Archive for the Win Category

Erica Enders bags NHRA-leading eighth win of the year, extends points lead

Erica Enders-Stevens wins Dallas 2015

DALLAS, TX — Erica Enders proved she’s the best drag racer in the country Sunday, beating her nearest two rivals in the Mello Yello points to power to a massive 154-point advantage with just two races left in the season. It was her NHRA-leading eighth win of the year, and first in Dallas.

“I am so glad we were able to get this eighth win here in my home state,” said Enders, who grew up in the Houston suburbs. “You know, I have been talking about a cowboy hat for months, just waiting to come here and win a cowboy hat, so I’m excited to be able to get that done in front of all of our friends and family. It’s just a huge blessing.”

A cowboy hat is the traditional winner’s gift at the Texas Motorplex, a complex owned by former Funny Car driver Billy Meyer. This year, the winner’s also got a belt buckle to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the event.

As usual, Enders was a demon behind the wheel, taking out Vieri Gaines in Round 1 to set up a big match up with bitter rival Chris McGaha, who is third in the points. Helping the cause, McGaha had beaten second-ranked Greg Anderson in his opening race.

“Those first two rounds were very significant,” Enders said. “First round, we watched (McGaha) beat Greg right in front of us and then we crushed his ET by .400s to earn lane choice in our race against him. We didn’t want to give him anything.

“There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t know about and (McGaha’s) team has been running their mouths. I said from the beginning we’ll let the scoreboard do the talking. There’s no need to argue with ignorant people, so when I went up there and he double-bulbed me, I said ‘bring it on, I don’t care,’ and I was able to drill him with a .008-second reaction time and then totally out-run him. I think we sent a big message. I definitely wanted to beat him, and my guys wanted to beat him even more so that was a nice deal for us.”

There was no looking back from there as Drew Skillman and Jonathon Gray fell in order to give Enders the victory and the big edge in the standings.

“We just have such great team chemistry and great horsepower so I’m a happy girl,” Enders said. “(ESPN top-end reporter) Gary Gerould said in our interview, that we have an eight-round lead with only eight rounds of racing left, and that’s really cool, but I don’t care. I want all the points that we can get.

“We go into every race wanting to win more than anything in the world and we do our best to step up to the plate. You know, I talk about my guys all of the time but I’ll put my money on them every single Sunday, every single round of qualifying, because they are the best. They bring it and I bring it and together I think the sky is the limit for us.”

Erica Enders makes more history by winning in Charlotte for first time

Erica Enders wins Charlotte 2015

CHARLOTTE, NC — Erica Enders can scratch another one off the bucket list.

The defending Pro Stock champion won at zMax Dragway for the first time, taking down Vincent Nobile on a holeshot in the final round of the NHRA Carolina Nationals on Sunday, and in doing so, she continued to pile up impressive numbers for her career and for her outstanding 2015 season.

“That is pretty neat,” Enders said of winning in Charlotte. “Back when I drove for Cagnazzi (Racing), this was one of the facilities that they had never won at. It was obviously a goal of ours. Coming in this weekend, I had runner-upped three or four different times here, a couple at the Four-Wide Nationals and one at the regular race. This was actually the place where the win lights malfunctioned and we thought we got our first win against Greg Anderson, but then they were like, ‘Sike, you don’t get it,’ and took the trophy over to him.

“That was definitely an interesting roller-coaster ride of emotions, but to finally be able to win here in Charlotte is definitely awesome.”

The victory — Enders’ class-leading seventh of the season and 19th of her career — kicked off the Countdown to the Championship. She was already the No. 1 seed for the six-race Countdown, and she increased her points lead to 83.

And the numbers don’t stop there:

  • Her 19th career win passed Shirley Muldowney on the all-time win list for women and Enders now trails only Angelle Sampey (41)
  • The Charlotte win was her third consecutive victory, tying the mark set by Sampey in 2002 and Muldowney in 1977 for most wins in a row by a woman
  • Her seventh win of 2015 tied the mark set by Sampey in 2001 for most wins in a single season by a woman

“Yeah, it’s pretty incredible,” Enders said. “My PR guy was telling me some stats on the way down the hallway and that is pretty surreal. I feel like I’m in a dream. I just don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such a great group of guys and to work for such an awesome team owner. We have fun together and that is what makes it so cool. We are able to be successful and have fun. Nobody said that you had to be miserable while you are doing it.

“It’s a true blessing, and to be able to pass Shirley — it was crazy in Indy to tie her. Angelle is a friend of mine, lives about 20 minutes from my house (in New Orleans). She is by far the winningest female in NHRA drag racing, so it’s definitely cool to put my name alongside of theirs, a true honor.”

Enders stamped her name in the record book with another final-round holeshot. She beat Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the final of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, and then did the same to Nobile here.

Nobile’s pass of 6.575 seconds at 211.13 mph was quicker than Enders’ 6.581-second run at 210.97 mph, but her reaction time of .012-second (compared to Nobile’s .022) made the difference.

“In the second round we had an issue with our clutch and were able to barely make it up for the semifinals against (Allen Johnson),” Enders said. “And we had another interesting thing happen before the final. It was like they were throwing all that they could at us to see us fail but we rose above. That was pretty cool.

“It’s just a confidence booster in getting in the race car up there when my crew chief (Rick Jones) said, ‘Hey, look up in the right corner of your windshield. What does that say? It says No. 1. There is a reason for that.’

“Just having them stand behind me even when I might not be there mentally that day it pumps me up. They are there for me. My guys are who make me a better driver.”

Erica Enders vaults back to Pro Stock points lead with fifth victory of 2015

Erica Enders wins 2015 Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd

BRAINERD, MN — Erica Enders’ winning ways continued Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway.

By beating Jason Line in the final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champion:

  • Won for a class-leading fifth time this season
  • Won for the 17th time in her career, moving within one of the legendary Shirley Muldowney for second among female drivers
  • Took over the Pro Stock points lead
  • Won for the second time at Brainerd

“I had a really good feeling coming in this week, even before the weekend started,” Enders said. “I felt like it was our turn and the tables were about to turn.”

Enders had struggled somewhat in the last five races, winning six rounds since her victory in Bristol.

But Enders and her Elite Motorsports team turned it on during eliminations in Brainerd. She left first on all four opponents Sunday, including Line in the final round, and she made the quickest pass of the weekend in the semifinals against Chris McGaha.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Enders said. “We didn’t light it on fire in qualifying, but they certainly gave me the best hot rod in the world today. Throwing that 6.541 on the board in the semi’s was pretty stout.

“I think we’re working our way back to having our awesome race car, and this is definitely a great step in the right direction, at the right point of the season.”

After dispatching Mark Hogan in the first round with a .002-second reaction time, Enders dumped Bo Butner in Round 2. Then in the semifinals, after a .023 light gave her an immediate advantage, Enders made a pass of 6.541 seconds at 210.67 mph that ended McGaha’s two-race winning streak.

Enders had a .014 light against Line in the final and made her pass of 6.552 seconds at 210.34 mph hold up against Line’s quicker 6.541 at 211.06 mph.

Enders moved back into the points lead for the fourth time this season, and she heads to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis — the final race before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs — with momentum.

“We’re going to do our best to continue this momentum in Indy,” Enders said. “It’s definitely going to be a dogfight in Indy. Track conditions will be different, weather conditions will be way different, and there will be more competitors who are coming to the U.S. Nationals.

“Chevrolet has asked me to be the grand marshal for the U.S. Nationals, which is going to be a huge honor for me. We’ll do our best as a team to have an awesome weekend there. It’s the first time it’s going to be worth a point and a half, so every round is going to be crucial.”

Cool under pressure: Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports go back to back in Bristol

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BRISTOL, TN — No one has been hotter at Bristol Dragway than Erica Enders, and no one was hotter than Enders on Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Enders won her second race in a row in Bristol and reached her fourth final round in the last five races. Yes, the 2014 Pro Stock champion likes Bristol Dragway.

“It’s always been good to me,” Enders said. “I guess every driver has tracks where they go that no matter what you do wrong, it ends up right. But today we earned it. We made really good runs for the heat; it was really hot and tricky out there.

“My crew chiefs were stressing, but they have this cool, calm, collected attitude, and their confidence comes over the radio in my ears. That in turn gives me the confidence I need to go out there and drive to the best of my ability.”

With temperatures in the low 90s on Sunday, conditions weren’t the best for the recalcitrant Pro Stock cars, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll guided Enders to four quick passes, and she was sharp behind the wheel.

“My guys are absolutely incredible,” Enders said. “They never cease to amaze me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. This is the first team I’ve ever worked for where we’ve had a unified front and they have my back. I’m blessed to have an incredible group of men, and the chemistry is there. It’s always a positive environment.”

Enders scored her 16th career victory and her fourth this season, taking over the Pro Stock points lead in the process. She had reaction times of .027, .017, .007, and .025 in another brilliant driving display under pressure.

Her .027 light was second off the line in the opening round against John Gaydosh, but her pass of 6.695 at 206.51 mph was more than enough to overcome Gaydosh’s 6.787-second pass at 196.27 mph.

She then had a .017 light against Jason Line, whose red-light handed her the victory. She still made a solid pass of 6.698 seconds at 206.64 mph to put her in the semifinals against Shane Gray.

Gray had a .020-second reaction time but left behind Enders, who was .007 on the Tree and got the win with a 6.703-second pass at 206.45 mph. Gray’s run was 6.724 seconds at 206.20 mph.

Enders had a close race with Chris McGaha in the final, but after a .025 light and a 6.685-second pass at 206.95 mph, she got the win over his .055 reaction time and 6.689-second run at 207.46 mph.

“You have to learn to win, and that’s something I never understood until we did it,” Enders said. “Greg Anderson and Jason (Line) had mentioned that to me when I was first starting, and I didn’t get it until we finally did it. You just learn how to handle yourself in those high-pressure situations. It’s a challenge, for sure, and you’ve got to remain positive in your thoughts, and that’s been a huge part of our success.”

Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports dominate Topeka, take over Pro Stock points lead

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TOPEKA, KS — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team scored a dominant victory at the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka, capping a perfect weekend with a win over Greg Anderson in the final round.

Enders was the quickest in all three qualifying sessions — the fourth was rained out — won the No. 1 qualifier and was quickest in all four rounds of eliminations to score her third victory of the season and take over the Pro Stock points lead.

“The last time we did this was Norwalk (Ohio) last year: We qualified on the pole and were low e.t. every round of qualifying and every round of eliminations,” Enders said. “It’s definitely a feat, especially in Pro Stock, as competitive as it is. Hat’s off to my guys; they are absolutely incredible.

“It speaks volumes of what they’re capable of when they’re given the tools that they need, and that’s what (team owner) Richard Freeman has provided them. I’m just really proud.”

Enders won for the first time in a new R&J Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro after the Elite team parked the championship-winning car of 2014.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to let go of the car I drove last year because we had such an awesome relationship,” Enders said. “We had a lot of success together. We’ve had 29 runs on this car, and it’s still very new and we’re still learning all about her. Rick and Rickie Jones built it and it’s a tremendous masterpiece, and we’re just going to get better and better.”

Enders started the day against No. 16 qualifier Mark Hogan, but her pass of 6.579 seconds at 209.10 mph was low of the round and beat his 6.855-second run at 201.58 mph. She then faced off against noted starting-line ace Jonathan Gray, who left with a .005-second reaction time, but Enders had a .013 light and then blew past Gray with a run of 6.586 at 208.78 mph, beating his 6.607 at 208.68 mph.

Larry Morgan then had a brilliant .007 light in the semi’s, but Enders ran him down with a 6.579-second pass at 208.94 mph to beat his run of 6.609 seconds at 208.68 mph.

“I missed the Tree a little bit against Larry Morgan,” said Enders, whose reaction time was .030. “I knew I was late and was looking over to see where he was. It was only a seven-thousandths margin of victory, so I guess if we had a lucky round, that was it, for sure.”

Then came rival Anderson, who had beaten Enders in the semifinals at Atlanta Dragway last weekend. This time, though, Enders ripped off a .009-second reaction time to Anderson’s .020 and then made a pass of 6.584 seconds at 209.33 mph to beat his 6.591-second run at 209.14 mph.

“He congratulated me down there,” Enders said. “He doesn’t like to lose to anybody; he’s got a very competitive spirit. We all do in Pro Stock. But everything’s cool, and I’m proud that we got the win. He got us (in Atlanta) and he outran us, so I was happy to pay him back just a little bit, but all in good fun.”

Enders now has a 59-point lead over Jason Line, who lost in the first round, after eight of 24 races.

“Because I had never led the Pro Stock points in my career until last year, I remember I screen-shot it every week because I didn’t know if that would disappear or we’d ever get back in that position, but because of my guys and what Richard Freeman has given us, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of great stuff together.

“It’s cool to be back on top, but it’s been a long, grueling season. Pro Stock is so competitive, and we’ll do our best to stay on top.

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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Erica Enders-Stevens storms to second consecutive K&N Horsepower Challenge victory

Erica Enders-Stevens wins 2015 K&N Horsepower Challenge

LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team broke out of their early seasons struggles in a big way, storming to a second consecutive victory in the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens beat Chris McGaha, Jason Line (on a holeshot), and Vincent Nobile en route to winning the special race for the Pro Stock class.

“The swag is back and the confidence was definitely back after we tested in Charlotte,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a very successful test, and everything started to come together. My crew chiefs called me several times this week, and just hearing the confidence in their voices gives me a peace of mind and allows me to be confident and perform to the best of my ability.”

And she extended her winning streak to 14 rounds in Las Vegas, including the 2014 Horsepower Challenge, both national events last year, and Saturday’s race.

“Fourteen rounds in a row, that’s very awesome,” Enders-Stevens said. “All the credit goes to my guys. They work so incredibly hard, and I’m so proud of them and I’m honored to be their driver.”

Enders-Stevens has two No. 1 qualifiers in 2015 but had yet to visit the winner’s circle until Saturday.

“We have struggled, there’s no doubt about that, at the beginning of this year,” Enders-Stevens said. “We stayed after Charlotte and tested on Monday and finally figured this hot rod out. The new tire had been giving us a little bit of an issue, but (crew chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll thrashed at it, and their determination and perseverance turned this whole deal around.”

Enders-Stevens snared the No. 2 qualifying position for Sunday’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals with a pass of 6.617 seconds at 208.94 mph in Friday’s second qualifying session. That set up a promising day in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, a race pitting Pro Stock’s best against each other for a $50,000 prize.

Enders-Stevens started off against McGaha, and as McGaha slowed to a 17.154-second run at 46.29 mph, she got the win light with a pass of 6.690 seconds at 207.98 mph.

That matched her against Line, who had secured the No. 1 qualifier for the national event this weekend, but Enders-Stevens got the jump with a .017-second reaction time (to Line’s .033 light), and her 6.652-second pass at 207.88 mph was enough to hold off Line’s quicker run of 6.648 seconds at 208.62 mph.

After a quick turnaround for the final round, Enders-Stevens outran Nobile with a pass of 6.650 seconds at 208.01 mph to his 6.694-second run at 207.62 mph.

“We had about a 35-minute turnaround going into the final,” Enders-Stevens said. “Vincent was kind enough to wait; he was already buckled up when we pulled up, and I wasn’t even in the car yet. We were certainly thrashing, but my guys did a great job. They kept their heads together, and that’s what it’s all about: Pulling together, pulling your weight, and getting it done when you need to.”

Her victory also meant Frank Savarese of Fort Wayne, Ind., won a ’15 Toyota Tacoma as part of a K&N sweepstakes. K&N pairs lucky fans with each Horsepower Challenge driver, and Savarese drew Enders-Stevens’ name on Friday.

“He drew my number, and he told me afterward that he was hoping to draw us,” Enders-Stevens said. “I said, ‘Well, we’re coming in with a great car.’ After the first two qualifying sessions on Friday, I said, ‘We’re going to have a race car. If I can do my job as a driver, I’m hopeful you can leave with that awesome Toyota truck.’ ”

Enders-Stevens will go for her second consecutive double-double in the Las Vegas national event. She was due to race No. 15 qualifier Matt Hartford, but Hartford broke the engine during qualifying and will not be able to make the call for Sunday’s first round.

She’ll face the winner of the race between No. 7 qualifier Larry Morgan and No. 10 qualifier Jimmy Alund in the second round.

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