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NHRA’s red hot Enders-Stevens set to scorch Atlanta


ATLANTA, GA — No one in the NHRA Drag Racing Series has amassed more championship points in the first quarter of the season than reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, who arrives at Atlanta Dragway for this weekend’s 35th annual Summit Southern Nationals on a two-race winning streak.

“We’re definitely on a roll and we want to keep it up,” said Enders, a native Texan who now lives in New Orleans with husband and fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “What better place to do that than Atlanta Dragway? This is the home race for Coca-Cola and we always want to put our best foot forward for them. They’ve sponsored our series ever since I’ve been a pro and we love ’em.”

The wildly popular Enders became the first woman in Pro Stock history to win the title last year, joining Shirley Muldowney (Top Fuel) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the only women to win major motorsports championships. She used six victories and a remarkable elimination round record of 45-16 to get the job done.

This year, Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew already are ahead of last year’s pace with two victories and a 14-4 raceday mark through six races.

“It’s weird because it seems like we could be even further ahead than we are,” Enders said. “We started the year with a beautiful new Rick Jones Camaro but had a little trouble adjusting to the new tires and fuel mandated by the NHRA so we switched back to the car we won the championship with last year. That new car is so state-of-the-art we know it’s going to be even better when we get it dialed in. I really believe our best day are ahead of us.”

That’s probably not what Enders’ opponents want to hear as the 31-year-old hasn’t lost a round in eliminations since late March in Charlotte.

“Our team owner, Richard Freeman, has a knack for finding the right people, putting them in positions where they can succeed and getting the best out of them,” Enders said. “I look at Rick and Rickie (Jones, father/son co-crew chiefs), Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, who build our motors, all the crew guys, the people back at the shop, it’s just a group of winners.

“I’m living the dream right now. It took years to get to this point and plenty of highs and lows along the way, but this reward makes it all worthwhile. There is no better feeling as a driver than pulling through the gates at the track knowing you have a racecar and team that’s capable of winning that race. We have that every weekend.”

Enders has never won at Atlanta but she was the top qualifier last year. She’s qualified in the No. 1 spot twice this season, in Pomona, Calif., and Phoenix.

Qualifying rounds will take place at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 2:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all the action.

Erica Enders-Stevens gears up for Houston homecoming with Lupe Tortilla, Elite Motorsports

Enders-Stevens gears up for Houston homecoming

HOUSTON, TX — Coming home to Texas always puts an extra kick in Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens’ step, and she has even more reasons to be upbeat about the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway.

For starters, she will be sponsored by her favorite restaurant, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, and she’s coming off a second consecutive double-up at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge on April 25 in Las Vegas, then won the regular national event the next day. She became the first driver since Bob Glidden to pull off the sweep two years in a row, and now she’s coming to race in her hometown, where she won last year.

“Vegas was huge for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “We didn’t exactly start off the season the way we wanted to. Granted it wasn’t horrible, but we hadn’t gotten a handle on the tires and the fuel yet. Staying after Charlotte to test got things looking up for us. It was a huge confidence builder, and it was also pretty surreal to be able to double up two years in a row.

“That was an awesome experience. I believe we create our own momentum, and we’re on a high right now. I’m excited to carry that into Houston.”

She moved into second place in the Pro Stock points standings with the Las Vegas win and hopes to go back to back in her hometown. Born and raised in the Houston area, Enders-Stevens now lives in New Orleans with her husband, Richie Stevens.

The 2014 win in Houston was her first pro victory in her hometown.

“It was a really important race win to me, not only because it was my first professional win in my hometown but also because it’s sort of a home track for my team owner, Richard Freeman, as well,” Enders-Stevens said. “And it was the first Pro Stock race my dad ever got to see me win. It was really an exciting weekend and everything came together.”

Enders-Stevens hopes that happens again, especially after partnering with longtime friend Stan Holt’s Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants.

“We’ve got a different name on the door this weekend, and it’s a great family-owned business in Lupe Tortilla,” Enders-Stevens said. “Stan Holt has been a big part of my career going back to Jr. Dragsters, and he’s been a longtime family friend. We’re really proud to fly his colors in Houston and support him. Hopefully we’ll get a bunch of people to go try the best food in the country.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. CT, Friday, and 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday. Saturday qualifying will be broadcasted at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Sunday’s elimination action will air live beginning at 2 p.m.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Las Vegas double

Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Vegas double

LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens hopes to double down for the second year in a row at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Last March, Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas and then doubled up the next day by winning the regular national event.

Is a repeat at this weekend’s NHRA Nationals in the cards?

“Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first win with Elite and we were able to double up there,” Enders-Stevens said. “Then we went there in the fall and won the race to take over the points lead for the championship.

“We swept the Vegas races last year, so we’re really excited to go back, especially coming off a successful test in Charlotte. It gives us a little boost of confidence heading to Vegas.”

Enders-Stevens joined Richard Freeman’s Elite team for the 2014 season, but she was winless with Elite before heading to Vegas. That changed when she knocked off Dave Connolly in the final of the Horsepower Challenge and beat Jason Line in the national event final.

“It was just a special weekend for my team and I,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were still pretty new together, and it was neat to see how well everyone worked together, even under such a high-pressure situation for $100,000. It was a weekend I’ll never forget.”

The K&N Horsepower Challenge is a special race for seven Pro Stock drivers based on qualifying points accrued since the 2014 event (one is added via a fan vote). Qualifying sessions Saturday are used for K&N Challenge elimination rounds, with the K&N final being an extra pass Saturday. The winner pockets $50,000.

“It’s a really exciting specialty race that K&N puts on every year for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “All of us Pro Stock guys are so appreciative of K&N for their involvement in NHRA and their support of our class. It’s an exciting weekend coming up, and being the defending champions makes it even more exciting for us.

“Two of the qualifying passes are K&N elimination rounds, so not only is Sunday important but Saturday is really important to us, too. We’ll get one day to get our ducks in a row and then we’ll swing for the fences on Saturday. I’m really excited about it, and I’m hopeful that we can get it done again.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday. Saturday qualifying will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and elimination action Sunday will be aired at 5 p.m.

Three-time Four-Wide finalist Enders-Stevens ready to break through


CHARLOTTE, NC — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens has accomplished a lot in her drag racing career, winning 12 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races and the 2014 Pro Stock championship, but one race that has eluded her has been the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Enders-Stevens will get another shot to win the event this weekend in Charlotte, where she has raced to the final round for three consecutive years.

“Maybe the change in the race date will change our luck,” Enders-Stevens said of the event that has been run in April in the past. “We’ve done everything but win Charlotte, and it would be nice to get over the hump.”

Enders-Stevens is the only Pro Stock driver to reach the event’s final round in each of the last three years, a feat in itself given the difficult nature of four-wide racing. Traditional drag races are two lanes, but the Four-Wide Nationals places extra demands on a driver’s concentration and talent.

“The Four-Wide race is always interesting, for sure,” Enders-Stevens said. “We obviously don’t race anything like it all year, so it is always an adjustment when we get to Charlotte. But I have faith in my guys to give me a fast race car, and that gives me a lot of confidence going there.”

Elite Motorsports debuted a new Chevrolet Camaro for Enders-Stevens in Gainesville, Fla., and the car is still in the development stages, but with crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, as well as Mark Ingersoll and the entire Elite Motorsports crew, she is confident the car will produce long-term results.

“My guys are the best in the business, and I know that car is going to be fast,” Enders-Stevens said. “I can’t think of no better place for us to get its first win than in Charlotte. I love the fans there and the area is great, too. Plus, two of my best friends in the world — Laura Cochran and Lacee Tuttle — live there, and it’s always great to see them. We’ll do our best this weekend and hope for a great result.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. ET, Friday and Saturday, and final eliminations will start at approximately 1:45 p.m., Sunday. Qualifying will be broadcasted on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis and elimination action will be live on ESPN starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Defending champ Enders-Stevens looks to continue hot streak in Gainesville


GAINESVILLE, FL — After picking up right where she left off at the end of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens is looking to continue her hot streak and capture her first victory of 2015 at this weekend’s Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway.

“My mentality is positive, optimistic, and excited about the races to come,” Enders-Stevens said. “I think that we have a lot to look forward to. As long as we figure out what happened in the final round in Phoenix and learn from it, we’ll be good to go.

“This new fuel and tire combination is a challenge that we’ve had to work to overcome so far. I’m confident in my guys, though, that we’re going to get there and we’ll be all right in the end when it matters.”

Sitting second in the points standings, just 21 points behind fellow Elite Performance companion Rodger Brogdon, Enders-Stevens isn’t concerned with how the first two races have gone for her and her team. In fact, she couldn’t be happier with how well things are working out for everyone at Elite Motorsports.

“Going into Gainesville, usually the weather is conducive for some record-setting runs,” Enders-Stevens said. “You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be swinging for the fences this weekend.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world in my guys, but the most important part is to just go out there and have fun. It’s still early in the season, and as long as we’re learning and enjoying ourselves, what better place is there to be than racing together.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. ET, Friday, and noon and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Enders-Stevens to bring the heat in the Valley of the Sun


PHOENIX, AZ — As the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series speeds along to the second stop on the 2015 schedule, defending Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens is determined to bring home the Wally from this weekend’s CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

“Pomona was our first race out with a new teammate and a new engine-leasing customer and we all did really well, so it was nice to get that under our belt,” Enders-Stevens said. “To have all three Elite Motorsports cars in the semifinals was pretty awesome. It was just nice to get back into the swing of things and establish our new routine.”

Knocking the dust off in Pomona, Calif., after the long off-season, Enders-Stevens feels as though she’s getting her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro warmed up and ready to compete.

“Not to be negative but Pomona was a huge struggle for me and my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “I struggled driving, we struggled with car setup, and we had two new rules implemented this year with a new tire and a new fuel that we’re still getting acquainted with. We’re really trying to gather as much data as we possibly can. To do as well as we did says a lot about this team overall. I don’t feel like we showed our cards at all in Pomona.”

Enders-Stevens is no stranger to success at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. After capturing the win in 2013 over veteran and fellow series champion Mike Edwards, she is anxious to repeat that success again in front of some familiar faces.

“I know that we’re capable of so much more, so I’m really excited and optimistic heading into Phoenix this week,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve won at this track before. Plus, it’s kind of like a second hometown race for me because my family is from there. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel this weekend and show them what we have.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. PT, Friday and Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Enders-Stevens begins defense of 2014 Pro Stock championship


POMONA, CA — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens will begin to defend her 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world championship this weekend at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

But not much has changed in Enders-Stevens’ mind as she and her team prepare for the Winternationals.

“I guess it really hasn’t completely sunk in because some days it’ll just cross my mind and I can’t believe it,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s pretty cool. The off-season is busy as always, no different than any other. We’re hard at work trying to find money and horsepower.”

Though she hasn’t raced since her triumphant victory in the final round of the final race of 2014, Enders-Stevens remains as focused as ever at the task at hand: Doing her job, one round at a time.

“I haven’t gotten unfocused,” Enders-Stevens said. “What we accomplished last year doesn’t change anything ever. It’s a great accomplishment and really cool, but you can go from hero to zero really quick, week in and week out. I learned that a long time ago. We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we’re going to swing for the fences just like we did last year.”

Enders-Stevens, 31, won her first world championship with a stellar season that included six victories, six No. 1 qualifiers, and national elapsed-time and speed records.

But the championship was in doubt until the final round in Pomona, where Enders-Stevens won the race and the title when Jason Line red-lit.

Now, she returns to the site of her championship brandishing the No. 1 on the side of her Chevrolet Camaro.

“We’re the defending world champions, and it’s a pretty awesome place to be,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve never been in this situation before, and we’re really excited and honored to carry the No. 1 this year. It’ll be a memorable year, and we’re going to go to Pomona and give it our all and hopefully carry the No. 1 into 2016 also. That’s everyone’s goal.

“We know the target is on our back, for sure, but to be honest it’s been on our back. I don’t know if anything has changed. Last year, we had a very dominant car, and when some people would race us, they’d swing for the fences both performance-wise and from the driver’s seat.

“I don’t think anything will change from our angle,” Enders-Stevens added. “We’re going to stay focused on racing our car and our lane.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. PT, Friday and Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

With the Pro Stock title in sight, Enders-Stevens is focused on having fun


POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) — Even with the NHRA Pro Stock championship on the line during this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the No. 1 goal for Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team is to have fun.

That has been the goal since Enders-Stevens joined the team this year, and it has paid off with five victories and the points lead heading into the season finale. And there’s no reason to change now.

“It’s such an awesome environment to work in, and (team owner) Richard Freeman is just an awesome guy to work for,” Enders-Stevens said. “He’s great at managing people, making everyone feel important, and at communication. We have team meetings, and we all always just stay on the same page. I think that’s how you make any relationship work, whether it be business or marriage or whatever.

“He’s done a really great job with that, and he’s made it very evident that if we’re not having fun, we’re not going to do it. We have a blast together.”

Winning helps that attitude, of course, but Enders-Stevens and her team are always smiling and joking no matter what. That positive outlook has helped through some trying times this season and enabled Enders-Stevens to bounce back from losing the points lead to regain it at the most recent race in Las Vegas.

Enders-Stevens is 17 points ahead of second-place Jason Line heading into Pomona after she beat Line in the Vegas semifinal before winning the race.

“People are the most important part of the puzzle, and Richard has certainly organized an elite group of people,” Enders-Stevens said. “Rick and Rickie Jones as my crew chiefs and all of the guys that work on my car, it’s just awesome, and we do have a blast whether we’re out to eat or at the racetrack winning and losing together. It’s always a fun time.”

But they take racing seriously, too, as shown by their terrific season to date. She has led the points standings for 13 of the 23 events so far in 2014, even after skipping two Western Swing races to prepare for the end of the year. In addition to the five wins, Enders-Stevens has raced to one other final round and four semifinal appearances.

Plus, she has scored six No. 1 qualifiers, including the last three in a row. In 18 of her 21 races this year, she has qualified in the top three 18 times.

All those numbers could add up to Enders-Stevens becoming the first female champion in the history of Pro Stock.

“Yeah, it’s certainly a huge feat to accomplish,” Enders-Stevens said. “I would have my name on a list with just Shirley Muldowney and Angelle (Sampey), and those are two of my heroes. To be able to have the opportunity to get it done is awesome in itself.

“At the same time I think any female racer will tell you that we just want to be looked at as a driver. The car doesn’t know the difference in gender, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me, but at the end of the day I guess it would be very awesome to be able to make history and just show any other females that maybe even had a little bit of doubt that they weren’t capable or whatever that I’m a perfect example of a normal kid — through hard work and certainly surrounding myself with the right people and having such a solid support group — that anything is possible, and I hope that’s the message that comes across to them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry qualifying and elimination action.

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