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Winning streak ends at 10 rounds for Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders-Stevens | Atlanta 2015

ATLANTA, GA — Erica Enders’ bid to win three NHRA national events in a row fell a little short Sunday when she lost in the semifinal round of the 35th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, but not before she pushed her streak of elimination round-wins to 10 in a row, the longest such streak of the season in any pro category.

“It’s hard to be disappointed with a semifinal round showing, but I kind of feel that way because I know we have the car that can win,” said Enders, driver of the Elite Motorsports Camaro. “You can’t win them all, but it sure is addictive when you get on a roll. You feel so much confidence that it’s really weird when you come up a little short.”

In a class where races are routinely decided by thousandths of a second, this day was no different as Enders was quicker than everyone at the track except Greg Anderson. She posted a 6.543 at 211.49 mph in beating first-round opponent John Gaydosh and used a 6.561 at 210.97 mph opposite Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. But Anderson was fractionally better each time, running a 6.541 in Round 1 and a 6.560 in Round 2.

“That thousandth of a second he got us by in Round 2 was enough to give them lane choice in the semi’s, and when a track is as hot and tricky as this one you need every little edge you can get,” Enders said. “I think that right lane was just a touch better and our race pretty much proved that. I could have been better on the Tree, but it may not have mattered because he had a .015-second light.

“This is a Summit race and I know those guys put a premium on winning their title sponsor’s races. We spun a lot and the car moved around and we ended up with a 6.582 to his 6.562. Game over. I’m still really proud of this team, and winning 10 rounds in a row is special. We’ll have to just start another streak.”

It won’t be long until Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, and the Elite Performance team are back on track as the NHRA tour quickly turns to next weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals in Topeka, Kan.

“I love Topeka,” Enders said. “The first ever national event was in Kansas and there is some question whether we’ll race there again after this year, so it would be extra special to get another Wally there.

“We’ll stop by the shop in Oklahoma and freshen everything up. We did switch to our new Rick Jones car this weekend and it was perfect every time down. It’s like driving a Cadillac the thing is so smooth. We’re just getting to know each other but so far, so good. We’ll definitely be ready for Topeka.”

NHRA champ Erica Enders wins hometown race, powers into points lead

Erica Enders-Stevens wins Houston 2015

HOUSTON — Erica Enders won another drag race Sunday in her native Houston to barge into the championship points lead for this first time in her title-defense season. Enders beat Allen Johnson, Vincent Nobile, Jonathan Gray, and Chris McGaha for her second straight NHRA victory. It was also her second consecutive win at Royal Purple Raceway, where she began her racing career at the age of 8.

“I didn’t think anything could top winning here a year ago,” said Enders, who attended Spring-Cypress High School and Texas A&M University, “but this just might have done it. We ran a special-edition car with Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants on the door. Stan and Sheila Holt (Lupe Tortilla owners) have supported me since I was racing Jr. Dragsters and they are like family to me. To win this one for them was over the top.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever worked harder for a win. We had a complete engine change before racing Jonathan. We went to warm up, and we realized there was a big problem with the motor. There was 10 minutes until we needed to be in the staging lanes and I thought we were done, but the guys got after it and pulled it off. They are unbelievable.

“Big thanks to everyone from all the other teams that jumped in and helped. That’s what’s special about drag racing: We all want to beat each other on the racetrack, but we’ll do anything to help the team you’re about to race if they need it.”

This was Enders’ 14th Pro Stock victory, although she quickly deflected any praise to team owner Richard Freeman of Elite Motorsports and crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

“I say it every time anyone asks and I’ll say it again, I have the best team in drag racing,” Enders said. “What we’ve been able to accomplish in the last year and half is nothing short of amazing. I always dreamt of winning here when I used to run my Jr. Dragster here with my dad and sister, and when I dreamed about winning, I would dream about being with a team just like this … the very best.

“I credit Richard for putting together an awesome group and constantly motivating them to push themselves every race. This is my dream and it continued today.”

By the numbers, Enders beat Johnson with a 6.562, ran a better 6.553 against a red-lighting Nobile, took out Gray with a 6.570, and dispatched McGaha with a 6.571. Her average reaction time was a stellar .017-second.

Enders will now take two weeks off before racing again May 15-17 at Atlanta Raceway in Commerce, Ga.

Erica Enders-Stevens completes historic sweep in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens turned in another brilliant driving performance to continue her run of success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Sunday to secure a second consecutive double-up at The Strip.

Enders-Stevens also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday, completing the Challenge/national-event sweep for the second year in a row. The sweep earned Elite Motorsports a $25,000 bonus to go with the $50,000 earned from winning the Challenge.

“I guess we can start saying Vegas is our lucky track,” Enders-Stevens said. “Winning is very challenging, and to be able to do it at both Vegas races last year and then come back here and do it again shows what we’re capable of. But it’s also very surreal. There are so many tough competitors out there, and the bar has really been raised. I’m just proud of my team.

“It’s certainly a high-pressure situation, but my guys thrive on it. They perform very well under it, and I’m so proud of them.”

The Las Vegas winning streak has reached 18 round-wins, including last fall’s national event. She last lost a round here in October 2013 when she was with another team. She also became the first driver to sweep the Challenge and national event in consecutive years since Bob Glidden did it in 1987-88.

“I’m just really proud for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “My guys have worked so hard and continue to give me a great race car, which has been a struggle at the start of this year. I think we’ve got our hot rod back.”

The victory was Enders-Stevens’ 13th of her career and first of the season. A test session following the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte two weeks ago went a long way in her Elite team overcoming troubles with a new tire and new fuel for 2015.

Sunday, though, Enders-Stevens had to undergo her own troubles. Flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and fever, left her dehydrated before the race, and she took intravenous fluids before the first round. She took another IV later in the day.

“I just really had to focus on the mental side of it,” Enders-Stevens said. “Anybody can relate to feeling so bad you don’t even want to get out of bed. To have to get in a race car on a 130-degree racetrack in a 15-layer firesuit certainly tests you. I just had to be positive.

“I asked my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones) to do their best to pump me up on the radio, so we had some fun out there. I give them the credit today. They gave me a consistent race car. Granted, we did win on a couple of holeshots, but that’s my job as a driver. You don’t get sick days here.”

Enders-Stevens responded with holeshot wins in the semifinals and final. She had a bye in the first round after Matt Hartford failed to make the call, and she then beat Jimmy Alund with a pass of 6.661 seconds at 207.27 mph to Alund’s 6.697 at 206.70 mph.

She then ripped off a .001-second reaction time in the semi’s to overcome Greg Anderson’s quicker 6.671 at 208.71 mph with her run of 6.673 seconds at 207.53. The difference was on the Christmas Tree, where Anderson’s light was .055.

In the final Enders-Stevens and Vincent Nobile — opponents in the K&N Horsepower Challenge final on Saturday — made identical 6.674-second passes. Enders-Stevens, though, had a .024 light, a tick quicker than Nobile’s .040.

“I don’t want to dwell on being sick,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not that big a deal. Everybody gets sick. They took care of me, and we were able to get it done today and that’s all that matters.”

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Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens looks for better days after tough Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens saw her streak of consecutive NHRA Four-Wide Nationals final-round appearances at zMax Dragway come to an end in the second round Sunday.

Enders-Stevens had raced for the Four-Wide Nationals title in 2012, ’13, and ’14, but tire shake in the second round ended her chances of four finals in a row.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion hasn’t had the start to this season she would have liked, as a new tire and new fuel has delivered a wicked curveball to her Elite team.

“It’s one of those deals that we’ve got to work through,” Enders-Stevens said. “If any team out here can do it, I know that it’s mine because we have perseverance and determination. My crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll have the same no-quit attitude as the rest of us.

“We’re going to stay here and test tomorrow and figure this car out. We obviously have some issues and we will fix it.”

Enders-Stevens slipped into the Four-Wide field on Saturday despite not making a full qualifying run (Friday’s two sessions were rained out), and as the No. 16 qualifier she faced No. 1 qualifier Chris McGaha, No. 8 Shane Gray, and No. 9 Buddy Perkinson.

Enders-Stevens was sharp on the Christmas Tree with a quad-best .015-second reaction time, and her pass of 6.521 seconds at 214.42 mph was enough to beat McGaha’s quicker 6.481-second run at 214.28 mph as well as Gray’s 6.525 at 213.37 and Perkinson’s 6.550 at 212.19 mph.

“It certainly wasn’t pretty but we got down,” Enders-Stevens said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us after not getting down in qualifying, but like I’ve said before, I have all the faith in the world in my guys, and we were able to get it done.”

But in the second round against McGaha, No. 4 Greg Anderson, and No. 12 Jonathan Gray, Enders-Stevens’ red Camaro shook at the hit, and she was forced to push the clutch in.

“How we do doesn’t define us,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s how we pull through these tough moments as a team. I couldn’t ask for a better group than what I’ve got, so I’m really optimistic about what’s to come. This will just make us stronger.”

History is on Enders-Stevens’ side as she tries to bounce back from Gainesville exit

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GAINESVILLE, FL — NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens hopes history repeats itself after an uncharacteristic first-round exit at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway.

The last time Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team exited in the first round, they turned it around and went on to win the 2014 championship.

“It’s not how many times you fall down,” Enders-Stevens said, “it’s how many times you get up.”

Enders-Stevens last lost in the first round in Brainerd, Minn., last year. She and her team used that as motivation for the Countdown to the Championship, when she won two races, went to the semifinals twice, and reached the second round twice.

“We ran poorly in Brainerd that day, but we bounced back and did well in the Countdown,” Enders-Stevens said. “I have a world of confidence in my team, and I trust that we will bounce back and be just fine.

“My team owner Richard Freeman, my crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll, and my entire team are the best in the business and we’ll be ready for Charlotte.”

Enders-Stevens drove a new Chevrolet Camaro in Gainesville, and while there is tons of potential, developing a new car often takes time. She qualified No. 7 — her lowest since the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in 2013 when she was with another team — and lost in the first round to Jimmy Alund.

Both cars struggled off the line, with Enders-Stevens getting sideways before she had to push in the clutch. Alund’s pass was 7.032 seconds at 209.59 mph, while she coasted across with a 13.824-second run at 62.06 mph.

“To come back and see all my fans at the trailer after a run like that takes the sting out, for sure, especially the little kids,” Enders-Stevens said. “They’re just full of joy, and it definitely puts a smile on my face.”

Champ Enders-Stevens pulls runner-up card in the desert

Erica Enders-Stevens reaches final round in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Progressing through the elimination ladder once again, reining World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens came up one win light short of victory at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Taking on No. 16 Joey Grose in the first round of final eliminations, Enders-Stevens was able to power her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on with a win after Grose experienced an issue with his car early in the run.

In the second round against Greg Anderson, Enders-Stevens cut a .013 light and never looked back, running a 6.570 to beat Anderson’s 6.603 and advance to her second semifinal of the year.

However, the semifinal round was a tight battle in which both her and Chris McGaha had almost identical reaction times, her .027 to his .026. McGaha’s car stepped out and swerved partway down the track though, allowing Enders-Stevens to cruise on to her first final-round appearance of the 2015 season.

“What a great weekend for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “It speaks volumes for our team, how hard they work and their determination for perfection. To be three of the final four cars two weeks in a row is unreal. The morale is awesome around here. It’s three different groups but it’s really one team.

“I know I talk about my team a lot, but that’s the most important part of the puzzle. We certainly have a great group of guys, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be a part of it.”

After battling with Brogdon all weekend for the top spot in qualifying, Enders-Stevens had one more showdown with her fellow Elite Performance driver in the final round. Enders-Stevens killed the Christmas Tree with a .017 reaction time and was out in front until an untimely mechanical issue reared its head and Brogdon passed her at the line for the win.

“We’re having a blast,” Enders-Stevens said. “Did I want to win? Absolutely. It’s so hard to get to a final round in Pro Stock, so to give one away it sucks. I am very happy for Rodger though. We’re glad to have him on board as part of our team. He had the fastest car all weekend and he deserved to win.

“We were going after it in the final. I was up on the wheel and on the Tree, and we just had an unfortunate miss in the car. It’s one of those loses that kind of burns a little bit because all we had to do was get down the racetrack and we would have won. God had a better plan though, and it was Rodger’s day.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action will continue with the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 12-15, at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.

Enders-Stevens begins title defense with semifinal showing in Pomona

Enders-Stevens reaches semi finals at 2015 Winternationals

POMONA, CA (Feb. 8) — Elite Motorsports turned in another impressive performance at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, though 2014 Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens didn’t have the Circle K Winternationals end the way she wanted.

Enders-Stevens, who won the title here last November by winning the race, bowed out in the semifinals; however, she was one of three Elite-powered drivers to reach the semifinals. Rookie Drew Skillman, Enders-Stevens’ teammate, raced to the final round, and Rodger Brogdon used an Elite engine to get to the semi’s.

“It was a great day for Elite, that’s for sure,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had three cars in the semifinals with mine, Drew’s, and Rodger Brogdon’s, so that’s a great accomplishment for the team. It bodes well for the rest of the year, for sure.”

Enders-Stevens was the No. 1 qualifier in Pomona, and she opened her title defense by beating Matt Hartford in the first round, 6.548 seconds at 211.43 mph to 6.651 at 208.78 mph.

Then, Enders-Stevens dumped No. 8 qualifier Chris McGaha on a holeshot in Round 2. Her .035-second reaction time gave her a .011-second lead and it held up. His pass was quicker, 6.565 seconds at 210.73 mph, but her run of 6.569 seconds at 211.36 mph held him off.

Skillman then turned the tables on Enders-Stevens in the semi’s, using a .015 light and 6.590 at 210.41 mph to beat her 6.573-second run at 211.53 mph.

“That’s probably the worst way to lose, but if it had to happen to anybody, I’m glad it was to Drew,” Enders-Stevens said. “I am happy for him. How cool is it for him to go to a final round in his first race? Good for him.”

Despite ending her race early, Enders-Stevens knows her team has what it takes to compete for race wins and the championship.

“It’s a long season, and we know you can’t win a championship in the first race,” Enders-Stevens said. “We showed we still have great horsepower by qualifying No. 1, so we’ll go to Phoenix with our heads held high. I have the best guys in the business, and they bust their butts for me. Maybe there I can return the favor.”

Up next for the Elite Motorsports team is the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Feb. 20-22, in Phoenix.

Enders-Stevens crowned 2014 Pro Stock champion after NHRA Finals win

Erica Enders-Stevens hoists NHRA Championship trophy

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 16) — Taking fate into her own hands, Erica Enders-Stevens not only captured her sixth win of the season at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals but also the title of 2014 NHRA Pro Stock World Champion.

Surpassing Larry Morgan and Rodger Brogdon in the first two rounds of competition, Enders-Stevens’ Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro continued to step up round after round. But after both her and Jonathan Gray had perfect .000 lights in the semifinals, it was obvious Enders-Stevens wasn’t going down without a fight, advancing to the final round with a 6.494-second pass.

With the championship on the line during the final-round matchup against Jason Line, Enders-Stevens sealed the deal. Both drivers turned on the red bulb, implementing the “first or worst” rule, and Enders-Stevens’ -.002 reaction time beat out Line’s -.011 and secured her first season title.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Enders-Stevens said, “and that’s perfect proof that with the right group of people anything is possible and that’s all through God. I’ve got the right group, a group that stands behind me, and we have a blast together. That’s what it’s all about. Win, lose, or draw we love each other and that’s all that matters.”

Enders-Stevens beats Jason Line for 2014 Pro Stock Championship

Already with numerous accomplishments in the record books, Enders-Stevens joins Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey on an elite list of female NHRA champions.

“They are heroes of mine,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m so thankful for their help and support in this venture. It means a lot to me to have my name on a list with Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey. They’re incredible racers and incredible women.

“What a blessing; this is awesome.”

Starting the dream season with a fresh start at Elite Motorsports, Enders-Stevens always knew that they were capable of going all the way. Her win in Pomona proved that.

“I definitely grew a lot,” Enders-Stevens said. “I learned a lot, I became better, and so did our team. I have them to thank for that. It was a long, hard year. I had to sit out two races and we were still able to accomplish this dream, and it says a lot of what we’re capable of. The sky is the limit.

“We’ve got a lot of great things happening for 2015, and I just couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”

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