, and Keith has a first-class operation,” Enders-Stevens said. “I remember being at ADRL races last year when Richie (Stevens, husband) was driving Extreme Pro Stock and just admiring how awesome his cars looked. Those two Camaros he has are really nice cars.

“I’m appreciative to Keith for the opportunity, and I’m excited to see what the weekend holds.”

Haney, a driver/owner in ADRL and X-DRL, was looking for a driver since regular shoe Monroe Guest had shoulder surgery. When he first considered Enders-Stevens, he called Lethal Acceleration co-owner Brandon Pesz, who tunes Haney’s race cars.

“She’s good on the Tree and she can drive a race car,” Haney said. “Brandon has known her since she was little, and he’s from Texas. I called him first and said, ‘Hey, if I offer Erica a ride in the car, what do you think?’ He said, ‘Get her in it. She can wheel any type of race car.’

“It’s a one-race deal, and I’m sure she’ll be back in a Pro Stock car very soon, but for now Keith Haney Racing is fortunate enough to have a five-time national event winner wheeling one of its Camaros.”

Enders-Stevens is ready for the challenge, too.

“I’ve never driven a Pro Mod car, never driven a nitrous car,” Enders-Stevens said. “It will definitely be a learning experience, and I’m sure the learning curve is significant, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

“I’m going into it with an open mind. I give speeches to kids about following their dreams, jumping on every opportunity possible and not letting fear stand in the way of anything they do. I’m taking my own advice in this instance. I’m a professional race car driver, and I’ll do the best I can. We’ll see what happens.”

Haney has the backing of Lucas Oil, a longtime supporter of his race team, as the two companies have worked together for many years. Haney uses Lucas Oil products in his race cars, and the company co-owned by Forrest and Charlotte Lucas has been a big proponent of Pro Mod racing.

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