Archive for the Qualifying Category

Erica Enders enjoying twilight hours of her back-to-back championship run

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POMONA, CA — Back-to-back and reigning world champion Erica Enders has one more day to race her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart with the No. 1 sticker on the door and she plans on making the most of the occasion as the 2016 season draws to a close.

“We’re having fun,” Enders said. “I think all of us are relieved to a large extent and I know the feeling in the pit is that it’s nice to wrap up the final qualifying session of what has been an extremely long and challenging year.

“I’d say we made a couple of okay runs in qualifying, and I think there are some things we can improve on for tomorrow. That’s a glimmer of hope I suppose. All we can do is try our best like we have all year.”

Enders is no stranger to the victory circle at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, having visited it as recently as 2014 after her dramatic final-round win over Jason Line that clinched her first championship. It was history in the making as she became the first female to win a Pro Stock title and just the third woman ever to win a championship in any major form of motorsports.

“This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the tour,” Enders said. “It holds a lot of great memories and the fans have been wonderful in reminding me about 2014. They all remember every moment, just like I do. It’s great to relive those times.

“We’ll go into race day like we always go into race day, that’s with confidence and a consistent race car. I’ll do my best to drive through a couple of win lights tomorrow.”

This weekend, Enders is qualified 12th on the grid after running a best of 6.608 at 210.05 mph during qualifying. She’ll open sudden-death eliminations Sunday opposite fellow Texan Alex Laughlin, who topped out at 6.570 at 210.97 mph during time trials.

“Alex is a good friend and he’s really had a strong car, especially down the stretch this year,” Enders said. “I’ll get up on the wheel and try to steal one away and we’ll go from there.

“I’m excited for the off season and the things we have in store for 2017. We definitely want the No. 1 designation back and to start winning races again. We have a great plan in place and I’m already wishing it was time for the Winternationals. Well, it maybe nice to have a little break to catch up on sleep first.”

Erica Enders would love to win Vegas race for fifth time in her career

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Enjoying a relaxed weekend at the racetrack where she’s had the most success in her brilliant career, back-to-back and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew have put together one of their better qualifying efforts of the season.

The 21-time national event winner coaxed a steady 6.718 at 204.42 mph out of her Elite Performance/Mopar Dodge Dart, placing her ninth in the elimination field of the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. The team has qualified higher than ninth on just four occasions this season.

“We definitely made some decent runs for us this weekend,” Enders said. “It’s exciting to be back at one of my favorite race tracks on the tour. We’ve had a lot of past success here and I’m hopeful that this track produces that same success for us tomorrow.

“Everyone knows we’re at a performance disadvantage right now but it’s not so much that it can’t be made up with my left (clutch) foot so we are going to go to work tomorrow and see what happens. I’m definitely excited to race.”

Enders will race Chris McGaha in Round 1. He posted a last-gasp 6.712 at 204.82 mph in the final qualifying session to move into eighth place on the grid.

“We just have to go out there and have a consistent race car that goes A to B,” Enders said. “I’ve gotta let the clutch pedal out better than I’ve ever let it out before and see if we can send a couple of these guy packing.”

Getting into the spirit of Halloween weekend, the entire Elite Motorsports operation, along with many other teams, dressed in costumes for today’s sessions.

“We’ve had a really fun weekend with everyone that’s associated with Elite,” she said. “My guys, Jeg Coughlin’s guys, Vincent Nobile’s team, and Shane Tucker’s team, everybody under the Elite Performance banner, dressed up like weirdo bodybuilders. We’re just a bunch of goofballs having a good time this weekend.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the action live from 4-7 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Texas native Erica Enders will need perfection to defend Dallas title

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DALLAS, TX — Reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders will have to be perfect to defend the title of the annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals after an off-pace qualifying effort that left her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart in the 15th spot on the elimination ladder.

Enders powered to a convincing victory at this event one year ago that all but clinched her second straight world title. It was one of nine wins she recorded in a record-breaking year. The Spring, Texas native hasn’t been as fortunate this season, and she finds herself still searching for her first win of 2016.

“Three races left on the schedule so that’s three chances to win,” Enders said. “Realistically, it’ll be tough and we didn’t do ourselves any favors here during qualifying but that won’t stop us from giving our all tomorrow. We’ve seen crazier things happen in the past.

“We have three cars racing out of Elite Motorsports between myself, Jeg (Coughlin) and Vincent (Nobile). Vincent is still very much in the mix for the championship this year so at our last team meeting Jeg and I told him we’d do all we could to help him get there. The best thing we can do is knock off those cars he’s battling, so we’ll give it hell.”

Friday qualifying ended with Enders posting a 6.652 at 207.75 mph, but that number wasn’t good enough to lock up a spot in the top 12 so the team had to start over Saturday. In her first effort Saturday she was forced to shut off well before the finish line and she drifted to a 9.776 at 94.49 mph.

Later, she came back in the final session and ran a 6.748 at 184.45 mph, the 15th best time of the day. Her first match-up will come against championship hopeful Greg Anderson, who topped out at 6.579 at 210.11 mph.

“Greg and Jason (Line, Anderson’s teammate) have been 1-2 all year between the two of them so right off the start we have a chance to take out a top car,” Enders said. “Obviously they have us covered this weekend but you never know what will happen on race day.

“I’m so happy to be back in Texas. I love my state and I feel so great whenever I’m here breathing Texas air.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast all of the elimination action live from 2-5 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Erica Enders wanted another chance at Reading track, but settles for mid-pack slot

Erica Enders | Dodge NHRA Nationals 2016

READING, PA — In between what has seemed to be a never-ending smattering of rain at Maple Grove Raceway, there were moments of really good drag racing, and reigning world champion Erica Enders is convinced she could have made a big move if she was given another chance. But in the end, she only got one shot in her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart and had to settle for the No. 9 spot on the qualifying grid.

“Dang it, we wanted another run,” Enders said. “It got really good this afternoon, and if the moisture had just dried up a tiny bit we could have really flown down this track. I think we just reached a point where it cooled off and the dew point and ambient temperatures were almost the same, so conditions just wouldn’t allow the Safety Safari to get the surface dry enough.

“I’ll tell you what, though, tomorrow this place is going to be a mineshaft. Everyone is saying the rain is pretty much over for this area, so if it stays cool and the track has a chance to air out tonight and tomorrow morning, it will be awesome.”

In her one run down the track Enders ran a semi-conservative 6.643-second pass at 208.65 mph, placing her ninth in the Pro Stock field of the 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals.

“After missing all of yesterday and seeing so much on and off sprinkling today, we wanted to make sure we got down what was a pretty green racetrack safely and with a decent time,” she said. “That’s exactly what we did, and once we saw the data from that run we had a really good game plan for this afternoon if we got to make another pass.

“It has been quite a struggle this year, but we’re getting things together now and we have a decent baseline to work from. Both of our team cars have been inching up the performance scale and we’re closer to where we want to be.”

For her efforts, Enders will open race day against Bo Butner, who posted a pass of 6.604 seconds at 211.00 mph. Surprisingly, the two racers have not faced one another this year.

“Bo’s been strong all year, running with the KB Racing boys, so he’ll be a good test right out of the gate,” Enders said. “We’re all kind of going to play the guessing game to a certain extent tomorrow because there’s definitely been more moisture on the track since we got to run earlier, so it’ll be scraped and dried and probably totally different tomorrow.

“I’ll leave the heavy thinking up to my guys. I just need to concentrate on doing my job in the car and we should have a great chance.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the action live from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders rebounds to qualify No. 11 in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS, MO — There’s no quit in Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team.

Despite missing the race in Charlotte last week, the two-time Pro Stock champions battled back to qualify No. 11 for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on Saturday at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“They are amazing,” Enders said. “They work really hard. It’s frustrating and disheartening to see how hard they work and not have it translate to the scoreboard. At this point, this year is a letdown and we will just focus on getting our ducks in a row for 2017.

“It’s unfortunate to follow up back-to-back championships with the performance we have had this year, but you know, it goes in cycles and that’s part of it. This sport will humble you in a heartbeat, and I’ve learned that the hard way many times, but having said all of that, I’ve been through a lot worse than this, so we’ll be fine.”

Enders’ best lap this weekend was 6.663 seconds at 207.08 mph, and she made four decent
passes in qualifying here after a myriad of issues forced a DNQ in Charlotte last weekend.

“The struggle continues with our Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart, but all we can do is continue to pick away at it and work on it,” Enders said. “Hopefully we’ll turn a corner at some point, but until that happens, the results are the results.”

Enders will face No. 6 qualifier Jason Line in the first round Sunday. Line’s best run of the weekend was 6.611 seconds at 209.43 mph.

Enders is a two-time St. Louis winner who enjoys spending time with the Gateway fans.

“I always enjoy racing in St. Louis,” Enders said. “I have a lot of great memories here from the time I was racing Super Comp and Super Gas, so it’s definitely fun to come back here.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday, and will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. (All times listed in CT).

Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders fails to qualify for first playoff race

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders began her march to a second straight world title last year with a convincing victory at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. This year, she hit a season low, failing to qualify for the first time since the second Pomona (Calif.) race in 2010.

“That’s all the way back to when I drove for the late Jim Cunningham,” Enders said. “It’s no secret, this year has been a struggle for us. Someone just asked me how you bounce back from something like this and I said it’s with the best guys in the world, and that’s what I’ve got with (team owner) Richard Freeman and everyone at Elite Motorsports.

“You look at our crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, Brian Self, the engine guys Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, and everyone else in this pit and you just see champions. You find out what you’re really made of during the tough times and we’ve had plenty this year, but there’s no quit in this pit and we’ll carry on from here.”

Enders and company swapped manufacturers this year in debuting her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart and have struggled with the newly mandated Pro Stock rules calling for electronic fuel injection, shorter wheelie bars, and rpm limitations.

“It’s just growing pains,” Enders said. “We’ll get this thing figured out and we’ll be back on top.

“I’m proud of the sponsors that have stuck with us. We’ve got Mopar, Melling, Mark Stockseth, United Mechanical, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, CFE, and everyone from Transportation Impact, many of which made the drive up from Emerald Island (N.C.) for this race. I feel bad for them because we didn’t do better, but now we’ll be able to spend more time with all the employees while we root for our teammates.

“Adversity only makes you stronger. We’ll be alright.”

Enders won’t have long to wait for redemption as the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals takes place Sept. 23-25 at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders excited to defend her U.S. Nationals title

Erica Enders | Indy US Nationals 2016 | Pro Stock

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — A big part of two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ success is the ability to see the positive in everything and then make the most of that optimism.

Enders qualified her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge in the No. 14 qualifying spot for Monday eliminations at the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. That may be disheartening to some, but Enders is the defending U.S. Nationals champion and knows race day is a new day.

“This is our worst qualifying position in a long time but I’m OK with that,” Enders said. “I’m excited about tomorrow. I need to go to work because Shane (Gray’s) got a fast car, but I have the best guys in the whole world and I can drive. We’ll do our best.

“We’ve got to go to battle tomorrow, (teammate) Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) and I, to keep our positions. It’s definitely going to be interesting for sure because Alex (Laughlin) has the fastest race car he’s had all year.”

Enders, Coughlin, and Laughlin are battling for 10th place in the Pro Stock points standings. The top 10 will race in the Countdown to the Championship, which begins after the U.S. Nationals. Enders is in ninth, 13 points ahead of Coughlin and 45 ahead of Laughlin.

Elimination rounds are worth 30 points at the U.S. Nationals, instead of the usual 20, so a good day here will be crucial to making the points standings, but Enders has more than points on her mind.

“There are seven race days left, and it’s crazy to think that after the last two years, we’ve gone 17 events without a win,” Enders said. “But tomorrow’s a new day. It’s going to be hot with a tricky racetrack, and that’s where we have strived in the past.

“This year is completely different — different car, different motor, different everything — but one thing remains the same, and that’s my team and their determination and ability to perform under pressure.”

Enders raced two Dodge vehicles at the U.S. Nationals, taking a Challenger to the third round of Stock Eliminator.

“It was a fun opportunity to drive the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in Stock Eliminator at the U.S. Nationals,” Enders said. “Every run it got progressively better. I’m excited about it. I think I found my comfort level in the car, and I was able to have some good reaction times in eliminations. That last run, a couple of my Pro Stock tuners came over and helped, and that really changed the attitude of the car. It left better and didn’t blow the tires off.

“It was definitely fun and a team effort. I’m proud to drive for (car owner) Joe Welch and have gotten to know him and his wife better. It’s been a fun weekend so far, and now I’m looking forward to getting in my Mopar Performance Dodge Dart and racing for the Pro Stock trophy tomorrow.”

Eliminations begin at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air the early part of Monday’s eliminations live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live TV coverage will then shift to the main FOX Network with action from 1 to 4 p.m. (All times listed in ET).

With determination and passion, Pro Stock champ Erica Enders is ready to battle

Erica Enders | Brainerd 2016 NHRA Pro Stock | Mopar

BRAINERD, MN — When the calendar turns to Sunday, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team know anything can happen.

So though Enders qualified No. 11 for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway, she is confident in her and her team’s ability to make things happen.

“Sunday is a whole different day,” Enders said. “You just look at what happened in Seattle. It’s anybody’s day on race day, and you go out there with the mentality that we always do: It’s crunch time right now. We’ve got two race days left before the Countdown, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ll see what happens.”

Enders jumped into the top 10 in the Pro Stock points standings in Seattle, and she leads Alex Laughlin by nine points heading into Brainerd. Two races remain before the Countdown to the Championship begins, and only the top 10 get a chance to race for the 2016 title.

Enders’ best qualifying time in Brainerd was 6.660 seconds at 207.08 mph, but that was an improvement over Friday’s performance.

“Friday was definitely one of the worst days, for sure,” Enders said. “The fact that we were able to go from A to B today is pretty significant. It’s humbling that we’re this deep into the season and still are struggling as much as we are.

“But at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anybody else other than the group of people we have at Elite Motorsports.”

Drivability issues limited Enders on Friday, but her and her Elite team simply went to work.

“As frustrated as they are, they still are so determined and so passionate about what they do,” Enders said. “They put their heads down and get to work. It was a long night last night, especially for our EFI guys. They came back today with a whole new setup for these cars, and for (teammate) Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) and I to be able to have good drivability with these cars is pretty crucial. We haven’t been able to stage and do the best burnouts or backups smoothly.”

That did happen Saturday, when Enders made two somewhat conservative runs.

“Everything went as planned today, “Enders said. “That was a baseline run for us in Q2 because he and I had two bad runs yesterday. They were very conservative, get-down-the-racetrack runs. We have a lot of room to improve.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m. CT, Sunday.

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