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Two-time world champ Erica Enders reaches quarterfinals at Denso NHRA Nationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Las Vegas 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will have to wait for another time to log a fifth career victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a one-up, one-down day at the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.

Enders drove her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro past teammate Vincent Nobile in Sunday’s opening round before losing to Bo Butner by a scant .014 seconds in the quarterfinals. As usual, Enders had superior reaction times in both races but her head-start in Round 2 wasn’t enough to hold off Butner.

“I think I could have done more behind the wheel to help us win but either way I’m pleased with today’s race,” Enders said. “Of course, we want to win every race we enter but we really turned a page today so I’m feeling very optimistic.

“We looked at everything from Friday and Saturday last night and decided to get back to basics and make damn sure the car goes from A-to-B every run. I know how to drive the car and my confidence in my abilities is high so it’s okay if we’re not the quickest and fastest every weekend. We just need to win races.”

Against Nobile, Enders got the jump by .004 seconds and lead the entire way down the track, winning with a weekend-best 6.683 at 207.11 mph to Nobile’s 6.785 at 205.94 mph. The story started the same against Butner with Enders logging another .004-second advantage at the launch. But Butner had the horsepower to track her down and win with a 6.695 at 206.45 mph to her 6.713 at
206.80 mph.

“The outcome could have been better against Bo but it’s still early in the year and we’re just getting all the new parts and pieces we have working together,” Enders said. “We’ll leave here and go back to the shop in Oklahoma and get some test passes in on both my car and Jeg’s (Coughlin Jr. teammate) car and be better next time.”

Enders will have two weekends off before returning to her hometown race, the 30th annual NHRA Springnationals, which will be held April 21-23 at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. Enders grew up on the other side of Houston in the Cypress area.

“I’m so excited to be racing at home,” Enders said. “I’ll be fortified with all the delicious food from Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants and I know we’ll have a ton of support from Stan and Sheila Holt and all our other hometown friends. I think we’ll have a good weekend, and that’ll be a perfect time to get our first win of the year.”

After super-fast start, two-time series champ Erica Enders exits Gatornat’ls in Round 2

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Gainesville 2017

GAINESVILLE, FL — Erica Enders flashed the form that made her a two-time Pro Stock champion this weekend at the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, qualifying a lofty third in the field and zooming to a convincing first-round win Sunday morning. But the fun stopped there as her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro over-powered the racetrack in Round 2, sending her packing.

“You never want to lose a single round,” she said. “That’s just how racers are wired. But I think when we take a step back and look at the progress we’ve made in the first three races of the year, especially compared to last season, we’ll see we are miles ahead.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They are so consistent and good and give me such an awesome racecar every round. We just missed the tune-up a hair in Round 2 and over-estimated what the track would hold. It rattled the tires right off the launch pad and that was all she wrote.”

Race day had started extremely well for the Texan as she posted an impressive 6.493 at 213.87 mph in dismissing Alan Prusiensky, who was slower at the start (.033 to .073 seconds) and the top end, running a 6.566 at 211.13 mph in the defeat.

The run gave her lane choice by a massive margin over second-round opponent Shane Gray, who went 6.526 at 211.73 mph in the opening session, but the advantage didn’t pan out for the 21-time national event winner, even though she had a .016-second reaction time to Gray’s .032-second start.

“Our teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. rattled his tires in the left lane, which we thought was slightly worse than the right side, so the guys were comfortable in keeping my car set the way it was for my race,” Enders said. “I felt it shaking as soon as I dropped the clutch but kept my foot in it and pulled a gear to see if we could power through the shake. It just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to crash the car so I just pushed in the clutch.”

Gray went on to post a respectable, but certainly beatable 6.518 at 213.13 mph.

“We’ll get out of here and go test some more before the next race,” Enders said. “We want to win races with regularity once again, just like we did during our two championship seasons. I believe we’re very close to that goal.”

The next national event is the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, which takes place March 31-April 2 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Fiery competitor Erica Enders resolute on improving after Phoenix

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock | Phoenix 2017

PHOENIX, AZ – Erica Enders’ race day in the desert ended much sooner than anticipated this morning during Round 1 of eliminations of the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the second of 24 events in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Two-time world champion Enders began Sunday qualified in the No. 10 position. Her Rick Jones Race Cars-built Chevrolet Camaro racing under the banner of Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports is a favorite to win every time out, but today she was the underdog of the opening round in a side-by-side battle against No. 7 qualifier Shane Gray.

As soon as the Christmas Tree flashed green, Enders’ bright red Camaro started shaking the big Goodyear slicks from lack of traction, which compelled Enders to begrudgingly abort her run. Gray finished with a 6.559-second, 211.23-mph mark, while Enders coasted across the finish line with a 7.961.

“We shook last (qualifying) session, but we didn’t expect to do that going up there today,” Enders said. “We weren’t set on kill or anything like that so we might have something wrong with our race car.

“The good news is we have a couple of weeks before Gainesville (next event) that we can go to work on it, the bad news is, our race day is over unfortunately. We are way better than that, and I fully expected to send that team packing first round for sure.”

Enders, the most successful female Pro Stock racer in NHRA history, has 21 national event victories. She is teammates with Elite Motorsports’ campaigners Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Vincent Nobile.

“Both my teammates Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile are going rounds today,” Enders said. “Jeg has a really fast hot rod right now and has the best capability of winning the race so our focus goes to his car, and we’ll see if we can’t get one of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance cars in the winner’s circle today.”

Enders will compete next at the famed Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, March 16-19.

FOX FS1 TV coverage of eliminations begins with three hours of elimination action at 4 p.m. MT, Sunday.

Erica Enders fires plenty of warning shots during season-opening Winternationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Pomona 2017 | Elite Motorsports

POMONA, CA — Back in the comfy confines of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, two-time world champion Erica Enders didn’t walk away with the trophy of this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, but she certainly reminded everyone of why she dominated the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

A year with a different manufacturer made the category’s most prolific female racer an afterthought to many, but as soon as she got back in her Chevy, she quickly re-established herself as a top contender.

“Not a bad first Sunday, especially after the year we had last year,” Enders said. “I’m extremely proud of my guys this weekend, as I always am. We are still a little bit behind the top cars but they can bet their butts we’re going to catch up and if anything they definitely know we’re here again.

“I’m extremely pleased with our outing and Phoenix will be even better.”

With a stunning race-day average reaction time of .011 seconds, Enders powered past Matt Hartford and teammate Vincent Nobile before squaring off with four-time champ Greg Anderson in the semifinals. There, despite yet another stellar reaction time which gave her a .02-second headstart, she was beaten by Anderson by half a car length, 6.574 at 211.10 mpg to her 6.599 at 210.18 mph.

” It feels good that my left leg still works,” Enders said, referring to her clutch foot. “I should have been there a little better against Greg. I was actually set up to be a little bit better than a .020 but there are a lot of variables that go into a reaction time and things were just a little bit different up there.

“I’m pleased with the weekend. I’m pleased with my driving. I’m ready to keep knocking the rust off. It’s always hard when you’re out of the car for three months. If you’re a pro golfer, you don’t go three months without picking up a club, but that’s what we all deal with every year. We’ll get back in the groove. I’m just excited to be going rounds again on Sunday.”

The second stop of the year, the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, take place Feb. 24-26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“All three of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance powered cars are running really well and I think you can expect to see a lot out of all three of us,” Enders said. “It’s going to be a long year, it’s going to be a great year. I chose to believe that we’ll be on top at the end.”

Erica Enders closes out her championship tenure with a broad smile on her face

POMONA, CA — After winning two championships in a row and pushing her career win total to 21 national events, Erica Enders came into 2016 hoping to add to her legacy in a brand-new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. But things don’t always go as planned, and Enders instead went an entire year without reaching the final round.

Now, after equaling the best outing of the year by racing to the semifinals of the season-ending 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Enders can finally turn the page on a forgettable year and begin in earnest her comeback story.

“We always have high hopes every race and to get to the semifinals today is something we have only done twice previous to this race this year so it’s definitely a good weekend for us,” Enders said.

Flashing the driving prowess that made her a two-time champ, Enders fought hard Sunday, beating fellow Texan and good friend Alex Laughlin with a massive .049-second holeshot advantage, .023 to .072, which gave her a comfortable win at the other end, with a 6.623 at 209.33 mph beating his 6.596 at 209.82 mph.

In Round 2 it was teammate Vincent Nobile in the other lane and once again Enders had the better reaction time, .032 to .051, to get an early lead. That was really all it took because Nobile’s car got squirrely and he had to abort the run, giving Enders the win with a 6.649 at 208.91 mph to his coasting 15.635 at 47.85 mph.

With the championship on the line, Jason Line was Enders’ semifinal foe, and with memories of 2014 dancing through both driver’s heads, the race was on. This time, instead of Enders pulling off the victory, it was Line getting it done, sealing his third title.

“Of course, when you get that close you get that Wally in your sights and if we could have gotten the car to go from A to B I think we could have won that round,” Enders said. “Either way, I am really proud for Jason Line. He’s a tough competitor and an even better guy so I am super happy that if we weren’t able to win the championship or one of my teammates win the championship, that Jason was able to get it done.

“My guys did a great job this weekend. They gave me a good racecar and I used my left foot as best I could today. I definitely wanted to close out 2016 with a win. It will be the first year to not get a win in awhile but there are bigger and better things to come in 2017 and we are ending on a high note. Me and my guys went down fighting.”

Switching manufacturers and a slew of significant rule changes to the Pro Stock class combined to wreak havoc with the Elite team, but finding a silver lining in it all, Enders said she’s learned a lot about herself and her team along the way.

“The struggles were endured are a testament to what my team is made of. It’s not always about the trophies. Yeah, we want to win races, that’s what we get paid to do, but it’s more about the chemistry and the camaraderie we share. It’s something money can’t buy, that’s why it’s so coveted, and it’s a big reason why people are envious of us. I so proud to be this team’s driver. I am so blessed. Richard Freeman could have chosen anyone, and he chose me and our puzzle is complete.”

Two-time world champion Erica Enders anxious to put 2016 in her rearview mirror

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders lost a close race in the opening round of the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals to put a quick end to her weekend in Las Vegas, a place where she’s won four national events and a pair of K&N Horsepower Challenge trophies.

“I had a better feeling than normal today but we missed it a little bit that round,” Enders said. “I got left on for the first time in a long time and we shook the tires a little bit after that. It’s just one of those deals. That’s how it goes sometimes.

“Nothing will change my feelings for this track. We’ve had so much success here the last few years and I love The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway more than any place we go. We’ll be back here in the spring and we’ll start another winning streak for sure.”

Enders had a great .020-second reaction time but her opponent Chris McGaha had left first with a .003-second launch. He never trailed in the race, winning with a 6.714 at 205.01 mph to Enders’ 6.737 at 204.54 mph.

“The cool thing about my group is, no matter what adversity we face, we still have a blast together and next year’s a whole new year for us so I’ll be excited to get back to being competitive and hopefully making lots of trips to the winner’s circle again,” Enders said.

The season-ending 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, which run Nov. 11-13 in Pomona, Calif., is the next race for Enders, but she’ll be busy until then with multiple appearances at the SEMA show In Las Vegas.

“SEMA is an awesome trade show and I always enjoy getting the chance to spend some quality time hanging out with all the various companies that we work with or support us,” Enders said. “It’s a lot of work, but fun work, and it’s definitely nice to talk to people away from the racetrack.”

No home state luck for Texan Erica Enders as two-time champ ousted early

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DALLAS, TX — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders was hoping for a taste of home cooking Sunday at the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals but instead the Spring, Texas native was eliminated early by title contender Greg Anderson at the Texas Motorplex.

The No. 15 qualifier out of 16 cars, Enders was hoping for a big upset of Anderson, a fellow multi-time champion ranked second in the world at the moment. Instead, Enders’ fouled out by a scant -.001 seconds, while Anderson took care of business, running 6.607 at 209.46 mph to Enders’ 6.682 at 207.08 mph.

“I figured I’d do all I could at the start and hope he was a little late and we could steal one away from him,” Enders said. “I was a thousandths of a second from perfect but ended up being on the wrong side of that red bulb.

“He obviously had us covered anyway but I ran the pass out just to get the data. There’s always Vegas and Pomona and we have designs on finishing as strong as possible.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports teammates will enjoy a weekend off before the second-to-last race of 2016, the Toyota NHRA Nationals, which take place Oct. 28-30, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Even though the results weren’t what we wanted, I still had a great time being here in Texas. I love this state and miss it when I’m not here. Thank you so much to all the fans that stopped by and encouraged us. We’ve had a tough year but I promise big things are straight ahead and we’ll be back better than ever in 2017.”

FOX Sports 1 will broadcast elimination action live from 2-5 p.m. ET.

World champion Erica Enders beats title contender Butner before fouling out of Reading

Erica Enders | NHRA Dodge Nationals 2016

READING, PA — Back-to-back world champion Erica Enders notched one of her biggest elimination round-wins of the year Sunday, beating title contender Bo Butner wire-to-wire in the opening session of the 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals.

“To go out there and get this Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart a round-win at the Dodge Nationals was exciting,” Enders said. “The uphill battle this entire season has been for us continues, but with only one run on this racetrack throughout qualifying, we really had a challenge before us today and my guys, as always, rose to the occasion.

“People always hear me bragging on my crew, and today showed exactly why I do it all the time. These guys are the best, and at a point in the season where it would be easy to mail it in, they fought hard, dug down, and gave me a great race car that took out one of the best cars in the category this year.”

Enders herself contributed to the victory, leaving ahead of Butner with a stellar .019-second reaction time. Butner wasn’t far behind after a .029-second launch, but he didn’t have the horsepower to catch the sport’s most prolific female Pro Stock racer, losing to Enders at both ends, 6.644 at 207.34 mph to his 6.647 at 209.43 mph.

“That round-win allowed our teammate, Vincent Nobile, to pass Bo and go into third place, and then Vincent went on to win the whole race, so it was a big day for Elite Motorsports,” Enders said.

Nobile’s triumph at the end of the day came at Enders’ expense as he beat her in the quarterfinals en route to the victory circle. In that race Enders left too early, drawing a -.007 red-light disqualification, which negated her 6.656 at 207.72 mph. Nobile might have been too tough to beat anyway as he posted a stout 6.600 at 209.88 mph.

“That second-round race against Vincent was definitely interesting,” Enders said. “We were in and out of our race cars a couple of times because of all the rain delays. I did a burnout at one point, backed up, and had to shut off and wait again. There were a lot of variables that went into that run.

“It’s one of those shoulda, coulda, woulda deals, but either way I should not have been red. That’s disappointing to me because it ends like a five-year streak of not being red. Having said that, we would not have been able to turn that win light on. He flat out had us covered. I’m just glad it was against my teammate. He’s going to battle for the Mello Yello championship right to the end.”

The Countdown to the Championship resumes after one week off with the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals, Oct. 13-16, at Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

“We’ll head home for a week to work on things,” Enders said. “We’ll be ready for Dallas and try to help Vincent some more.”

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