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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.”

Enders-Stevens surges to Pro Stock points lead with stellar Vegas victory

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 2) — When in high-pressure situations, champions deliver.

Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens delivered under pressure Sunday, knocking out points leader Jason Line in the semifinals and then beating five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. to win the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The victory was the fifth of the season and 11th of her career, and it vaulted her into the Pro Stock points lead with one race remaining in 2014.

“It can’t get much better,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s just really incredible. I can’t be any more proud of my team. We had a meeting coming in here on Thursday. (Team owner) Richard (Freeman) just reminded us to go out there, have fun, and stop putting pressure on ourselves. There’s no pressure from him or anyone else.

“When I came in here today I told myself I was going to give it all to God and do my best. I was a nervous wreck in Reading and I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be. That’s what I wanted to change coming in here. I just wanted to go out there and do what I know how to do. I’m confident in my guys and they’ve given me a great race car. Every time I fire up the car, it’s up to me.”

After winning in the first and second rounds, Enders-Stevens lined up against Line in the semi’s with championship implications in the air, and Enders-Stevens ripped off a .009-second reaction time, getting the crucial round-win when Line turned on the red-light.

Then, facing Coughlin in the final round, Enders-Stevens was even better, cutting a .007 light against one of the best drivers in the history of NHRA. She sped to the win with a pass of 6.587 seconds at 206.36 mph to beat Coughlin’s 6.596 at 209.14 mph.

“Those were two of the most important rounds of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “I stepped up the plate and it feels good. (Crew chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones were talking in my helmet and telling me, ‘Give it to God, do your best, if you want it, you’ve got to take it, don’t let up, and go after it.’

“That’s exactly what they did with the tune-up on the race car and that’s what I did behind the wheel today.”

The win against Line moved her to within three points of the lead, and beating Coughlin moved her 17 points ahead with only the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Nov. 14-16 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., remaining on the schedule.

“This is what it’s all about,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve been driving for 22 years, 10 of which I’ve been trying to make this Pro Stock deal work. Everything is just starting to come together. I know God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. All of those ups and downs in my Pro Stock career make this just that much sweeter.

“We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us in Pomona but what a cool position to be in. How blessed are we to be here? Regardless of how this ends, it’s been an incredible year and I could not be more proud.”

Enders-Stevens Powers into Second Place with Semifinal Showing in Reading

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) — A strong semifinal showing at Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals has thrust superstar racer Erica Enders-Stevens back into the championship picture with two races left in the drag racing season. Enders-Stevens, who led the Mello Yello points for 13 races during the regular season, is now just 35 points behind Jason Line, who exited in the quarterfinals.

“I have such an awesome team,” Enders-Stevens said. “They gave me a great race car all weekend, from qualifying No. 1 to going to the semifinals today. I wanted to give them more — I wanted to get to the finals and win — but to close the gap on Jason to less than two rounds is really exciting.

“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and we’re ready for it. Having the quickest car here has given us so much confidence. Now we’ve got a couple weeks off to get back to the shop and regroup. The last two races will be incredible.”

After coming within two-thousandths of a second of resetting her own national record in qualifying, Enders-Stevens remained red-hot on race day, beating Frank Gugliotta with a 6.469 at 213.30 mph to Gugliotta’s 6.579 at 209.79 mph. She then downed Vieri Gaines with a 6.484 at 213.60 mph to Gaines’ 6.507 at 212.69 mph.

It wasn’t until the semifinals against good friend and past series champion Allen Johnson that Enders-Stevens was quieted, slowing to a 6.759 at 210.87 mph to Johnson’s 6.499 at 212.69 mph.

“The car just shook the tires really hard down low,” she said. “I pedaled it and got back on the gas as fast as possible, but when you lose all of that early momentum there’s not much you can do. I stayed after it just in case Allen had trouble but I saw him all the way down the track. That round was a bummer but we’re still smiling over here.”

The NHRA tour takes a two-week break before resuming action with the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We were undefeated in the spring race in Vegas, so we’ll try to keep that streak alive,” Enders-Stevens said. “We won both the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the regular national event, so we have nothing but good thoughts going through our heads.

“It’ll be good to get home, catch up on our rest, and have time to service the car and the motors. Having four races in a row was pretty taxing for everyone. Even so, we’ve put ourselves in an incredible position to challenge for the title. I’ve dreamt of this my whole life and it’s so cool to be living in the moment right now.”

Determined Enders-Stevens Moves to Third in Pro Stock Standings

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ST. LOUIS (Sept. 28) — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens left Gateway Motorsports Park on Sunday more determined than ever in her pursuit of the Pro Stock championship.

Enders-Stevens was quickest in six of the seven rounds in which she competed, earned the No. 1 qualifier, and raced to the semifinals of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Plus, she had the better reaction time in her three rounds of eliminations Sunday.

“Awesome weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s obviously not the way we had anticipated it ending, but God’s got a plan and I trust it. We’re going to move on to Reading (Pa.).”

Enders-Stevens moved up to third in the points standings, trailing leader Jason Line by 67 heading to the NHRA Nationals next weekend at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.

“I could not be more proud of my guys,” Enders-Stevens said. “They work their tails off for me and for us. We have the best car on the property, the best team in the business, the best crew chiefs, and I’m driving well. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and all my money is on us, like it is all the time. I have all the faith in the world and I’m hungry.

“We’ve got a lot of heart, determination, and perseverance, and we’re going to go to Reading with our chins held high.”

Enders-Stevens started Sunday’s eliminations with a .014-second reaction time and a 6.514-second pass at 212.66 mph that took out No. 16 qualifier Larry Morgan, whose run was 6.651 seconds at 208.78 mph.

Next up was Countdown to the Championship contender Jonathan Gray, but she left first with a .032 light and then outran him with a 6.538-second pass at 212.39 mph. Gray, fifth in the points standings, made a pass of 6.590 seconds at 206.48 mph.

Including all four qualifying sessions, Enders-Stevens was quickest in six consecutive rounds. But in the semifinals against Dave Connolly, her Camaro shook the tires and she pushed the clutch in, coasting to a pass of 15.947 seconds at 52.67 mph.

Connolly trailed at the Christmas Tree, as Enders-Stevens had a .014 light to Connolly’s .022, but he got the win with a pass of 6.576 at 211.46 mph.

“Six in a row and I guarantee if she hooked, it would’ve been seven in a row and going to the finals,” Enders-Stevens said. “But that wasn’t God’s will today and that’s OK. There’s a reason for everything.

“What an awesome opportunity for me to drive this Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro for such an elite group of guys. I’m really proud of them and the sky’s the limit for us. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

After Dallas, Enders-Stevens’ Championship Race is Heating Up

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DALLAS (Sept. 21) — While the extreme temperatures weren’t kind to Texas native Erica Enders-Stevens Sunday, her Mach 1 Global Services Pro Stock Camaro continued to heat up the lanes in eliminations despite her early exit from the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.

Even though her first-round match had Elite Motorsports power facing off, Enders-Stevens powered her Mach 1 Global Services Chevrolet past Rodger Brogdon’s Camaro with a 6.574-second pass at 210.44 mph.

However, Enders-Stevens was in a race of mere inches during the second round between her and Jonathan Gray. With reaction times within thousandths, Enders-Stevens’ .030 to Gray’s .023, her red Camaro was just edged out at the finish line despite making the second-quickest pass of the round at 6.599 seconds.

“It certainly wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for,” Enders-Stevens said. “Coming into the second race of the Countdown, we really needed to go some rounds to make up for our second-round Charlotte loss that was run in Dallas. It is what it is.

“I could not be more proud of my team though. Rick and Rickie Jones, my crew chiefs, gave it their all today. They always give it their all but they really dug deep. On a tricky racetrack without lane choice, we went out there and were the second-quickest car. It would have won any other round but the round we just raced.

“I’m proud of them and their hard work, determination, and perseverance. If this team has anything, they have heart, myself included.”

While she would have loved to snag the Wally in her home state, Enders-Stevens is still within distance of regaining her spot on top of the Pro Stock points standings. As the defending winner two years in a row in St. Louis, the next stop in the Countdown to the Championship, she is in the best position possible to make that points jump happen.

“We’re going to go to St. Louis with our chins up and do our best there,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ll see what happens. We’ve got to race hard. There are four races left, a lot of racing left. With just a 10-point spread between each driver, anything can happen.

“We’ll go to St. Louis, do our best, and let God do the rest. I could not be more proud or optimistic.”

Enders-Stevens will look forward to her return to Gateway Motorsports Park, Sept. 26-28, where she can retain her title of defending race winner.

Enders-Stevens Goes for Texas Sweep in Dallas

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DALLAS (Sept. 20) — Texas native Erica Enders-Stevens will go for the Lone Star sweep during the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals on Sunday at Texas Motorplex with her Mach 1 Global Services Chevrolet.

Enders-Stevens won at her home track, Royal Purple Raceway in Houston, in April. She’ll chase the Texas two-step from the No. 6 qualifying spot on Sunday.

“Tomorrow is going to be the hottest, sunniest day of all,” Enders-Stevens said. “We obviously performed well in those conditions. I’m optimistic about tomorrow, and the ladder looks nice. We’ll see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens, debuting Mach 1 colors in Dallas, can’t win two races this weekend, as she dropped a second-round match on Saturday to Shane Gray in a continuation of the postponed NHRA Carolinas Nationals from zMax Dragway.

That came after making the third-quickest pass in Dallas’ first qualifying session Friday and then beating John Gaydosh in the Charlotte first round during Dallas Q2.

Enders-Stevens left first on Gaydosh and never trailed, making a pass of 6.603 seconds at 206.29 mph to Gaydosh’s 6.662-second run at 207.53 mph.

“We made a decent run but definitely had some left in it,” Enders-Stevens said of Q1. “Going up for Q2, which is the first round of eliminations from Charlotte, we had a little bit of a different mindset because it’s hard to go from qualifying to race mode in what really should be a qualifying session. We did all right.”

Enders-Stevens, the No. 1 qualifier from Charlotte, then faced Gray, the No. 8 qualifier. Gray was given lane choice based on his performance in Friday’s qualifying session, not Charlotte eliminations.

“NHRA made a rule change on the lane choice aspect of it, which was very detrimental to our team,” Enders-Stevens said. “Obviously, it was a one-lane race facility, and that was the end of that. It’s unfortunate that things were handled that way when the championship is on the line, but it is what it is.”

To make matters worse for Enders-Stevens, several single-car runs were made, all in the preferred right lane. Gray chose that lane, putting Enders-Stevens in the left lane.

“Lane choice is crucial,” Enders-Stevens said. “Friday it wasn’t; both lanes were pretty equal. Today, though, before the second round of eliminations, they ran several singles in the right lane, then drug the track and sent us out. Nobody had run in front of that person in the left lane.”

Enders-Stevens left first with a .025-second lead, but her red Camaro made an immediate right turn, and she had to push the clutch in as Gray sped to the victory.

“We lost that round, and we turned everything back around and came out for Q4 and made a decent run for the heat of the day,” Enders-Stevens said. “It was a 130-degree racetrack and really tricky out there. We definitely had some left in it on that run.”

That turned out to be her best pass of the weekend, 6.590 seconds at 210.74 mph, to move her to sixth in the qualifying order. She’ll line up against No. 11 qualifier Rodger Brogdon, whose best pass was 6.615 seconds at 209.79 mph.

“It’s going to be a toss-up tomorrow,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve got to really monitor the weather and the track conditions and base our tune-up accordingly. We’ll be all right. I’ve got two of the best crew chiefs in the pits and the best team out here. I’m excited and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Enders-Stevens unofficially remains second in the Pro Stock standings, 59 points behind leader Jason Line after one of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.

Charlotte No. 1 Qualifier Enders-Stevens will Continue Title Pursuit in Dallas

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CHARLOTTE (Sept. 14) — The Pep Boys NHRA Carolinas Nationals was postponed Sunday because of rain and deteriorating track conditions at zMax Dragway. The race will be completed during the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals next weekend at Texas Motorplex.

No. 1 qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens and her Mach 1 Chevrolet will face No. 16 John Gaydosh when the Charlotte race is resumed.

Top Fuel and Funny Car classes completed their first round of eliminations Sunday, but racing was halted during round one of Pro Stock after driver Vieri Gaines crashed. Pro Stock teams returned to their pit area, and Pro Stock Motorcycle teams followed suit.

Rain later began to fall, and NHRA officials announced that racing was done for the day. The decision was later made to complete the event in Dallas. The updated Dallas schedule will be released at a later date.

Enders-Stevens is the No. 2 Seed for Countdown after U.S. Nationals

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1) — A Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory may have slipped through Engines Inc. Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens’ fingers, but she still leaves Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on Monday very proud.

Enders-Stevens dropped a second-round match to Dave Connolly, but she will be the No. 2 seed when the Countdown to the Championship begins in two weeks at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, NC.

“Even though we didn’t win the U.S. Nationals, and that was our goal, we can leave here with our heads held high,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve got a good car and the best team in the sport. It would’ve been nice to win here, but it starts to matter at the next event.”

Enders-Stevens has had a dream season, winning four national events and the K&N Horsepower Challenge. She led the points standings for 13 races before slipping to second in Brainerd, MN.

“I think we’re going to go in the No. 2 spot,” Enders-Stevens said. “Obviously our goal is to go in as the No. 1 seed, but it’s not detrimental to what the outcome’s going to be.”

Enders-Stevens started her 2014 U.S. Nationals with a race against her husband Richie Stevens, who joined Elite Motorsports for this race and beyond. She got the jump on Stevens with a .022-second reaction time and led the entire race, winning with a pass of 6.619 seconds at 208.52 mph. Stevens’ pass was 6.643 seconds at 208.52 mph.

“That’s my job,” Enders-Stevens said. “I have to put aside who’s in the other lane and just execute. That’s what we did first round and we did it second round, too, but it just didn’t end up being our day. We didn’t have lane choice and we struggled over there.

“I hate that Richie lost. I’m glad that we won but it’s bittersweet. I’m stoked that we picked up 20 points, but at the same time I hate that Richie’s debut wasn’t what any of us at Elite Motorsports had planned for it to be. But our job is to win rounds, despite who’s over there.”

In the second round, Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.622 seconds at 208.88 mph but couldn’t get around Connolly, whose run was 6.613 seconds at 207.82 mph.

Enders-Stevens and her team made improvements throughout the weekend, giving her confidence for Charlotte and the Countdown.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have so much heart. It would have been easy to get frustrated, get negative, and give up when things weren’t going as we had planned them to go when we got here.

“We spent a few days testing in St. Louis to get our cars — mine and Richie’s and Shane (Tucker’s) — sorted out. It didn’t go as planned when we stepped foot on the property here, but they dug deep and we ended up being second-quickest of the runs in eliminations. Even the round we lost, we were the quickest in that lane by a couple of hundredths, so that says a lot about my crew chiefs and my entire team.”

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