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Pro Stock champ Erica Enders can’t bring home another Houston win

Erica Enders | NHRA Houston 2016

HOUSTON, TX — The 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway didn’t go exactly as Erica Enders had hoped, and it certainly didn’t go as well as the 2014 and 2015 races for the two-time Pro Stock champion.

Enders, who won her home race here the last two years, fell in the first round in 2016 with her ShirleysKids.org/Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart.

“Winning only makes you want to win more, and when you don’t you’re clearly disappointed,” Enders said. “We’ve had a lot of fun here the last couple of years, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be this time around. That’s OK; it only makes all of us fight that much harder to get back to the winner’s circle.”

Enders was born and raised in Houston before moving to New Orleans several years ago to live with her husband, Richie Stevens. She remains a Texas girl at heart, and she still has family and friends in the Houston area.

Plus, Royal Purple Raceway is home to her first career race, in a Jr. Dragster at age 8, and to her first career national event victory, in Super Gas in 2004. Ten years later, she won here in Pro Stock and then repeated a season later.

“I’ve said it before, but I love coming to Texas,” Enders said. “I really loved it the last two years, and I still love it even though we lost today. We’ll be back.”

Enders’ pass of 6.659 seconds at 207.18 mph was quicker than Chris McGaha’s 6.668-second pass at 206.26 mph, but McGaha was a tick quicker with his reaction time, and he got to the finish first by about three feet.

“No excuses: I got beat on the Tree,” Enders said. “I pride myself on doing my job on the line and with my shifts, and I didn’t get it done today. I’ll be back.”

The NHRA Mello Yello tour takes a weekend off before returning to action May 13-15 with the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for Houston three-peat

Erica Enders Houston NHRA Pro Stock 2016

HOUSTON, TX — Racing in her home state of Texas always puts a smile on the face of two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders. So does going fast with her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge, which she did in qualifying for the 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals on Friday at Royal Purple Raceway.

Enders grabbed the No. 6 spot — her second-best qualifying position of the season — with a pass of 6.635 seconds at 209.14 mph.

“It is nice to be back home,” said Enders, the 2014 and 2015 Houston winner. “Coming out on Friday and running a little bit better than we have been was certainly encouraging.”

Enders and her Elite team continue to develop their new ’16 Dodge Dart after NHRA mandated fuel-injected engines with a 10,500 rpm limit. Building a new car and tuning it to the new rules has been a challenge but one Enders and her team are up for.

“Today was OK,” Enders said. “It was very hot, the racetrack was crazy, probably similar to what it’s going to be tomorrow. We got two good practice runs for tomorrow. It’s not going exactly how we had planned, but we don’t know how to quit. We’ll just keep digging deep and figure it out.”

Enders will square off against No. 9 qualifier Chris McGaha in the first round Sunday in an odd ladder required by a 13-car field. McGaha’s best pass was 6.646 seconds at 208.39 mph.

Enders was born and raised in Houston and is a Texas girl through and through despite now living in New Orleans with husband Richie Stevens.

“I’m glad to be back home,” Enders said. “I love Texas; I’m not shy about that. This track holds a lot of history for me and certainly a lot of special memories. It was the first track I ever raced on, back in the early 90s, and it was the first track that I won a national event on, in Super Gas. And then we were able to win back-to-back years here in Pro Stock in 2014-15.

“We’ve had lots of fun here, and I’m hopeful that trend continues.”

FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 11 p.m. to midnight, Saturday. Eliminations will air from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday.

Erica Enders to spotlight Shirley’s Kids charity at Houston race

Erica Enders | Shirley's Kids | NHRA

HOUSTON, TX — Shirley’s Kids, the charity headed by legendary drag racer Shirley Muldowney, will adorn Erica Enders’ Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge at the 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway.

Shirley’s Kids’ mission is to lend a hand to children in need in the markets where drag racing has become a part of the community.

“Shirley’s Kids has already impacted the lives of two amazing kids and their families, and I’m happy to carry its logo this weekend,” Enders said. “Shirley did a lot for this sport, and she continues to help others through Shirley’s Kids.”

The Shirley’s Kids-adorned Dodge is made possible through the generous contribution of Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants. None of the money donated to Shirley’s Kids goes to the sponsorship of Enders’ race car, as Lupe Tortilla is providing all of the funding.

Lupe Tortilla has been voted the No. 1 Tex-Mex restaurant in Texas on numerous occasions, with locations across Houston as well as San Antonio, Austin, Beaumont, Katy, and College Station.

“Stan and Sheila Holt have done so much for Shirley’s Kids,” Muldowney said. “I can’t thank them enough for helping the kids at the races we go to, and now to see Shirley’s Kids on Erica’s car is icing on the cake. They are trying their best to help us spread the word so we can help more children.”

Muldowney is slated to attend several NHRA national events in 2016 as Shirley’s Kids continues to help children in need. The next race on her schedule is this weekend in Houston. She also will attend races in Atlanta, Englishtown, Bristol, Denver, Indy, the second Charlotte event, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona, as well as the Jr. Drag Racing Western Conference Finals in Tulsa, Okla.

For more information, visit www.ShirleysKids.org.

Shirley’s Kids is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity created to help children in need. Because its namesake, four-time world champion Shirley Muldowney, has lived her life in drag racing, the organization first seeks out deserving children within the drag racing community. Recipients may be struggling with medical issues or financial hardships brought on by a personal or family tragedy. Because of corporate support, 100 percent of all proceeds raised go directly to the designated children.

Texas girl Erica Enders hopes for a three-peat in Houston

Erica Enders 2016 Mopar NHRA Pro Stock

HOUSTON, TX — Two-time Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders is a tried-and-true Texas girl, so racing at her home track this weekend is a special treat.

Enders, who grew up in Houston, will return to Texas for the 29th annual NHRA SpringNationals, a race she has won the last two years.

“Houston was the place where I won my first national event in the Sportsman ranks,” Enders said. “And 10 years later, we were able to get it done in Pro Stock and then do it back to back.”

Enders started her career in the NHRA Jr. Dragster program, racing successfully with her younger sister Courtney. As Erica got older, she moved to the Sportsman classes, winning her first national event in 2004 in Houston in the Super Gas category.

Eventually, she landed in Pro Stock, winning her first race in 2012, but winning at home in Houston was always a priority, and she finally got it done in 2014 with Elite Motorsports. Enders’ success continued last season, when she repeated as the Houston winner.

“We faced a lot of adversity at those two events,” Enders said. “Things happened to our car; we hurt some engines and had to do an eleventh-hour engine change (in 2015). To be able to ignore all of the distractions that come with a hometown race and win is pretty cool.

“I know it can be done, and with the strides we’re making in the right direction, I’m hopeful we can have another good showing there.”

Enders has two chances to win this weekend, as she returns to the Super Gas ranks when she gets behind the wheel of the ORTEQ Energy Technologies car for owners Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski. Plus, Enders will be rooting for Mike De Palma Jr. in the Comp class.

“I’m driving Super Gas and Pro Stock,” Enders said. “We’re going to have our C/Altered car in Comp Eliminator, which is my 2014 championship car with a new Elite Performance motor. That should be pretty exciting and should be a fun weekend.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. CT, Friday, and 1 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 7 to 8 p.m., Friday, and 11 p.m. to midnight, Saturday. Eliminations will air from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday.

Two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders reaches Four-Wide semi’s

Erica Enders | NHRA 4-Wide Sunday

CHARLOTTE, TX — The results may not be obvious, but Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team continue to make progress at the start of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Enders raced to the semifinals of the seventh annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods on Sunday at zMax Dragway, moving up to seventh in the Pro Stock points standings.

The two-time Pro Stock world champion switched manufacturers for 2016, and combined with some NHRA-mandated rules changes, Enders and her team have not been their elite-level selves through five races, but Enders keeps battling and her team keeps improving.

“We learned a lot this weekend,” Enders said. “We completely used this race as a test session for us. I’m glad we were able to learn some stuff, and we certainly made a move in the right direction. The things we figured out this week we’ll apply to Houston.

“Our rigs were supposed to go directly to Houston, but they’re going to go back to the shop and we’re going to work on our race cars and try to do our best to win in our hometown next week.”

Enders has won the last two races at Royal Purple Raceway, site of the Pro Stock race next weekend.

She heads there with some momentum. Enders finished second in her quad in the first round, making a pass of 6.630 seconds at 209.88 mph and trailing only teammate Drew Skillman.

“First round was a much better run for us,” Enders said. “But by no means was it a great run. That was encouraging.”

Enders then drilled her three competitors on the Christmas Tree in the semifinals with a .024-second reaction time. Had she matched her first-round elapsed time, Enders would have made it to the final, but the Dodge Dart shook the tires and she had to lift.

With her first-round light of .027, Enders remains one of the top drivers in the class.

“To me, that part’s easy,” Enders said. “That’s my job, to be focused. I really pride myself on my driving techniques. I try to perform as perfectly as possible every time. There are a lot of extra distractions here at this event, and I feel like we’re the best in the world. We proved it two years in a row, and we’re just going to keep getting better.”

Perseverance is key for reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders | Charlotte NHRA 4-Wide 2016

CHARLOTTE, NC — After two years of running roughshod over the competition in winning back-to-back Pro Stock world championships, Erica Enders has come back to the pack this year in her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. Her seasoned race crew and engine builders knew it wasn’t going to be easy switching from another brand to Mopar and the Hemi powerplant, and the growing pains they’ve experienced in the first four and a half races would cripple most teams, but not Enders’ group.

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last few years,” Enders said at the conclusion of qualifying for this weekend’s seventh annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods. “This is a pit full of multi-time champions and I wouldn’t change a thing about this team. They have proven time and again to be the best in the sport. It’s just not an easy thing to jump from one manufacturer to another. There’s going to be hiccups and we knew that coming into the season.

“Sure, it’s frustrating when you don’t run well and we did expect to be a little better this weekend than what we’ve shown so far, but we will stick to the master plan (team owner) Richard Freeman drew up when we signed with Mopar and keep on marching forward.”

Under the unique four-wide format, Enders — who qualified 10th with a 6.644 at 207.08 mph — will hope to be one of the two-quickest cars in her Round 1 foursome that will advance to the second round. She will be racing Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman (No. 2 qualifier with a 6.583), Alex Laughlin (seventh with a 6.611), and John Gaydosh Jr. (15th with a 6.762).

“The biggest bummer is seeing my guys and how hard they’re working and then not seeing positive results on the racetrack,” Enders said. “I’m more proud of them now then I’ve ever been because the determination and perseverance they’re showing is just incredible.

“Two cars out of each foursome advance, so our goal is to be one of those two cars. We know Drew has a great race car, so hopefully it will be him and I moving on, but I know it’s going to be tough.

“We’ve already got dinner cooking and no one is leaving until they are 100 percent satisfied that we have a race car capable of winning tomorrow. I’ll certainly do my best behind the wheel and we’ll take our chances.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and elimination racing from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday. All times are listed in Eastern time zone.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders always a threat in Charlotte

Erica Enders 2016 burnout

CHARLOTTE, NC — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has an enviable record at zMax Dragway, site of this weekend’s seventh annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods. She won last October’s national event here, and she raced to the Four-Wide final in 2012, 2013, and 2014, so expect Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team to be contenders when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races there this weekend.

“We’ve been to a handful of finals in Charlotte, and we were finally able to get it done last year,” Enders said. “It was a perfect time last year, being the first race of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. It was a super-exciting time for us.

“We’re going to Charlotte fresh off a test session, and we’re hopeful the things we found will point us in the right direction. It’s a challenge, but we’ll get there. We’ll be all right.”

Enders and her Elite team tested at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park, fine-tuning their new Dodge Dart. She is coming off a semifinal finish in Las Vegas, which was her best race of the season, so Enders is looking to continue building momentum.

She’ll have to do that in the unique race that is the Four-Wide Nationals. Instead of the usual two-wide racing, four cars race at once at the event.

“It definitely presents some challenges, but I’ve raced at every Four-Wide event, and I feel comfortable with the process and the procedure,” Enders said. “It’s just the curveballs that are thrown at you by what the other three competitors are doing or not doing.

“For the most part, the class has gotten the hang of it. Having said that, this will be the first year with EFI. Some drivers’ staging procedures are different, and it will be very interesting to see how they handle it.”

Electronic fuel injection was mandated for 2016, changing things up in Pro Stock. Enders, though, continues to be at the top of her game, as witnessed by her three excellent reaction times in Las Vegas, including a holeshot victory in the second round.

In addition to racing this weekend, Enders is scheduled to visit Levine Children’s Hospital on behalf of Speedway Children’s Charities on Thursday, and she always looks forward to visiting friends Laura Cochran and Lacee Tuttle when she races in Charlotte.

“They’re two of my best friends,” Enders said. “They both live in the Charlotte area, so I’m excited to see them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are schedule for 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 2 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and elimination racing from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday. All times are listed in Eastern Time zone.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders returns to Sportsman roots this weekend

ee-driver-seat

BELLE ROSE, LA — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders will return to her racing roots this weekend behind the wheel of the ORTEQ Energy Technologies Super Gas car at the NHRA Division 4 race at No Problem Raceway Park.

Before moving to the professional ranks, Enders raced Super Gas and won an NHRA national event in Houston in 2004. She’ll be driving for car owners Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski this weekend in the first of several Sportsman races she’ll compete in this season.

“Fortunately, this race fell on an off weekend for us, so I’m able to drive,” Enders said. “Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski have set me up with a great race car, and (crew chief) Cody Wampler will be setting it up for us this weekend, so we’ll definitely have a chance.

“I’m really excited. No Problem is one of the tracks I grew up at because it’s so close to Houston and we raced there a bunch. I can just drive up there from New Orleans, so it feels really comfortable.”

Enders is coming off a semifinal finish in Pro Stock at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning her second-round race on a holeshot. She had reaction times of .006, .009, and .021 in Las Vegas, and she’ll need similar lights in the cutthroat Sportsman class.

“I’m sure everyone will bring their A-game to the starting line,” Enders said. “I’ll try my best to hold them off and go some rounds. It’s been 12 years since I’ve raced Super Gas, and like anything else, to be good at something you need to do it a lot, but it’s not like I haven’t been drag racing.

“We’ll get some test runs in (Thursday) and then get after it Friday. Hopefully, it all comes back to me really fast. I’m pretty confident it will.”

Wood and Wampler will race alongside Enders as her teammates this weekend.

“Both Buddy and Cody (Wampler) are racing, so our pit will stay busy,” Enders said. “It’ll be fun. That’s really my biggest goal, to have some fun and get back to my roots. I’m also excited to spend the weekend with Stan and Sheila Mae Holt, my longtime friends from Houston who own Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants. They’ve been with me since I started racing, and it’ll be fun to race with them.”

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