Archive for the Qualifying Category

New Camaro propels Enders to track records in Topeka

TOPEKA, KS — The decision to bring out a new Chevrolet Camaro midway through the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season paid record dividends for Erica Enders during the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Friday at Heartland Park Topeka.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion set track elapsed-time and speed records with her new Elite Motorsports Chevy to snare the provisional No. 1 qualifier. Her pass of 6.515 seconds at 211.43 mph in the first qualifying session broke the e.t. record of 6.566 seconds set by Jason Line in May 2012 and the speed record of 211.30 mph set by Greg Anderson, also in May 2012.

“It’s been awesome,” Enders said. “We’ve had a really good hot rod for most of the year, and we brought out a new race car in Atlanta last week, so we feel like we’re taking baby steps to get it to run the way we want to. It’s proving to be an awesome race car so far.

“The weather is a little bit uncharacteristic of this time of year up here, so it’s cool to capture the record, but we’ve got our work cut out for us, as we always do. Pro Stock is super competitive, and I’m just really proud of my guys for running this well.”

The crew chief trio of Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll have been dialing in the new car, which debuted in Atlanta with a No. 2 qualifier and a semifinal finish. Enders credited a quick launch of the car in Topeka with her quick times.

“I have three tremendous crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll,” Enders said. “They were up yesterday looking at the track and today as well. Between that, they were tracking weather and putting the best setup we possibly could in our car. We picked it up at 60 feet. We’re not a top 60-foot team, and today, both times, we’ve been No. 1 or No. 2. The car is leaving really nice and smooth, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Cooler temperatures descended on Heartland Park on Friday, and Enders expected to pick up in Q2. She was quickest of the round, though she slowed slightly with a pass of 6.520 seconds at 210.93 mph.

“We thought it would be a little faster tonight,” Enders said. “My crew chiefs said we’d go a .51 first round, and we did. Tonight, we figured we’d be able to improve and run a low .50 or a high .49, and the water kinda moved in quickly while we were up there, so that’s what slowed it down a little bit.”

More water, in the form of rain, is expected Saturday, which could wash out the final two qualifying sessions. Still, Enders and her team are planning for Sunday’s eliminations.

“Since we’re sitting in the top position, we’ll keep trying to be consistent and bettering our runs and perfect that race-day setup,” Enders said.

After back-to-back wins, Erica Enders switches race cars and improves

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ATLANTA, GA — After winning the last two races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team made the surprising decision to switch race cars, and somehow the reigning Pro Stock world champion managed to improve.

“I understand the sentiment, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but we had so much confidence in this new Rick Jones race car that we knew it would be better,” Enders said. “And like my team owner Richard Freeman says, ‘We didn’t build it to sit at the shop,’ so the guys put it back into service and our results speak for themselves.”

Enders tied the quickest elapsed time of the weekend with a 6.546-second blast but qualified second due to Jason Line’s slightly better top speed. Line, who also posted a 6.546, topped out at 211.23 mph to Enders’ 210.28 mph.

“It takes a lot of self confidence to make a car change after winning two races in a row, but the guys felt comfortable enough to give it a try. We worked out a few bugs yesterday and then they really tuned it up today and we lost out on the pole by mph, so we are super happy.

“We actually started the year with this car, but the new fuel and tires they have us running put us a touch behind, so we brought out last year’s championship car and started gathering data. I have such a special place in my heart for that car, and I know how she runs and how she reacts to every little thing, so we were able to use her to figure out the fuel and the tire and apply that to this new car.

“This new one is absolutely the smoothest, most drive-able car I’ve ever driven. It’s the next generation, and I know it’s going to take us to a new level.”

As the No. 2 qualifier, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, will open elimination action at the 35th Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals against John Gaydosh, who posted a best pass of 6.699 at 207.66 mph.

“I was already extremely confident in my team, and switching to a new car without missing a beat makes me that much more convinced that we have the best team in the sport,” Enders said. “We have definitely started summer. The heat and humidity have been beating on us here, but we’re hanging tough and improving every time out there, so our spirits are high.

“It’s also very exciting and cool to be in Coca-Cola’s backyard. They’re such a huge part of what we do in this sport, and they had us over to headquarters for the Champions Dinner the other night, which was so special. I would love to win another race and have all the Mello Yello folks join us in the winner’s circle.”

Eliminations start at noon on Sunday and will be shown on ESPN2.

Erica Enders-Stevens storms to second consecutive K&N Horsepower Challenge victory

Erica Enders-Stevens wins 2015 K&N Horsepower Challenge

LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team broke out of their early seasons struggles in a big way, storming to a second consecutive victory in the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens beat Chris McGaha, Jason Line (on a holeshot), and Vincent Nobile en route to winning the special race for the Pro Stock class.

“The swag is back and the confidence was definitely back after we tested in Charlotte,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a very successful test, and everything started to come together. My crew chiefs called me several times this week, and just hearing the confidence in their voices gives me a peace of mind and allows me to be confident and perform to the best of my ability.”

And she extended her winning streak to 14 rounds in Las Vegas, including the 2014 Horsepower Challenge, both national events last year, and Saturday’s race.

“Fourteen rounds in a row, that’s very awesome,” Enders-Stevens said. “All the credit goes to my guys. They work so incredibly hard, and I’m so proud of them and I’m honored to be their driver.”

Enders-Stevens has two No. 1 qualifiers in 2015 but had yet to visit the winner’s circle until Saturday.

“We have struggled, there’s no doubt about that, at the beginning of this year,” Enders-Stevens said. “We stayed after Charlotte and tested on Monday and finally figured this hot rod out. The new tire had been giving us a little bit of an issue, but (crew chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll thrashed at it, and their determination and perseverance turned this whole deal around.”

Enders-Stevens snared the No. 2 qualifying position for Sunday’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals with a pass of 6.617 seconds at 208.94 mph in Friday’s second qualifying session. That set up a promising day in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, a race pitting Pro Stock’s best against each other for a $50,000 prize.

Enders-Stevens started off against McGaha, and as McGaha slowed to a 17.154-second run at 46.29 mph, she got the win light with a pass of 6.690 seconds at 207.98 mph.

That matched her against Line, who had secured the No. 1 qualifier for the national event this weekend, but Enders-Stevens got the jump with a .017-second reaction time (to Line’s .033 light), and her 6.652-second pass at 207.88 mph was enough to hold off Line’s quicker run of 6.648 seconds at 208.62 mph.

After a quick turnaround for the final round, Enders-Stevens outran Nobile with a pass of 6.650 seconds at 208.01 mph to his 6.694-second run at 207.62 mph.

“We had about a 35-minute turnaround going into the final,” Enders-Stevens said. “Vincent was kind enough to wait; he was already buckled up when we pulled up, and I wasn’t even in the car yet. We were certainly thrashing, but my guys did a great job. They kept their heads together, and that’s what it’s all about: Pulling together, pulling your weight, and getting it done when you need to.”

Her victory also meant Frank Savarese of Fort Wayne, Ind., won a ’15 Toyota Tacoma as part of a K&N sweepstakes. K&N pairs lucky fans with each Horsepower Challenge driver, and Savarese drew Enders-Stevens’ name on Friday.

“He drew my number, and he told me afterward that he was hoping to draw us,” Enders-Stevens said. “I said, ‘Well, we’re coming in with a great car.’ After the first two qualifying sessions on Friday, I said, ‘We’re going to have a race car. If I can do my job as a driver, I’m hopeful you can leave with that awesome Toyota truck.’ ”

Enders-Stevens will go for her second consecutive double-double in the Las Vegas national event. She was due to race No. 15 qualifier Matt Hartford, but Hartford broke the engine during qualifying and will not be able to make the call for Sunday’s first round.

She’ll face the winner of the race between No. 7 qualifier Larry Morgan and No. 10 qualifier Jimmy Alund in the second round.

Reigning champ Erica Enders-Stevens dips into ‘luck bank’ to make Charlotte field

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Drag racers generally like to save all of their luck for race day, but reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders-Stevens had to cash some in Saturday just to qualify for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Shortened to just two qualifying attempts due to Friday’s rain, Enders-Stevens didn’t get more than a few feet down the racetrack in either of Saturday’s two sessions. However, because only 16 cars attempted to qualify for this event, she will have the final spot on the elimination ladder, giving her Elite Motorsports team a chance to redeem themselves Sunday.

“You definitely don’t want to put yourself in this position, but if any team can get it together overnight and make a difference tomorrow, it’s this group of guys right here,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been through it all and this is just another chapter.

“We started the year with a brand-new RJ Racecars Camaro and it’s going to be the next big thing, no doubt about it, but we just haven’t figured out how to match the car and our Elite horsepower to the new tire and fuel the NHRA is making all of us use. We did OK in the first few races but decided to switch back to the car we won the championship with last year because we just know it so much better. She does what we ask her to do every time. The thought is that our learning curve will be shorter.”

Without question, the car swap coupled with Friday’s lost rounds played a role in Enders-Stevens’ subpar performance Saturday, but it’s unlikely that anyone she’ll face Sunday will be excited about seeing her race car in the opposite lane.

In Round 1, Enders-Stevens will line up against top qualifier Chris McGaha (6.474 at 213.70 mph), Shane Gray (6.525 at 211.99 mph), and Buddy Perkinson (6.528 at 212.49 mph).

“With the four-wide deal, the top-two cars from each foursome advance, so we need to make sure we’re one of the two,” Enders-Stevens said. “Fortunately, we have a pit full of champions at Elite, so no one will panic. We’ll do what we do and hope for the best. If we get a hold of the car and the tune-up, we can run with anybody.

“Our teammate (Drew Skillman) went 6.48 and Rodger Brogdon, who leases engines from us, went 6.53 with a super-safe tune-up, so we’ll go look at both of those runs on the computer and try to get our car dialed in.”

Elimination action begins at 1 p.m., Sunday, with Pro Stock starting around 1:45 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the action.

Enders-Stevens, Elite Motorsports exploring potential on new Camaro in Gainesville

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GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens will start the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway from an unusual position: Outside the top three.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion had swept both No. 1 qualifiers before Gainesville and had started third or better in 21 of her last 24 races, including sixth or better in every race since 2013.

But as her Elite Motorsports team tunes a new Chevrolet Camaro, Enders-Stevens will begin Gainesville eliminations from the No. 7 spot.

“It’s an unusual position to start Sunday from, but it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish,” Enders-Stevens said. “If anyone can do it, I know we can.”

Enders-Stevens last qualified outside the top six at the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in November 2013 when she was with another team.

Enders-Stevens won six races and the 2014 championship in her first season with Elite Motorsports. Crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones built a new Camaro for Gainesville and beyond, and the team knows the new car will be better in the long run.

Getting there isn’t a simple process, of course, because new race cars always take some development.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have not shown what we’re made of or what we’re capable of this weekend, but that’s part of the growing pains of trying to make strides in the right direction. We’re working the bugs out of this thing, and we’re figuring out the potential.”

Enders-Stevens’ best qualifying pass in Gainesville was 6.551 seconds at 211.79 mph. She’ll square off against No. 9 qualifier Jonathan Gray in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations. Gray’s best run was 6.555 seconds at 211.76 mph.

“I know exactly what we’re capable of,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got to get in the car and be up on the wheel tomorrow. I know my guys will give me the best they have.”

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

Enders-Stevens heads into Sunday No. 1 in Phoenix

Erica Enders-Stevens qualifies number 1 in Phoneix

PHOENIX (Feb. 21) — Nothing is slowing down Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens this weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, where she looks to continue her title defense from the No. 1 qualifying spot during tomorrow’s final eliminations at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.

“It’s been a great start to the year for our entire Elite Motorsports team, at least a better start to the year than we had in 2014,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m really proud of the guys, especially with how much we’ve struggled so far. We’ve been able to post two No. 1 qualifying positions, but at the same time we’ve struggled behind the scenes. I’m really proud of their determination and perseverance. It’s just really exciting for me to be on the pole going into Sunday.”

Posting her fastest time of the weekend during Q2 Friday of 6.545 seconds at 211.20 mph, Enders-Stevens just edged out fellow Elite Performance-powered racer Rodger Brogdon simply on speed. Even through two more qualifying sessions Saturday, Enders-Stevens was able to keep her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on top of the leaderboard, lining her up against No. 16 Joey Grose in round one.

“When I unclutched it in that final session tonight, it felt the best it has felt since we starting racing in all of 2015, test sessions included,” Enders-Stevens said. “I went out there in third gear and it deadheaded, so the G-meter dropped off and it slammed the nose of the car down. It was just a shame because we would have blown the scoreboard up with that run for sure.

“It definitely started off to be a really great run, and to be able to still put 211 mph after you slam the nose of the car is crazy. It’s basically like you’re driving on the freeway and you put the car in park. Even with that, I’m not worried about tomorrow. In fact, I’m very optimistic after how the car launched in the final session today.”

While Enders-Stevens and her entire team are optimistic about the results they are seeing so far, they feel like there is still more horsepower under the hood.

“Any time you can go run on a national event track within a month or so of the race, it’s ideal to be able to collect data,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s exactly what we did. Our test by no means was great here but we learned a lot, and I think we were able to translate that to the race this weekend.

“It’s not an easy task to get one of these cars down the racetrack from a crew chief, crewmember, or even a driver standpoint. We certainly have a lot to be optimistic about. However, this by no means is the end of our road as far as performance is concerned. We’re still not pleased with where we are at, and we’re going to continue to dig deep and work hard at it.”

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

Phoenix heat proves no match for Enders-Stevens’ first-day performance

Erica Enders-Stevens provisional no 1 in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Continuing to build off her success in Pomona, defending Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens put it all on the line during the first day of qualifying at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, snagging the provisional No. 1 spot at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

“I’m just so excited for our performance today,” Enders-Stevens said. “After not making a pass in Pomona on Friday, this is definite progress. There was also definitely more left in that run after we went back and looked at the data. We’ve been a little bit conservative this weekend because we don’t have the data that we’re used to having with the other parts and pieces. With hindsight being 20/20, obviously we’ll go in and make those changes this evening and try to get after it a little bit tomorrow.”

Going into Q2 in the No. 2 position, Enders-Stevens was looking to put her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on the top spot, snatching it from fellow Elite Motorsports power counterpart Rodger Brogdon. Enders-Stevens was able to equal Brogdon’s pass of 6.545 seconds, but it was her 211.20-mph speed, compared to Brogdon’s 210.90, that gave her the top spot.

“With how crazy our test went here in Phoenix,” Enders-Stevens said, “we’re clearly taking some steps in the right direction in regards to the new rules that were implemented on tires and fuel. We’re still learning and trying to acquire some data, but having team cars out there really helps. We’ve got four guys in Pro Stock, including myself, that are running Elite Performance power, and we’re currently first, second, and third. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Putting up a successful performance at one of her favored tracks, Enders-Stevens knows that they still have a lot of work ahead if they want to remain on top of the board Saturday.

“Phoenix is one of my favorite spots to race at,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s where my family is from, so it’s basically like a second home to me. We do have our work cut out for us tomorrow though. We’re only No. 1 by mile per hour, so it’s going to be very close. We’ll go back and analyze the data some more and do our best tomorrow.

“Being No. 1 is just a cool perk in this sport. I’m proud of my team and really honored to be here, but at the end of the day, it’s how we finish on Sunday.”

Qualifying will continue at approximately 1:30 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.

Defending champ Enders-Stevens starts 2015 from No. 1 spot in Pomona

Enders-Stevens qualifies number 1 at Pomona NHRA season opener

POMONA, CA. (Feb. 7) — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens is starting the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season the same way she ended 2014: On top.

Enders-Stevens claimed the No. 1 qualifying spot for the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the same track where she claimed the Pro Stock championship last November.

“Pomona obviously holds a lot of great memories,” Enders-Stevens said. “I can’t believe we’re back here already, but it’s great to be back and be fast.”

Enders-Stevens grabbed her 13th career No. 1 qualifier with a pass of 6.516 seconds at 213.10 mph. After failing to make a full pass in either of Friday’s two qualifying sessions, she and her team stepped up in Q3.

“That’s a little nerve-wracking if you drive a Pro Stock car,” Enders-Stevens said. “You’re uncertain of track conditions, so you have to be a little conservative to make sure you get down. But my guys stepped up, as they always do, and we made a great run.”

The rest of the Pro Stock class took their best shots but were unable to get around Enders-Stevens’ No. 1 Chevrolet. When rain washed out the final session, she locked up the top spot.

“We were able to stay No. 1,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s all that matters for my Elite Motorsports team. I wish we would have gotten that last run because we wanted to try some things, but tomorrow should be a good day.”

Enders-Stevens and her team struggled to adapt to two rules changes for 2015, as NHRA mandated a new tire and new fuel, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones hit on a good combination during testing earlier this week.

“It was very interesting but we figured it out,” Enders-Stevens said. “We made two full hits in Phoenix, and then we were able to come here. Going into Sunday with only one run under your belt isn’t ideal, but I know if anybody can do it, we can. I’ve got the best guys in the world, and I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.”

Enders-Stevens begins her defense of the 2014 championship against No. 16 qualifier Matt Hartford, who qualified with a pass of 6.611 seconds at 208.59 mph.

Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday.

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