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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.

Enders-Stevens’ Husky Liners team takes Pro Stock title battle to Vegas

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 6) – Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens remains in contention for the Pro Stock championship despite a second-round loss during the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway.

Enders-Stevens is fifth in the Pro Stock standings, 114 points out of the lead with two races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship. The next race is in two weeks in Las Vegas.

“We’ll just go to Vegas with a clean head and do the best we can,” Enders-Stevens said. “The good news is we have a couple weeks off. We’ve been on the road for a month straight, but now we get to go home and regroup. We’ll work on the car and head to Vegas fresh. I’m looking forward to it, and we’ve got to battle back.”

Enders Stevens and the Cagnazzi Racing team have rallied in the six-race Countdown. She won at Gateway Motorsports Park last week and has climbed from ninth to fifth in the points standings. That came after sitting out six of the eight races before the Countdown, but Enders-Stevens’ Chevrolet Camaro clearly has been one of the cars to beat since returning.

On Sunday she took out Buddy Perkinson in the first round on a holeshot before falling to Allen Johnson. Perkinson ran a faster elapsed time, 6.603 seconds at 210.18 mph to Enders-Stevens’ 6.605 at 208.62 mph, but she pulled off a lightning-quick .008-second reaction time to get the victory.

“I knew I had to be up on the wheel against Buddy,” Enders-Stevens said. “I was happy to get those 20 points.”

Johnson, the defending Pro Stock champion, made a run of 6.588 seconds at 209.43 mph in the second round to outrun her pass of 6.595 at 209.59 mph

“It was going to be a day of thousandths all day long,” Enders-Stevens said. “You have to be killer on the (Christmas) Tree and you have to make really good runs. My guys gave me a great car, and we made one of our best runs of the weekend second round.”

Enders-Stevens and her team get a two-week break before the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Oct. 25-27 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens wins St. Louis, powers into title contention

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ST. LOUIS (Sept. 29) – Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens added another chapter to her memory book Sunday, winning the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in spectacular fashion with a holeshot victory over Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards.

“I love St. Louis,” said Enders-Stevens, who also won this race last year. “I’m glad to be back. It’s a good place for me.”

Enders-Stevens has raced at Gateway since 2001 but never won here as an amateur. But in 2012, Enders-Stevens finally broke through, beating eventual series champion Allen Johnson on a holeshot to secure her fourth victory of the season.

“This is the place where I signed my deal with Victor Cagnazzi in 2004 to start driving for him,” Enders-Stevens said. “Then we won last year. This track holds a lot of fond memories for me. Now here we are back in the winner’s circle. I love coming here, the fans are great and the facility is awesome.”

Enders-Stevens left on Edwards with a .021-second reaction time, and her pass of 6.540 seconds at 211.23 mph was enough to hold off Edwards’ charging 6.532-second run at 212.36 mph.

Sunday’s victory was her second of the season and sixth of her career, tying her with husband Richie Stevens. She’s also tied with Karen Stoffer and trails only Angelle Sampey and Shirley Muldowney as the female with the most NHRA victories.

Plus, Enders-Stevens moved up two spots to fourth in the Pro Stock standings, now trailing Edwards by just 60 points with three races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

“The championship would have been out of reach had we exited first or second round here,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have to perform well, and we can’t make any mistakes. There are three races left, and that’s 12 rounds of racing. We’re three rounds out of first, and we’ve got to beat these heavy hitters.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world in my guys, and that’s our mentality. This is our championship, and they’re going to have to take it from us. That’s the attitude we have to have. We have to remain positive and optimistic. I’m excited about it.”

Enders-Stevens, crew chiefs Dave Connolly and Tommy Utt and her Cagnazzi Racing team returned to the Pro Stock wars thanks to a partnership with Husky Liners. Company President/Founder Bob Tyler spoke with Enders-Stevens by phone not long after she celebrated in victory lane.

“I just talked to Mr. Tyler and he’s really pleased with what we’re doing,” Enders-Stevens said. “I couldn’t thank him enough. It was four days before Charlotte, the first race of the Countdown, and I thought we were going to be sitting at home watching these guys compete for the championship. That changed really quickly when Husky Liners jumped on with us, and now here we are.”

And she has no intention of slowing down.

“My guys have been really great,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have team meetings and strategize our race-day plans. We got together and agreed that we’re going to have fun. You never know when it’s your last race, and we came back swinging.”

Enders-Stevens started her day by beating Deric Kramer in the first round, as the race was over when Kramer left -.007 seconds too soon. Enders-Stevens’ pass of 6.544 seconds at 211.16 mph was quick enough to secure lane choice against Shane Gray in the second round.

There, she made a pass of 6.556 seconds at 211.06 mph to beat Gray, who slowed to a run of 28.128 seconds at 24.81 mph.

In the semifinals, Enders-Stevens got down the track with a 6.555-second pass at 210.87 mph, beating a sliding Rickie Jones, who went 14.094 seconds at 60.23 mph.

Then came Edwards, who had taken over the points lead by reaching the final. But Enders-Stevens has her eye on the points lead, too.

“We’ve got three races left, and we’re going to do our best and let God do the rest,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens proud of Husky Liners team after solid showing in Dallas

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DALLAS (Sept. 22) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners team continue to move forward in the Pro Stock points standings and are now tied for sixth after a second-round finish at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals on Sunday at Texas Motorplex.

Enders-Stevens earned the No. 1 qualifier, beat Chris McGaha in the first round, and then left first on Vieri Gaines in the second round with a .008-second reaction time before Gaines nipped her at the finish line.

“I was really proud of my crew chiefs and my entire team for their performance in Dallas,” Enders-Stevens said of her Cagnazzi Racing team. “When you lose two sessions on Friday, it’s crucial to go out there and perform for the two qualifying runs you have left. We capitalized on it in the first round and were able to get the No. 1 qualifier.

“They’ve been consistently getting this race car down the track, and I’m proud of them. It gives me a lot of confidence as a driver knowing that I have a good car underneath me.”

Enders-Stevens’ driving was solid Sunday, as she left the starting line first against both opponents. Against McGaha, she had a .034 light and then made a pass of 6.573 seconds at 210.31 mph. That was enough to beat McGaha’s 6.641 at 208.78 mph.

“It was an OK run,” Enders-Stevens said. “I was OK on the Tree and the run was OK. We didn’t kill it, and there was certainly some left over in the car, but it was enough to win and that’s what matters. And it was enough to keep lane choice, too.”

Enders-Stevens chose the left lane against Gaines and was quicker out of the gate with a stellar .008 light. She made a pass of 6.604 seconds at 210.18 mph, but Gaines had a .010 light and made a slightly quicker lap of 6.596 seconds at 211.03 mph to take the win by .061-second.

“That was an important round for us because V. was really close to us in points,” Enders-Stevens said. “That would’ve been nice to spread the gap but it wasn’t our day. We did all that we could do and unfortunately came up short.”

Still, Enders-Stevens moved up one spot into a tie for sixth with Gaines, who lost in the semifinals after a .111 light.

“We’ll continue to plug away at it,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve got to start going more rounds if we want to win the championship. We know the task that is ahead of us and we’ll be all right.

“We’ve got a good car and it’s consistent. Plus, we’re getting down the racetrack, which is important in the Countdown. We’ve got to do our best every single time we pull up to the waterbox. We know that and I’m confident in my team. They’ve really been doing a great job and have figured this Chevy Camaro out.”

Up next for Enders-Stevens is the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals from Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.

Enders-Stevens takes Husky Liners to semifinals in Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 15) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners Pro Stock team made some gains at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals on Sunday at zMax Dragway.

Enders-Stevens moved up two spots in the Pro Stock points standings to seventh with a semifinal finish in the first race of the Countdown to the Championship, and she also gained ground on several drivers still in front of her in the points.

“We’ve always got to look at the positives,” Enders-Stevens said. “At this moment we’re the underdog, and we’ve got some fighting to do to get this car up to the performance level of the rest of the pack. Being back in the car and getting seat time is only going to make it better, and I know that.”

Sunday’s performance was truly a team effort, as Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team were both on top of their game. She overpowered one opponent and then won another round on a holeshot.

“Today was a good start to the Countdown,” Enders-Stevens said. “A semifinal finish is nothing to be ashamed of. There are a lot of guys who would have traded spots with us today.”

Enders-Stevens moved within 10 points of sixth place, and is 109 points – a little more than five rounds – behind leader Mike Edwards.

“I’m glad to have made up some ground on a couple of the guys ahead of me,” Enders-Stevens said. “The good news is in three days we go to Dallas. We’ll get another shot at it and we’ll keep fighting.”

Enders-Stevens kicked off her return to full-time Pro Stock competition with a win over Rodger Brogdon. Her pass was 6.578 seconds at 210.28 mph to defeat Brogdon’s 6.626 at 208.71 mph.

That matched her up against defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson, and though her good friend was quicker, Enders-Stevens scored the victory. The difference was her .029-second reaction time that gave her a .031-second advantage. That was enough to overcome Johnson’s pass of 6.567 seconds at 211.16 mph, which was slightly quicker than her run of 6.586 seconds at 209.36 mph.

“That was nice,” Enders-Stevens said. “I came back and had a meeting with Dave (Connolly, her crew chief alongside Tommy Utt) and went over some things with the car. I’m always up on the wheel, but that was an important round for our team. I love Brutus (Johnson) and he’s my best friend out here, but when the helmets go on, I’m ready to rip his throat out. That’s the mindset I took, and he left the door open for us.”

She then faced No. 1 qualifier Jason Line, who led the whole race with a run of 6.579 seconds at 210.73 mph, beating Enders-Stevens’ 6.597 at 210.05 mph.

Next up for Enders-Stevens and the Husky Liners team is the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals next weekend in Dallas.

Enders-Stevens, Keith Haney Racing make improvements in Rockingham

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 8) – RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil driver Erica Enders-Stevens dropped a first-round matchup Sunday against the Pro Mod No. 1 qualifier, but her Keith Haney Racing team made marked progress during ADRL’s Dragstock X at Rockingham Dragway.

Pro Mod cars are notoriously difficult to get a handle on, and with a new, lighter driver they become more recalcitrant. But Haney, Lethal Acceleration’s Brandon Pesz, and the team made the right adjustments to allow Enders-Stevens to get down the track on two consecutive runs, including Sunday’s pass in hot, slick conditions.

“We’re making progress,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been fighting the car for a few weeks, but we made a good run last night and then getting down a 135-degree racetrack today was a feat in itself. Of course we wanted to win, but we took a good swing at it.

“I’m proud of the team. We put our heads down and worked through it, and we won’t give up. It’s encouraging to improve like that.”

The team made an adjustment for Sunday’s hotter conditions, and Enders-Stevens made a clean pass of 4.161 seconds at 185.64 mph, but that wasn’t enough to overcome No. 1 qualifier Chris Rini’s pass of 3.954 at 189.26 mph.

Now, though, the team has something to build on for the ADRL season finale in Houston at Enders-Stevens’ home track.

“I look forward to maybe some more testing and then heading to Houston for the final ADRL race,” Enders-Stevens said. “Thanks to RacingJunk.com and Lucas Oil for helping us get here. I’m appreciative of Keith and all of his guys for the opportunity to drive their hot rod.”

Team owner Keith Haney, who failed to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations, was appreciative of Enders-Stevens and the attention the five-time NHRA Pro Stock winner brought to his team and sponsors.

“The crowd loved her,” Haney said. “She sold out all of her hats and we sold out of T-shirts. ADRL and Kenny Nowling made us feel so welcome. She was on the cover of the local paper here, which was pretty cool.

“We need to step back and regroup with my car and look at some of the things we’re doing. We need to get better.”

Pro Stock’s Enders Narrowly Misses Victory at Bristol

Erica Enders-Stevens vs Rodger Brogdon Bristol 2013

BRISTOL, TN (June 16) — With less than a foot separating them at the finish line, first time Pro Stock winner Rodger Brogdon squeaked past the Charter Communications / Black Iguana Camaro of Erica Enders-Stevens during the final round at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Brogdon’s pass of 6.745 seconds at 205.48 bested Enders’ 6.752 at 205.66. During that run, Enders’ car slowed by nearly five-hundredths over the previous round, giving Brogdon just enough momentum to defeat Enders by just .0026 seconds, or roughly nine inches at the finish line.

“We missed the clutch setup and it slowed us down. Had we ran in the 6.700’s as we did in the semis it would have been a different story. These cars run so close together you can’t afford to miss your mark,” said Enders.

The number three qualifier Enders would outrun Larry Morgan in round one, then out-drive the venerable Jeg Coughlin with a holeshot victory in round two. A semi-final victory over Greg Anderson would sent her to the final round against the underdog Brogdon.

She ran a 6.680, a 6.694, and a 6.706 second pass during those first three rounds.

Brogdon, who had only once before ever reached a Pro Stock final, took out V. Gaines in round one before defeating number one qualifier Mike Edwards in round two when Edwards’ motor broke. Next, Jason Line spun in the semifinals, setting up the showdown between the two Texas natives.

“I don’t think anyone expected we’d face each other in the finals,” said Enders. “Mike had all of us on the run in qualifying, so it would take something big to get around him. Rodger was able to capitalize on it, and he was able to do the same against Jason. I’m sure it surprised a lot of people, but as drivers we know everyone has a chance on Sunday.”

Enders and Brogdon both hail from the Houston area, and have a long history as friends and rivals, dating back to when Erica was a teammate with Brogdon while running for MOPAR, and she and her father, Gregg raced sportsman cars with Roger.

“Rodger and I have known each other for a very long time,” said Enders. “Of course we would have liked to have been in his shoes today, but I haven’t forgot what it was like to win my first last year, so I’m happy he gets to experience it too.”

With Bristol complete, Erica remains 4th in the overall Pro Stock points standings with 687, behind Mike Edwards (921) and a tie between teammates Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin (757). If funding for Black Iguana gets finalized this week, she will race Next weekend, June 20th – 23rd, for the Inagural NHRA New England Nationals title at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire.

Tire Shake Cuts Englishtown Short for BLACK iGUANA Racer Enders

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ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (June 3) — Erica Enders-Stevens was dealt a frustrating 2nd round loss when her BLACK iGUANA Frozen Rita Camaro shook the tires during the 44th Annual NHRA Toyota Summernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey.

The number-three qualified Enders made a solid 6.601 @ 209.62 mph pass in round one, defeating Frank Gugliotta who fouled out at the line with a -.010 red light start.

But it was the second round match-up against reigning series champ Allen Johnson that would cut her quest for another Wally trophy short.

With Enders and Johnson kicking off round two, the BLACK iGUANA Camaro immediately succumbed to tire shake during the launch, causing the car to cut hard right and forcing her to push in the clutch and call off the pass.

“As I felt it start to shake I quickly pulled 2nd, but it wasn’t enough to calm the car down,” said Enders.

As elimination rounds progress with each class, track conditions begin to change. Even seemingly minor shifts can have a big impact on how a crew chief makes their decision on what to tweak in order to get the car down the track.

“Being the first pair out, you also don’t have the opportunity to watch other cars go down ahead of you,” she explained. “It’s an extra challenge for crew chiefs, especially in this heat. Unfortunately, we missed our mark today and we took our lumps for it.”

Johnson would go on to a pass of 6.646 @ 209.65 mph and eventually take his Mopar Dodge Avenger to a runner-up finish against number the one qualifier, Mike Edwards.

Enders wasn’t the only one to be shook out of contention this weekend. Topeka winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. and hometown favorite Vincent Nobile would also experience similar fates.

“As a driver you want to get down the track, and you can sometimes fight your way through it. This just wasn’t one of those times for us,” Enders said. “It’s frustrating as we’ve had a fast car in qualifying, but haven’t been able to translate it into more round wins on Sunday.”

With Englishtown on the books, Enders remains 4th in overall points. The NHRA heads next to Bristol, Tennesse June 14th – 16th for the 13th Annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

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