Archive for the Qualifying Category

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to make noise in rare bottom-half start


SONOMA, CA — With her Elite Motorsports team making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, It would be easy to blame a relatively poor qualifying performance for Erica Enders at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend on their lack of notes for the track, but Enders and her team — the defending NHRA Pro Stock World Champions — won’t make any excuses.

“We certainly don’t have data from out here,” said Enders, who qualified for her 100th consecutive race. “But we can always take weather and track conditions and compare them to other places we’ve raced at. I guess we’re behind the other teams in that aspect, but at the same time, that is no excuse.

“My guys are the best, and we’ll do our damndest to prove it tomorrow.”

Enders qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.534 seconds at 212.03 mph despite her team racing in Sonoma for the first time. That’s only the second time in her 37 races to date with Richard Freeman’s Elite team that she has failed to qualify in the top half of the field.

Plus, Enders and the team have faced other issues this weekend as they’ve tried to move up the Pro Stock ladder.

“We’ve definitely struggled,” Enders said. “We’ve had some breakages and some things not go our way so far this weekend, but we’re determined to change that tomorrow. I’m certainly looking forward to race day, even though our performance wasn’t tremendous in qualifying. I still am confident about tomorrow.”

Enders faces Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations on Sunday after Gray qualified No. 8 with a top pass of 6.533 seconds at 212.03 mph.

In addition to her team making its first appearance in Sonoma, Enders is making her first start here since 2012.

“I do love it here in Sonoma,” Enders said. “It’s certainly not the showing we wanted to have during qualifying, but tomorrow is a whole new day, and I’ve got the best guys in the business to get the car as good as it can be.

“We’ll just go after it tomorrow. We’ll keep fighting and try to make it better.”

Quick Q4 pass has Erica Enders stoked for race day in Denver


DENVER, CO — As far as Erica Enders is concerned, there is no one better to end Allen Johnson’s winning streak at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway than her and the Elite Motorsports team.

Johnson has won the last three races in Denver and six of the last eight, but it was Enders who was quickest in the final qualifying session Saturday, giving her momentum heading into Sunday. She qualified No. 3 with a pass of 6.882 seconds at 200.65 mph as she guns for her fifth victory of 2015.

“Tomorrow is going to be challenging,” Enders said. “A.J. has dominated up here for a lot of years and our single goal is to win this race tomorrow, so we will do our best and let God do the rest and see what happens. It’s pretty cool to have a fast Chevy up here.”

Enders’ run of 6.888 seconds at 199.97 mph topped the Pro Stock field in the final qualifying session, and it backed up a solid 6.922-second pass at 199.85 mph run earlier Saturday in the heat of the day.

“Today was more comparable to what tomorrow is going to be than having two night sessions,” Enders said. “We were able to get our race-day setup ready, and I’m feeling confident. I went up there and tried to cut a good light, and my guys just gave me a really awesome race car. I knew that when I uncluched it that it wanted to go somewhere. It’s definitely nice to go to sleep on a Saturday night with a run like that under your belt.”

Saturday’s two good passes came after a somewhat difficult Friday as Enders and her team adjusted to the Denver altitude.

“Friday wasn’t as great as we would have liked it to be but we are learning,” Enders said. “Having said that, we are still the third-quickest from the session last night, so it’s encouraging for tomorrow.”

Enders will race No. 14 qualifier Matt Hartford in the first round Sunday. Hartford’s best lap was 7.084 seconds at 197.25 mph.

Erica Enders rockets to Norwalk No. 1 during final qualifying session

Erica Enders qualifies number 1 in Norwalk 2015

NORWALK, OH — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team have qualified lower than fourth only two times in 2015, but she sat No. 7 heading into the final session of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

That’s when the fireworks show began.

Enders blistered the track with a pass of 6.532 seconds at 211.23 mph in the final qualifying session to secure her fifth No. 1 of the season and 17th of her career.

“It was definitely not where we’re typically at throughout the first three qualifying sessions, but we were just testing,” Enders said. “I tried to remind myself what exactly we were doing in the first three qualifying runs. We were all joking back in the pit, ‘Man, we stink this weekend. We’re not doing a good job.’ But we were joking.”

That was proven in Q4.

“We’re one of the teams that doesn’t do as much testing, so we use qualifying runs as our test sessions,” Enders said. “We were just trying some new stuff and trying to learn, and we took what we did learn and applied it to this fourth session. We wanted to get after it a little bit, and we were able to do just that.”

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock world champion, faces No. 16 qualifier Alan Prusiensky in the first round Sunday as she tries to defend her Norwalk race victory from a year ago. Prusiensky’s best pass was a 6.690 at 206.80 mph.

“Regardless of the track conditions and the weather, we can still apply what we did tonight to tomorrow’s runs,” Enders said. “The first session Saturday and the first session Friday, the weather was more similar to what it’s going to be like tomorrow. We used those as baseline, race-day runs, and it leaves me feeling confident. I know what my guys are capable of, I know we have a great race car underneath me, and Norwalk’s been really good to us in the past.”

Enders has four victories this year, repeating wins in Las Vegas, Houston, and Bristol, Tenn., from 2014.

“Being the defending champ here in Norwalk is cool,” Enders said. “But tomorrow we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports step up to qualify no. 1 at Bristol Dragway

Erica Enders qualifies number 1 at Bristol | 2015

BRISTOL, TN — The pressure was on in the final Pro Stock qualifying session for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Saturday at Bristol Dragway, and Erica Enders and the Elite Motorsports team came through in a big way.

Conditions were ripe for a terrific pass in the rain-delayed final session, and Enders stepped up with a 6.632 at 207.59 mph to snare her first career No. 1 qualifier in Bristol and earn a sleeve of green hats given to the top qualifier.

“I’m really excited to be on the pole,” Enders said. “My guys look forward to green hats, so we’ve got to thank Mello Yello for starting that tradition. It’s been pretty exciting for our entire team.”

Enders was sitting in the No. 4 spot heading into the final session, which started about 8:30 p.m. Eastern, long after its regularly scheduled time. The track had cooled, and Pro Stock’s best took a swing at low elapsed time, and it was Enders who came through.

“It definitely was a long day,” Enders said. “I think we came to the staging lanes five or six times, and I got suited up and buckled in twice and did a burnout once before going back to the trailer (without making a run), so it was definitely a long day.

“We went up there for Q4, and we knew the air got better and the racetrack was in the best condition it’s been all weekend, so we went after a little bit. My crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll) did an excellent job.”

The No. 1 was her fourth of the season and 16th of her career. She was also No. 1 earlier this year in Pomona, Calif.; Phoenix; and Topeka, Kan. She reached the final round at all three of those events, winning in Topeka.

She has also been hot in Bristol, reaching the final round in three of the last four races and winning in 2014.

Enders was chasing Greg Anderson in Bristol after Anderson claimed the provisional No. 1 with a pass of 6.646 seconds at 206.67 mph.

“We wanted to go out there and put up a big number, but Greg has had a really good race car for the last four or five races,” Enders said. “He and that entire Summit team are going to be tough all year.

“But I’m really proud of my guys. I knew when I unclutched the car that it was going to be a good pass, but I didn’t know it was that good until my crew chief radioed me. It felt pretty nice, but we were still conservative down low, so there’s definitely more on the table.”

No. 4 qualifier Erica Enders looking for win No. 4 of the season


EPPING, NH — Reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will try to add to her class-leading three victories Sunday at New England Dragway from the No. 4 qualifying spot. The popular pro posted a best run of 6.543 at 211.99 mph in her Elite Motorsports Camaro to earn the slot, placing herself right in the middle of the top title contenders.

The No. 4 starting spot was lucky for Enders in her hometown of Houston, where she went on to win the event. She’s also won from the No. 1 spot (Topeka) and the No. 2 position (Las Vegas).

“The bottom line is you need to be prepared to beat everyone if you expect to win the race, regardless of where you qualify,” Enders said. “You come into a race with the initial goal of qualifying for eliminations. Then you aim for being in the top half of the field so you have lane choice in Round 1. Then you try to get as many bonus point as you can each qualifying session. Then if you’re lucky, you’re on the pole. We’ve clicked off all of those things but one so we’re very happy.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. We’ll have lane choice but we still need to race hard. Having that No. 1 on the door (denoting her champion status) brings out the best in everyone we race. People drag their best stuff up there when they know we’re in the other lane and everyone takes their best shot. It’s been an adjustment for us, but we’re used to now. We have a lot of confidence in our car, our horsepower and our abilities.”

The NHRA returned to New England Dragway just two years ago so the track is one of the places Enders has yet to score a victory, something she’d love to change Sunday.

“The fans up here are insane,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens. “They love sports, all kinds of sports, and they have absolutely packed this place the last two days. I think it’s really awesome that we’re back in this market. It’s important to bring the top level of drag racing to these fans.

“One of the things you always dream about is winning at every racetrack. It would just be such a cool thing to be able to say. I don’t think many drivers have won at every track and since we’ve only raced here twice, it’s one everyone wants to check off their list, including us.”

As the fourth-best qualifier, Enders will open eliminations against Vieri Gaines, who qualified 13th on the ladder with a 6.643 at 211.00 mph.

ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 7:30-10 p.m., Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 5-8 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock leader Erica Enders anxious to challenge for fourth win of the year

ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — After winning three of the last four races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, reigning Pro Stock champion and current points leader Erica Enders would be a favorite no matter where she qualified for this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Summernationals. Fortunately, her Elite Motorsports Camaro is running as well as she has been driving, setting the table for another potential victory celebration at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

“Our confidence and attitude is certainly in the right place after winning three of the last four races,” Enders said. “At the same time, past performances mean nothing in drag racing. You have to prove yourself each and every round, each and every race, so we’ll be ready to do that.”

Enders qualified third with a 6.500 at 213.60 mph, which means she’ll begin elimination racing with lane choice against No. 14 qualifier Alan Prusiensky (6.615 at 210.50 mph). So far this year, Enders has won from the first, second, and fourth starting slots.

“Consistency is the key in drag racing, and that’s especially the case in Pro Stock because every race seems to be decided by just a few thousandths of a second,” Enders said. “We know our capabilities and the three guys tuning this Camaro are the best in the business, so I know I’ll sleep well tonight.

“Race day always gets me excited, and when you’re on a hot streak that feeling is amplified. We tested some extra things today and feel like we have the perfect combination to go rounds tomorrow. That’s the plan.”

Although she has accumulated 15 professional victories — just three shy of legend Shirley Muldowney’s 18-win career mark — Enders hasn’t found ultimate success at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park to date. That’s something she’d like to change Sunday.

“I’m not sure why we’ve struggled here,” Enders said. “We did set the national speed record last year here, so that was cool, but otherwise I’ve never had a perfect weekend at Old Bridge. My husband Richie (Stevens, fellow Pro Stock racer) has done real well here, so we talked a lot about this track during the week. I hope some of his mojo rubbed off on me.

“The Napp family (track owners) have made this place such a special stop on the tour. They’re old Jr. Dragster racers like me, and I’d love to visit their winner’s circle. It’s such an historic race, definitely one I’d like to win.”

Eliminations for Pro Stock are slated to begin around noon ET. ESPN2 will carry all the racing action Sunday afternoon.

Erica Enders stays hot, puts Elite Motorsports Chevy at top of Pro Stock chart


ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team continue to pace the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, speeding to the provisional No. 1 qualifier at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals on Friday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

Enders was quickest in all three qualifying sessions and all four rounds of eliminations in winning at Heartland Park Topeka two weeks ago for her third victory in the last four races.

In the second qualifying session Friday in Englishtown, Enders’ pass of 6.508 seconds at 213.06 mph put the 2014 Pro Stock champion at the top of the chart.

“We just feel like we’re getting a better handle on the tire and the fuel,” Enders said. “I know I talk about that a lot, but it’s been a true challenge for everyone in the class. With our new race car, we’re applying those changes and learning the best we can from the data we’ve acquired. It’s all going in the right direction.

“Pro Stock goes in spurts and waves, and I know that, but right now we’re doing really well as a team. We’re having fun, most importantly, and that contributes a lot to our on-track success.”

While Enders’ streak of having low elapsed time in each round ended at seven, she bounced back from a 6.550-second run that was sixth-quickest in Q1 to take the top spot.

“In the first run, we were just way too conservative,” Enders said. “We went out there in Q2 and just got after it. I knew when I un-clutched it that we were on a good run. It just speaks volumes of my crew chiefs and what they’re capable of.

“Of course, they’re perfectionists, so when we got back to the trailer, they were like, ‘We should’ve done this, done that.’ We’re excited about tomorrow and proud of what we accomplished today.”

Enders was helped by better weather conditions in Q2, as temperatures dropped, but air conditions improved, too.

“The second session was definitely a little bit better,” Enders said. “In Pro Stock, we look at barometer mostly, how many water grains are in the air, humidity, so it was a little bit better on that run. We knew going into today that it wasn’t going to be record-setting conditions.”

And conditions tomorrow may not be any better, when the final two qualifying sessions are scheduled.

“It’s supposed to be seven degrees warmer, so we’re just going to have to watch the barometer closely and see what happens,” Enders said. “It should be OK, and if that’s the case, we’re going to do a little testing tomorrow and see if we can better ourselves for Sunday.”

Nine years after her first No. 1, Erica Enders earns another in Topeka

TOPEKA, KS — In 2006, Erica Enders earned her first No. 1 qualifier at Heartland Park Topeka to become the first woman to win a Pro Stock pole. Nine years later, Enders went to the top of the chart in Topeka again, earning the No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Saturday.

“It’s pretty cool,” Enders said. “I thought about that coming in here on Thursday, so it definitely was a fun memory here, becoming the first female No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock. We’ve gone on to do some really great things (with Elite Motorsports).”
Enders won the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship with Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports team and has 14 career victories and 15 career poles.

At Heartland Park, Enders led all three qualifying sessions — the fourth was rained out — with her top pass of 6.150 seconds at 211.43 mph earning her the No. 1 spot. She earned nine bonus points by being the quickest in each qualifying session.

“I’m always confident in my guys,” Enders said. “They give me a very consistent race car, and that makes my job a little easier, to where I just focus on driving and not wonder what the car is going to do — if we’re going to blow the tires off, if it’s going to hook right or left. Being low for every session is pretty exciting. We were able to do that some last year and accumulate those three bonus points per round that you’re low.

“Coming to the final race of last year, every point mattered, so we’ll take ’em when we can get ’em.”

Perhaps the only reason she didn’t earn 12 bonus points was because the final qualifying session was canceled because of rain.

“I would’ve liked it,” Enders said. “I’ll drive any chance I get, but it was a good call with the rain coming in. But I would’ve loved to have gone out there and given it another shot to see if we could be low one more time. I think we’ve got a good handle on the car and hopefully a good race-day setup for tomorrow.”

Enders begins her chase for the Kansas Nationals victory against No. 16 qualifier Mark Hogan.

“We’ve had an awesome weekend,” Enders said. “It’s a brand-new race car and our second race in a row with it. We’re just trying to get a handle on it, and my guys have done a great job.”

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