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Erica Enders-Stevens Captures Hometown Pro Stock Win in Houston

Erica Enders-Stevens Houston Winner Circle

BAYTOWN, TX — Ten years after her first national event win as a sportsman in Super Gas, Erica Enders-Stevens returned to the winner’s circle at Royal Purple Raceway Sunday for her first Pro Stock win at her home track.

The number two qualified Enders-Stevens faced number one qualifier and friend Allen Johnson in a rematch of this season’s Gainesville final during the 27th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals outside of Houston, Texas.

“I had to get him back for Gainesville,” said Enders-Stevens. “Allen and I and [Allen’s wife] Pam had breakfast on Friday morning for Pam’s birthday. We talked about how cool it would be to qualify 1-2 and go to the finals and we did just that with the Good Lord’s blessing. Doing it on a holeshot makes it that much sweeter. He got me on a holeshot in Gainesville.”

Erica’s Elite Motorsports Camaro shot out of the gate early in qualifiying, going to the top of the field during the opening session, but missing out on the number one spot late Friday when Allen Johnson posted a best 6.555 to her overall best 6.562.

However, Erica’s Elite Motorsports Camaro continued to run to the top with two more passes Saturday in the 6.56’s (6.562 and 6.568) that would have her as the fastest car for three of the four qualifying sessions. That consistency would be crucial for Sunday’s race in front of a hometown crowd, family, friends and sponsors.

During first round of eliminations against Matt Hartford, Erica came out swinging, cutting a sharp .006 second reaction time and running the lowest ET of the round with a 6.578 at 211.26 mph.

Her next two rounds meant defeating multi-time champions Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin Jr. to make it to the finals. With lane choice in her favor, she swiftly moved through Line with a 6.577 second pass to his 6.639, then advanced over Jeg after he fouled out with a -.004 red light. Erica’s semifinal ET of 6.584 was just one-thousandth quicker than Johnson’s 6.585, giving her lane choice for the finals.

With the threat rain showers looming, the event’s paced sped up and teams rushed to get cars prepped and to the staging lanes. There was a moment of tension when officials motioned to start and Johnson made his way to the right lane while Erica and her team scrambled under the tower.

“We were thrashing,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had to make a last minute transmission change and go through the gears and make sure everything was right. We got up here and A.J. already was in his car buckled up and I had not even had my firesuit pulled up yet. I was getting in, my clutch can was still open, my hood scoop was still in, I was still hooked up to the golf cart, and you want to talk about pressure and craziness. It was very intense. I was pulling up into the water box and A.J. had already done his burnout and backed up. Fortunately enough I was able to focus and get done what we needed to get done. I thanked Allen down at the top end for waiting as long as he could because he didn’t have to. My guys once again gave me a really great Chevy Camaro to drive to the winners circle.”

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Her focus would be key as Erica beat Allen on a holeshot. Her .018 reaction time and 6.594 at 210.60 mph elapsed time was enough to hold of Johnson’s .044 reaction and 6.588 at 210.28 mph pass to capture her 8th career victory.

“I have never won Indy, so I don’t know what that feels like and I have never won the Championship, but this one rates right up there,” Enders-Stevens said. “This one is as important to me as Indy probably is to all the other drivers.”

The importance was obvious by the number of people gathered in the winner’s circle. Family, including her sister, Courtney, and their father, Gregg, as well as husband Richie Stevens and his family were all in attendance. Close friends from childhood and from years spent at the racetrack, as well as those of the Elite Motorsports crew and sponsors joined in and huddled together for photos.

New sponsors Mark Stockseth, Lloyd and Linda Wofford of Engines, Inc. and Steven and Kim Bruno of United Mechanical all saw their first race of the season result in a Wally, and sponsor Royal Purple celebrated a win at the track that bears their name, adding to the festivities and capping off a successful weekend.

Erica is looking to keep the success coming, thanks to an Elite Motorsports team that continues to deliver a dominant car capable of the speed and consistency necessary to hold on to the points lead and win.

“My team’s been really awesome,” said Enders-Stevens. “I’ve had a really consistent race car. That’s what it takes Sundays, consistency. The ball’s in our court. We’ve got to carry the momentum. That’s important in this game, and I know I keep saying that, but it’s huge, and we’re going to keep carrying it as long as we can. Pro Stock really goes in cycles, so I’m really hoping this is our cycle, and we’re going to keep fighting for it.”

They’ll put that consistency to the test when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, GA for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals May 16th-18th.

Tire Shake Cuts Short Pro Stock Four-Wide Final for Enders-Stevens

Erica Enders-Stevens 4-Wide Nationals

CONCORD, NC — In her 4th straight final round appearance, Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens shook the tires and was forced to cut short her chance at back-to-back Wally trophies during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

The current points leader and her Elite Motorsports Camaro have now appeared in three straight national event final rounds (Gainesville, Las Vegas and Charlotte), as well as the finals during Vegas’ K&N Horsepower Challenge. She won both races in Vegas, and had hoped to go “back-to-back-to-back” with a win in Charlotte. Sunday’s race was also her 3rd Four-Wide Nationals final round appearance in a row.

“Winning would have been incredible, just unreal,” said Enders-Stevens. “My guys have us on a hot streak, and even though we didn’t get the win today, we still put up great numbers, went rounds and continue to hold on to the points lead. I’m bummed we couldn’t make it happen today, but I’m thrilled at what we’re accomplishing together.”

Going into Sunday, Erica had qualified in the number two spot with a pass of 6.524 at 213.13 mph. She was just 0.001 second off the pole and posted the fastest mph of the entire weekend for the Pro Stock class.

During the first two rounds of the unique four-car configuration, where the top two cars advance, Erica reached the finish line first each time, and with the quickest ET. However in her final round, she was forced to push the clutch in and end her run early after the car shook.

“We’ve been blessed to have a consistent race car and a setup that rarely gets away from us,” noted Enders-Stevens. “It bit us this time, but better it was the final than the first round. Now we’ll look forward to getting it done in Houston in front of my hometown crowd!”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas (outside of Houston) April 25th – 27th.

Erica Doubles Up in Vegas for $100,000 Weekend

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LAS VEGAS — “Next to winning a championship, this is probably the coolest thing in the world,” said Erica Enders-Stevens after winning not one, but two races during the SummitRacingEquipment.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On Saturday, eight Pro Stock drivers squared off in the annual K&N Horsepower Challenge — a race-in-a-race shootout for a $50,000 prize, bragging rights, and for one lucky fan, a brand new Toyota Tacoma truck.

Erica and her Elite Motorsports Camaro advanced to the finals again this year, and beat her former crew chief and teammate, Dave Connolly, to capture the win after Connolly’s car overpowered the tires and he was forced to push the clutch in.

“The win is very sweet. It’s about having ice in your veins when it matters. We got it done by the grace of God, and I give Him all the glory. I’m a blessed girl.”

With her Horsepower Challenge victory, she set the stage for a double-up opportunity on Sunday. It’s a feat Allen Johnson accomplished during last year’s event, when he beat Erica in both final rounds.

Sunday eliminations didn’t start off as planned, with the Pro Stock field delayed due to high wind conditions in the Las Vegas desert. Unlike Top Fuel and Funny Car, who employ a great deal of downforce to plant the tires, Pro Stock’s aerodynamics are pushed to the edge in an effort to streamline the cars for the least possible amount of drag. This risks the cars becoming unstable at higher speeds when faced with adverse conditions such as high winds and dust blowing across the racing surface.

After the all-clear, the field took the track later in the afternoon and Erica worked her way to her second final round appearance in a row, facing Jason Line in the Summit Racing Camaro.

With identical 0.034 second reaction times, it was all about the remaining 1,320 feet to the finish line and who had the better car to get them there first.

Erica would edge out Line with a 6.612 at 208.78 mph pass to his 6.633 at 208.23 mph run.

“We had a lot of wheel speed on that one,” said Enders-Stevens of her run. “It shook at the top of low and I pulled second. It went sideways and it shook a little more. I put it in third and thank God, it went down. I saw us pull ahead of him and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. My guys, they’re it. They gave me an awesome race car all day.”

Her team, Elite Motorsports, have captured plenty of bragging rights themselves. After securing the Pro Stock speed record in Gainesville, then winning the Horsepower Challenge, they have taken their Chevy Camaro the winner’s circle for the second time in five races, having won the final race in Pomona at the end of 2013.

Led by Richard Freeman, with the father-son crew chief duo of Rick and Rickie Jones and engine builders Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, the Elite Motorsports team has demonstrated a depth and cohesion required of a Championship-contending team.

“It’s huge and a testament to all of these guys who work for us,” said Freeman. “The engine shop, Nick and Jake, and everybody back home. My whole group is unbelievable.”

By doubling up, K&N sweetens the pot with an additional $25,000 bonus check, taking the grand total up to an even $100,000 weekend as Enders-Stevens captured her 7th career Pro Stock Wally.

“It certainly is very important to us; it keeps us going on this 24-race schedule,” said Enders-Stevens. “This is storybook. We’ve gone a few years without sponsorship; there were definitely more lows than highs. It would have been easy to quit. This is definitely a highlight.”

What’s more, with her victory in Las Vegas, Erica now leads the point standings in Pro Stock, another first for a woman in the class.

Erica and Elite Motorsports will carry their hot steak to Charlotte’s zMAX Dragway in two weeks for the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, April 11th – 13th.

Enders-Stevens Sets Pro Stock Speed Record, Runners-Up at Gatornationals

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GAINESVILLE, FL — It was a near-storybook weekend for Erica Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports with another number two qualifying effort, a new national speed record, and a runner-up finish. These are the results the team has been building toward since the start of the 2014 season, and it arrived at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

The drive kicked off during the first round of qualifying, where Enders-Stevens captured the new Pro Stock nationals speed record with a 6.483 @ 214.69 mph.

“That was a huge way to kick off the weekend,” said Enders-Stevens. “The conditions were great for breaking records, and we’re pumped we could take advantage of it. Nick Ferri and the guys at the engine shop have been busting their butts to deliver horsepower and it’s an awesome feather to have in their caps.”

The Elite Motorsports Camaro continued to charge through the remaining qualifying session, backing up the record speed to secure it’s place in books, and posting the lowest ETs during Saturday’s two sessions.

Race day proved to deliver the results that had eluded the team during the first two events. Erica easily beat Robert Patrick in the first round before eliminating V. Gaines and Vincent Nobile to reach a final round match-up against none other than long-time friend, Allen Johnson.

However, it would be AJ’s day when he shot off the line first to take the holeshot victory. His 0.030 second advantage and 6.566 @ 211.73 mph run managed to hold off Erica’s 6.551 @ 211.96 mph pass to the finish line.

“We had fast and consistent race car all weekend and I’m so proud of my team,” said Erica. “It didn’t end up the way we had hoped, but if we have to lose, I pick Brutus to win. It’s awesome to have the fastest hot rod in the world and we will do our best to keep going rounds!”

Erica heads to Las Vegas next for the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals from March 28-30. There, she’ll be competing for $50,000 during that Saturday’s K&N Horsepower Challenge after securing her spot by qualifying in Gainesville.

Second Round Upset Cuts Short Phoenix Title Defense for Enders-Stevens

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PHOENIX — Defending Pro Stock event champion Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team arrived in Phoenix with hopes of backing up her 2013 win during the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

As the number two qualifier, with one of the hottest cars on the track, conditions were shaping up for it to become a reality.

However, a tough launch would put an early end to those hopes on race day.

The Elite Motorsports Camaro had posted spectacular ETs during qualifying, placing Erica just .001 behind number the number one spot with a 6.531 @ 211.66 mph.

“The car was running fantastic,” said Enders-Stevens. “We are all really happy with how the program is progressing. It just keeps getting better.”

During their first round matchup Sunday against Matt Hartford, Erica backed up her best qualifying run with a 6.531 @ 212.09 mph. That pass would go on to be the fastest of the day.

Yet during the Round 2 match-up against her former crew chief, Dave Connolly, the car made an abrupt move to the right during the launch, costing precious time to recover.

“I worked it back into the groove, but by that time it was too late,” said Enders-Stevens. “We had the performance, but unfortunately it wasn’t our day.”

Allen Johnson would go on to defeat Connolly and then V. Gaines to bring home the Wally.

Erica and Elite Motorsports head to Gainesville in three weeks for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals March 14th – 16th.

Winternationals Performance Shows Promise for Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports

Enders-Stevens crossing finish line at Pomona 2014

POMONA, CA — During the opening race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports proved their Chevy Camaro will be a threat this year among the Pro Stock ranks.

After a shaky Friday afternoon of qualifying that included an aborted run, the team rallied back Saturday to qualify 5th during the Circle K NHRA Winternationals from Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

“We were a little rocky at the get-go,” said Erica. “But by Saturday we were jamming and it felt good to put up a number we knew we were capable of. I’m very happy with the car and how the team has come together. We’re having a blast.”

The strong performance continued when the Elite Motorsports Camaro posted the third fastest pass during the opening round of Sunday eliminations.

Erica drove to a 6.540 at 212.13 mph to advance over Deric Kramer’s 6.554 at 210.37 in Round 1. However it was her quarterfinal match-up against V. Gaines that would put a close to the weekend.

In spite of a solid 6.544 second pass at 211.66 mph, Erica came up short against Gaines’ quicker 6.527 at 212.29 mph.

Gaines would eventually knock out number one qualifier Vincent Nobile before falling to event winner Jason Line in the final round.

“Hats off to V.,” said Erica. “He’s one of the other single car teams out here keeping us all on notice. He had the ET, out-drove us to the stripe, and got us that time, but we’ll be back in Phoenix.”

Erica and Elite Motorsports head to Phoenix in two weeks to the refreshed and renamed Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, where last year Erica took home her 5th Pro Stock Wally in a holeshot victory over Mike Edwards.

First-round loss won’t diminish Enders-Stevens’ solid season

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) – A first-round loss in the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway won’t diminish the accomplishments of Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Enders-Stevens finished sixth in the Pro Stock points standings after a season in which she missed six races with her Cagnazzi Racing team because of sponsorship issues. With a partnership with Husky Liners, Enders-Stevens returned for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, winning in St. Louis and moving as high as fourth in points.

“I was blessed to be able to make the Countdown and finish the year,” said Enders-Stevens, who won two races in 2013. “It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation by any means, but we did the best we could with what we had. It’s a cruel world out here, but I’m remaining positive and optimistic through all of the hard times. That’s important to do, and I can only hope next year will be better.”

Enders-Stevens goes into the off-season on a positive note after enjoying a fun weekend in Pomona. She appeared on KTLA 5 Morning News on Friday, followed by an appearance at the Night of Champions at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum on Friday night.

“I love coming to Pomona,” Enders-Stevens said. “I love the raw history of this sport and this racetrack, and the fact that my Jr. Dragster is here in the museum is an honor for me and my family. I really enjoy being in Southern California at this race.”

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 8 and was the first pair out in her matchup with Shane Gray. Gray made a pass of 6.586 seconds at 211.03 mph while Enders-Stevens’ run was 6.595 at 211.59 mph, as Gray got the win.

“It shook and took a hard turn right,” Enders-Stevens said of her launch. “I did what I could with what I had, but when the car is out of control and gets away like that, as driver, it’s a challenge. I probably should’ve shoved the clutch in and aborted the run, but I wanted that round-win more than almost any round-win in my career. God had a different plan, and I trust in it.”

Husky Liners driver Enders-Stevens runs out of luck in second round

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 27) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners Pro Stock team didn’t have the best of luck in the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, falling in the second round to points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., but of the drivers in front of her coming into the race, only Coughlin got past the second round, and he lost in the semifinals.

“If there’s a positive to it, at least the rest of the guys in front of me are out, too, so they can’t spread the gap,” Enders-Stevens said. “We can go to Pomona (Calif.) and finish as high as second. We just have to do a good job. It’s not over until it’s over.”

Enders-Stevens exits Las Vegas sixth in the points standings, but she’ll be 68 points out of second place with one race remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

She started Sunday with a rematch from the first round in Reading, but Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team were again up to the challenge against Buddy Perkinson. Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.650 seconds at 207.53 mph to take out Perkinson’s 6.664 at 208.04 mph.

Enders-Stevens’ pass matched the second-quickest run of the round, but she still didn’t have lane choice against Coughlin. He then went low in Round 2 with a run of 6.659 seconds at 207.15 mph to outrun Enders-Stevens’ 6.670 at 206.35 mph.

“I knew we’d be within a hundredth of him as far as performance goes,” Enders-Stevens said. “He was .060 on the Tree first round, and I knew he’d get up on the wheel for the second round. We talked about it, and I knew I needed to get up on the wheel but I just missed it.

“I don’t miss it often and neither does he. He missed first round, and I missed second round. It stinks it wasn’t reversed.”

Enders-Stevens had a .028-second reaction time in Round 1 and a .053 against Coughlin. He was nearly reverse with a .060 in the first round and .026 in the second.

“That was a huge round,” Enders-Stevens said. “If we had beaten Jeg there, things would have fallen a lot differently the rest of the day here and then in Pomona (Calif.). Everybody in front of us went out, and had I beat Jeg we would’ve been able to close the gap. It’s just one of those deals.”

Still Enders-Stevens is all smiles about her performance in the Countdown with one race remaining in the season. She has one victory and one No. 1 qualifier to go with a semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal showings in five races.

Enders-Stevens was in the top half in Vegas, qualifying No. 6, and had one of the cars to beat.

“My team did a good job,” Enders-Stevens said. “We got down the track every time. We’re doing the best we can, and we’ll just have to pick up and go to Pomona and race our guts out. I knew I could do it and they can, too. Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend in Pomona and finish second in the points.”

Cagnazzi Racing was competing for the first time since the announcement of a merger between Cagnazzi and Gray Motorsports for the 2014 season and beyond. Under the Gray Motorsports umbrella, engine development for both the Pro Stock and Cagnazzi’s successful COPO Camaro Stock Eliminator programs will take place at the Gray Motorsports facility in Denver, N.C., and chassis development for both will take place in Victor Cagnazzi’s facility in nearby Mooresville.

The new Gray Motorsports team is currently seeking support for a three-car team to include drivers Shane Gray, Enders-Stevens, and Dave Connolly.

Gray won the Las Vegas race by beating Vieri Gaines in the final round.

The team’s next event will be the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 7-10 in Pomona.

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