Archive for the Race Preview Category

Two-time world champion Erica Enders readies for season of redemption

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Pro Stock Chevrolet

POMONA, CA — For two glorious seasons from 2014-2015, Erica Enders was on top of the drag racing world, winning back-to-back titles in arguably the toughest category in all motorsports, NHRA Pro Stock. An impressive 15 victories during the stretch was punctuated by her incredible driving prowess. She was, quite simply, peerless.

Last season the proud Texan returned to earth after a switch to another manufacturer, going winless en route to a sagging ninth-place finish overall.

Now, with a new season set to begin with this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Enders is back in the same Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro that carried her to glory in the past with firm designs on returning to her winning ways.

“We are so anxious to get back on track, to be at the races with a car and combination we know can put us in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “It’s really all you ever want as a driver and as a race team; the chance to win. We have that again and we’re super excited to get started.”

To Enders, last season was a true blessing in disguise, as she found out the true mettle of her group, headed by team owner Richard Freeman.

“It was a challenging year but what we went through made us stronger,” Enders said. “What we went through would have torn a lot of teams apart but it didn’t hurt us at all. Yeah, we were upset we weren’t performing well but we still joked around, still had fun, and we smiled through it all.

“It was a character-building year, and it showed me there is zero ego on this team. It’s easy to be all happy when you’re winning but the true measure of people comes when times are tough. We’re tough.

“This year is gonna be great because I already know what we’re capable of and so does everyone else. At the same time, I learned we don’t need win lights and trophies to be fulfilled. Being a family, having each other’s backs no matter what, being together through it all, that’s what matters.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. PT, Friday and Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon PT, Sunday.

Live coverage of the 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals begins with a qualifying show from 1-2 p.m. ET, Saturday, on FOX Sports 1, followed by three hours of eliminations from 4-7 p.m. ET, Sunday, on FOX.

Outgoing champ Erica Enders relieved to close out 2016 drag racing season

ee-po162-pre

POMONA, CA — Two-time world champion drag racer Erica Enders has a long and storied connection with Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, the site of this weekend’s 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. It’s a bond that dates back two decades, and one that’s immortalized with her own display at the heralded Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum across the fairgrounds from fabled Pomona Dragway.

“Some of the biggest moments in my drag racing career have happened at Pomona, going all the way back to my Junior Dragster days when we hauled our little dragster all the way from Houston just to race here,” Enders said. “Now that dragster is on display at the Wally Parks Museum, and I always go and visit her when we’re in town. It’s a great chance to reflect for a minute on how far we’ve come.

“I remember as teenager coming here and enrolling in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and earning my Super Comp license on this strip. That was a huge deal for me; kind of signaling my transition to ‘big’ cars.

“Of course, we came in here and won this race in 2014 with that crazy finish to the season. We needed every round, every point to get it done and we did it with so much pressure on us. That clinched our first championship and remains the biggest moment of my life. So yeah, this place is as special as it gets for me.”

Enders, 33, hopes to stir up a little more magic this time through as her 2016 season draws to a close with an unsightly zero in the ins column. After winning six races in 2014 and a whopping nine more in 2015, coming up empty was not what her Elite Motorsports team was expecting, even with big rule changes and a shift to Dodge Darts.

“It’s no secret we’ve had a tough year but in many ways it’s picked me up because I’ve seen a level of fight in this group of guys that is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve always said this team is exceptional and through all the struggles we’ve endured this year that feeling has only grown.

“It would be very cool to have a big weekend for the guys, to give them some sort of reward for the effort they’ve all put in this year. I will darn sure try my best to make something happen and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Although the car hasn’t been up to snuff, Enders herself remains one of the top drivers in the class, routinely leaving first on her opponents, a trait that helped her tremendously during her two championship charges.

Her expert ability to drive a Pro Stock should work well next season when the team launches a new campaign to reestablish themselves as title contenders.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 12 and 3 p.m., on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 8:30-9:30 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Reigning champ Erica Enders uses The Strip at LVMS as her personal ATM

ee-lv162-pre

LAS VEGAS, NV — In winning back-to-back world championships, Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders has used The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as her personal ATM, winning more than $250,000 at Bruton Smith’s masterpiece just north of Las Vegas.

It’s a trend she’d love to continue this weekend at the NHRA season’s penultimate race, the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.

“Las Vegas has been an awesome place for us, no doubt,” Enders said. “Most people blow all their money whenever they go to Vegas but we’ve managed to walk away with some nice checks, and for that we’re really grateful.”

It all adds up. Enders won four consecutive NHRA national events at The Strip, taking both the spring and fall titles in each of the last two seasons. Each of those wins were worth $25,000. She also won back-to-back K&N Horsepower Challenge trophies in 2014 and ’15, worth $50,000 each. By “doubling up” and winning both the K&N race and the national event in the same weekend, Enders received another $25,000 bonus from NHRA. That totals $250,000, plus contingency payouts that pushed her payout even higher.

“Including reaching the semis this spring, we ended up winning 24 elimination rounds in a row, which is hard to comprehend but really cool to have accomplished,” Enders said. “I’d have to ask (NHRA statistician) Lewis Bloom how many times that’s happened in the history of the sport to see where that streak stands all-time, but I can tell you it was a fight every step of the way. I’m proud of my team for having pulled it off.

“It makes this the best track, for sure, and the last two fall race wins were super special because I took over the points lead in 2014 by winning there and then last year we clinched the title outright by winning so there’s nothing but great memories for this track.”

This time through, Enders is a distant 10th in the world rankings and still in search of her first victory of the season.

“Reaching the semifinals in the spring tied for my best outing of the year so even in a down season Vegas has still been good to me,” Enders said. “We’re already working on new stuff for next year and there are big plans for returning to the top. I can’t wait for 2017 to start, to be honest, but we still have a chance to help Vincent (Nobile, teammate) win this year’s title so we’ll do all we can for him.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., Friday, and 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 4-7 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders hoping for Mopar magic at Dodge NHRA Nationals

ee-pa16-pre

READING, PA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is hoping for a little Mopar magic during the Dodge NHRA Nationals this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.

Enders posted her best qualifying effort of the season at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver earlier this season, grabbing the No. 2 spot. She hopes for similar success at another Dodge-sponsored race, this time in Pennsylvania.

“At our last Dodge race this year, we had our best qualifying performance,” Enders said. “Hopefully that translates to Reading.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar team haven’t had the season they expected after switching manufacturers for 2016. Enders won 15 races and two championships over the 2014-15 seasons, but a raft of changes have hindered her efforts this season.

Behind Enders and her team all season, however, has been the backing of Dodge.

“We are appreciative of all of the support from Mopar,” Enders said. “They have definitely given us a great team of people and engineers and guys who are passionate about what they do like we are, so it’s refreshing to continue to work with people that go the extra mile.

“It’s a cool partnership, and I believe with the group of people we have, the sky’s the limit. It’s just going to take time to build this program.”

Enders sits 10th in the Countdown to the Championship after two races of the six-race stretch that closes the season.

“We’ll continue to work on it,” Enders said. “We’ll get better. It’s a brand-new engine program. I have the smartest, hardest-working guys in the business, so if anybody can figure it out, it’s them.”

As part of the Dodge sponsorship of the race, the Mopar Mega Block Party will be held at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading on Thursday night.

“We have plans to go to the Mopar Block Party on Thursday, and we’ll enjoy that with all of the diehard Mopar fans,” Enders said. “It’s always a lot cooler in Reading, which is definitely a nice break from racing in the heat of the summer, and the cars run better up there. We look forward to going up there and probably running faster than we have run all season.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 p.m., Friday, and 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action live from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

‘No quit in this pit’ is battle cry for defending two-time world champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock | Mopar

ST. LOUIS, MO — A season ago, Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders was putting a stranglehold on her second straight Mello Yello world championship with a runner-up finish at the annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, which takes place again this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park. It was her fourth consecutive final-round showing and ninth of 11 she would amass during the year.

This year it’s a different story. Enders once again is part of the Countdown to the Championship, but this time she’s 10th in the 10-car field and coming off her first DNQ in six years.

“Same engine builders, same crew, same owner, just different results,” Enders said. “It’s been frustrating but at the same time we’ve learned a lot about ourselves as a group. The last few years we always said, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work,’ and it was so appropriate for the way things were going at the time.

“This year, as it’s gone along and we haven’t found the success we were expecting, our little saying has turned into, ‘No quit in this pit,’ and once again it’s absolutely true. You find out what people are really made of when things aren’t perfect. When you’re winning, it’s easy to jump on board. This year, character has been revealed, and this team of guys has more than any group I’ve ever come across.”

A switch to a new manufacturer has hampered Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar race team to a certain extent, and when you add in the biggest rule changes since the class’ inception more than three decades ago — most notably switching to electronic fuel injection — the group has struggled to find a new groove.

“Just like there’s no quit in this pit, there are no excuses either,” Enders said. “Other teams have figured out the fuel injection better than we have, so it can be done. We’ll get there ourselves; it’s just taking longer than we thought.

“Most of the guys on the team, aside from really important family stuff, haven’t taken a day off this whole year. No one is happy with our performance but no one has complained or quit the team to go somewhere else. I think I’m more proud of these guys this year than I have been the two years we won the championships. That’s saying a lot.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:15 p.m., Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 6-7 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in CT).

Defending event champion Erica Enders returns to Charlotte in a vastly different role

ee-char162-pre

CHARLOTTE, NC — One year ago, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders arrived at the first race of NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the No. 1 seed, having won six regular-season national events, including the previous two stops in Brainerd, Minn., and Indianapolis.

This year, as Enders brings her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart back to zMax Dragway for the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, things are much different. Her dominating run to back-to-back championships hangs in the balance as she finds herself a distant ninth in the rankings with no victories on her 2016 scorecard.

“It’s been a challenging year, no doubt,” Enders said. “Very different from the last two years. Switching manufacturers and making this commitment with Mopar to put them on top, we kind of knew it would take a little time and it has. Then we had the biggest rule changes in class history. It all kind of added up.

“We started a little behind and it feels like we have been in catch-up mode all year. But we have made progress, and having another week at the shop to try more things should help us in Charlotte. There are reasons to be encouraged.”

Ever the optimist, Enders has found a way to put a positive spin on her lackluster regular season as her Elite Motorsports team has struggled to get the newly mandated fuel-injection systems to match their powerful Hemi motors.

“The word that keeps popping into my head is loyalty,” Enders said. “When we were crushing everyone, there was a line out the door of people wanting to talk to us. This year, we’ve found out who our real friends are, and it’s made me so grateful to the companies and individuals that are there for us through thick and thin.

“Mopar has been awesome. They want this as much as we do. Transportation Impact has been great, and they have more than 100 employees coming up from Emerald Island, N.C., this weekend to cheer us on. Mark Stockseth is a rock. Stan and Sheila Holt of Lupe Tortilla have been with me since I raced Jr. Dragsters; I love them. Kim and Steve Bruno with United Mechanical, everyone at Melling, Carl Foltz and his group at CFE, these are the people who are true supporters, and we love them all.

“Motivation for me is never a problem, but putting this select group back on top, that’s what drives us all. And like I say every weekend, I wouldn’t trade my guys for anyone. There’s no quit in this pit. I really am a lucky girl.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon, Sunday. Eliminations will air live from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders fulfilled lifelong dream with 2015 U.S. Nationals title

ee-indy16-pre

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders was drained after the U.S. Nationals in 2015, and understandably so, because she put everything she had into the race. Having won it, fulfilling a lifelong dream, Enders was physically and mentally exhausted.

Enders, driver of the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge, returns as defending champion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, held this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

“That was probably, aside from the championship, the coolest racing accomplishment that I’ve ever had,” Enders said. “To try to accomplish something for 25 years and to finally get it done was one of those culmination moments.

“I think my crew chief, Rick Jones, put it in perspective. We have to be tough out here, especially being a girl, and it’s very crucial to show no emotion, but it was hard to be emotionless after that win. Rick summed it up best. He said that he had been trying to win that race for 40 years, so my 25 years looked pretty measly compared to that.”

Enders’ victory was one of many highlights of her 2015 season, one where she won nine races and repeated as Pro Stock champion. She beat V. Gaines, Larry Morgan, Greg Anderson, and Drew Skillman to win the U.S. Nationals for the first time.

That win came two years after Enders was the fastest racer on the property at Indy, but she slowed down in the final and lost.

“In 2013, I literally had one stolen from me, and I didn’t understand why at the time, but to be able to accomplish it with such a tremendous group of men (at Elite Motorsports), people that I love more than anything, that’s why God made us wait,” Enders said. “It was a huge accomplishment, and we are going to the U.S. Nationals this year with our heads held high because we are the defending champions, but it is also a very crucial race because it’s the final race before the Countdown is set.”

The 10-driver field for the Countdown to the Championship, which determines the 2016 champion, is set after Indianapolis. Enders moved into ninth place in Brainerd, Minn., but she has yet to clinch a spot.

Last year, Enders led the points standings heading into Indy and wrapped up the No. 1 spot heading into the Countdown with her semifinal win over Anderson.

“Things are a little different than they were last year,” Enders said. “I had to win the semifinals over Greg Anderson last year at Indy to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position, and now we’re fighting for a top-10 position, which is kind of ironic. We will do our best and see what happens.

“It’s a fun race, it’s a long race. It’s definitely a marathon race. We have five qualifying passes and race day on Monday, so I am looking forward to it. Indy is something that every racer wants to accomplish, so we will see if we can do it again.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 7:15 p.m., Friday; 2:45 and 6:45 p.m., Saturday; and 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations start at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air live Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 and from 1 to 4 p.m. on FOX. (All TV times listed in ET).

Erica Enders hoping for a surprise title defense this weekend in Brainerd

ee-mn16-prerace

BRAINERD, MN — Erica Enders was cruising to s second straight NHRA championship the last time she passed through Brainerd International Raceway, winning her fifth of nine races in her dominating 2015 campaign at the annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.

This weekend, as she returns to Central Minnesota, things have changed quite a bit. The most successful woman in class history, Enders finds herself winless in 2016 and clinging to the 10th and final playoff berth with two races left in the regular season.

“Last year we were fighting for the No. 1 spot in the playoffs; now, we’re just hoping to make the playoffs,” Enders said. “It’s a crazy, humbling sport, but that’s why we love it so much. Nothing out here comes easy. It wasn’t easy when we won and it’s not easy when you have stretches like this, but these downtimes make the good times that much better.

“We made a lot of changes to our program joining up with Mopar, and they’ve been wonderful to work with. The NHRA also made its biggest changes to the class they’ve ever made (switching from carburetors to electronic fuel injection), and obviously some teams have adapted quicker than we have, but we’re not giving up. You can’t beat a team that never gives up.”

Enders remains optimistic because she knows the Elite Motorsports team working on her Dodge Dart is the same group that helped her to back-to-back championships and 15 national event victories over the past two seasons.

“Rick and Rickie Jones are still tuning my car, Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston are still building our motors, all the crew guys are the same, Richard Freeman (team owner) is still giving us all the tools we need to win; it’s just a matter of time,” Enders said. “It’s not easy at times because we got used to winning, but the guys up at the top right now have been through downtimes as well. It’s the same in every pro class.

“There are just lots of peaks and valleys in this sport. The thing is, you really discover what you’re made of when things are tough, and all I see with this team is that they will never quit. They’re just as relentless now as they were last year. The other day they were doing burnouts in the parking lot of the race shop working on our launches. They never stop.

“We’ve won Brainerd twice (2015 and 2012), and it would be great to get a third one this time through. It would certainly shock the world, but we’re pretty good at that.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 9 to 11 p.m., Saturday, and eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in CT).

Page 4 of 14« First...23456...10...Last »