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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.”

Bizarre second round sends Erica Enders home early in Seattle

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SEATTLE, WA — A series of wacky circumstances helped end Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders’ day in the second round of the NHRA Northwest Nationals on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.

After beating Bob Butner in Round 1, Enders faced Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the second, but from the start, almost nothing went right.

“I fired the car and had no oil pressure and no vacuum, so I radioed my guys and told them,” Enders said. “My crew chief just waved me in the water to start the burnout. I went to start my burnout, and then they were waving their arms to stop, so I aborted the burnout.

“They told me to shut it off, and they pulled my front-end clip off. Turns out the oil sump belt had come off, so there was no oil turning to the motor. They put that on, put the front end back on, and I fired it up. I had to reset all my switches, and the starter said I could do a short burnout. As I was pulling up, they were like, ‘No, back up.’ I backed up through the water and started my whole procedure over again. It was extremely rushed, and I was unable to do a burnout across the starting line, which means we couldn’t put any rubber down or burn through the resin.”

That’s detrimental to a recalcitrant Pro Stock car, though Enders did make a decent pass of 6.530 seconds at 211.89 mph. Coughlin, who shut the engine off in his Camaro while he waited for his teammate, won with a run of 6.532 seconds at 211.96, earning the victory on a holeshot.

“We did what we could with what we had,” Enders said. “I pulled in and pre-staged, but to be quite honest, I didn’t rise to the occasion today. I’m pretty disappointed in myself as a driver. Regardless of the distractions up there, I’m a world champion for a reason, and I didn’t show it today. It makes me mad, but at the same time, there were eight things that were horribly wrong all at one time, and it was a distraction. This is a game that’s won and lost by thousandths of a second.

“There have been multiple times when I did rise to the occasion, but today just wasn’t one of them.”

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion, was grateful to Coughlin for waiting.

“The fortunate thing is my teammate Jeg Coughlin waited for me,” Enders said. “He didn’t have to, but we’re a team back here, and we’re a team up there. He shut his car off, and he wasn’t going to pre-stage without me. That speaks a lot about his character and the class he brings to this operation.

“The good thing about that round was that I was racing a teammate. Nobody else would have waited, and one of the red cars was going to the semifinals.”

Enders, who qualified No. 7, took out Butner with a pass of 6.518 seconds at 212.13 mph, leaving first with a .034-second reaction time. Butner’s run was 6.524 seconds at 212.39 mph.

“We feel like we made a really good move in the right direction with our race car. We’d been struggling the last two weeks, and that was evident by the scoreboard. But we fixed it, so that’s something else to be proud of.”

Enders now looks forward to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in two weeks at Brainerd International Raceway.

“You can bet I’ll show up in Brainerd mad,” Enders said, “and wanting to win that race.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready for ‘crazy’ competition in Seattle

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SEATTLE, WA — The Pro Stock field for the NHRA Northwest Nationals this weekend at Pacific Raceways is so insanely close that Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is only .008-second off the quickest qualifying time but sits No. 7.

The top eight are less than a hundredth of a second apart, as Enders and Jason Line had identical elapsed times of 6.509 seconds, with Enders getting the higher position based on a faster speed, 212.16 mph to 212.06 mph.

“It’s the closest field that I can remember,” Enders said. “I’ve been racing a long time, and to have the top eight separated by a hundredth of a second is crazy.”

The close competition means race day should be extremely competitive, with drivers likely to be the difference between winning and losing, and the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Tomorrow is going to be a driver’s race, and to be quite honest I’m perfectly fine with that,” Enders said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to race in Seattle again. It’s been really nice to hear how excited all the fans have been to have us back.

“I’m hoping for a long race day tomorrow. It’s going to be crazy, crazy competitive.”

Enders and her Elite team are racing in Seattle for the first time, as they skipped Sonoma and Seattle last year. Enders is racing in Seattle for the first time since 2013.

Enders is a four-time winner in 2014, and she’s currently second in the Pro Stock points standings with three races remaining before the Countdown to the Championship begins. She kicks off Seattle’s race day against No. 10 qualifier Bo Butner, whose top pass was 6.518 seconds at 212.33 mph.

“He’s a good leaver and his car has been running good,” Enders said. “We’ll all have to be on our game tomorrow, but I have a lot of confidence in myself and my crew. We’ll be ready.”

Historic race of the past has Erica Enders excited about future Seattle success

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SEATTLE, WA — Reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders is ready to make some more history at picturesque Pacific Raceways this weekend during the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.

During her breakthrough 2012 campaign, Enders and Funny Car racer Courtney Force made a mark in the record books in Seattle by becoming the first pair of female professionals to win the same national event.

“That was such a cool day,” Enders said. “I had just won my first ever Pro Stock trophy in Chicago a few races before the Western Swing, and that was a huge deal because no woman had ever won in Pro Stock before. We finally got it done and it was like, ‘How can we top that?’ Then we come up here and make some more history with Courtney. It was really neat to be a part of that, especially with my buddy Courtney.

“The Seattle win was special because it validated the Chicago win. It proved we were legit. We ended up winning a couple more times that year, but the Seattle win was one of the biggest I’ve ever had.”

Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, enters the weekend second in the Mello Yello championship points. She’s currently 47 points behind Greg Anderson and 147 ahead of third-place Jason Line.

“We have to go to Seattle and perform flawlessly, especially coming off a quarterfinal result in Sonoma,” Enders said. “We all know what we need to do in this pit and we just need to get to work. Seattle is usually a hot and tricky racetrack, so we’ll be prepared for that and try to win some rounds and maybe get back in the winner’s circle. I’ll talk to Courtney and see if we can’t recreate 2012!

“As much fun as it will be to reminisce a little bit, we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us. This year has been extremely competitive, like it seems to be every year, but I think the new fuel and tires they have us using this year have really evened the playing field more than ever before. It’s been stressful but fun.”

While in town, Enders will be sure to take in the local scene.

“Seattle is such a beautiful city,” she said. “You start taking it in before you even land, just looking out the windows of the airplane and seeing Mount Rainer and Puget Sound. I know we’ll be eating a lot of fresh seafood and taking in some glorious sunsets. I’m excited. This is definitely a race you always look forward to every year.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry both qualifying and elimination action.

Erica Enders determined to bounce back after second-round exit in Sonoma

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SONOMA, CA — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team are more determined than ever after a second-round exit in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Her Elite team was making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, and Enders was racing here for the first time since 2012. Still, she qualified No. 9 and advanced to the second round before bowing out to No. 1 qualifier and eventual race winner Chris McGaha.

“We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Enders said. “We’re going to load up and go to the next race. My guys are the most determined bunch I’ve ever met. Right now our day is over, but where are all three of my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll) and my team owner (Richard Freeman)? They’re in the lounge, going over notes and trying to figure out how to get better.

“You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be back, and we’re just going to use this to fuel our fire.”

Enders and her team have handled adversity well in the past. Earlier this year, after losing in the first round in Gainesville, Fla., and in the second in Charlotte, Enders won the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the national event in Las Vegas and then won in Houston.

And after losing in the first round in Englishtown, N.J., she raced to the semifinals in Epping, N.H., before winning in Bristol, Tenn. Enders also lost in the first round in Norwalk, Ohio, before going to two consecutive semifinals in Chicago and Denver.

In Sonoma, her 100th consecutive race, Enders faced No. 8 qualifier Shane Gray in the first round, and she left first with a .017-second reaction time and held off Gray with a pass of 6.531 seconds at 211.93 mph. Gray’s run was slightly better, 6.530 at 212.39 mph, but Enders won on a holeshot.

“There have been plenty of days when my team has carried me,” Enders said. “I wish I could’ve carried them further this weekend. My crew chief always tells me, ‘If you can be .020 all day on Sunday, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to go to the winner’s circle with the people that we have and the equipment that we have.’ Today just wasn’t our day.”

Enders also left first on McGaha, .020 to .029, but McGaha made a pass of 6.514 seconds at 212.13 mph to run down Enders’ 6.529 at 211.93 mph.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to make noise in rare bottom-half start

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SONOMA, CA — With her Elite Motorsports team making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, It would be easy to blame a relatively poor qualifying performance for Erica Enders at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend on their lack of notes for the track, but Enders and her team — the defending NHRA Pro Stock World Champions — won’t make any excuses.

“We certainly don’t have data from out here,” said Enders, who qualified for her 100th consecutive race. “But we can always take weather and track conditions and compare them to other places we’ve raced at. I guess we’re behind the other teams in that aspect, but at the same time, that is no excuse.

“My guys are the best, and we’ll do our damndest to prove it tomorrow.”

Enders qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.534 seconds at 212.03 mph despite her team racing in Sonoma for the first time. That’s only the second time in her 37 races to date with Richard Freeman’s Elite team that she has failed to qualify in the top half of the field.

Plus, Enders and the team have faced other issues this weekend as they’ve tried to move up the Pro Stock ladder.

“We’ve definitely struggled,” Enders said. “We’ve had some breakages and some things not go our way so far this weekend, but we’re determined to change that tomorrow. I’m certainly looking forward to race day, even though our performance wasn’t tremendous in qualifying. I still am confident about tomorrow.”

Enders faces Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations on Sunday after Gray qualified No. 8 with a top pass of 6.533 seconds at 212.03 mph.

In addition to her team making its first appearance in Sonoma, Enders is making her first start here since 2012.

“I do love it here in Sonoma,” Enders said. “It’s certainly not the showing we wanted to have during qualifying, but tomorrow is a whole new day, and I’ve got the best guys in the business to get the car as good as it can be.

“We’ll just go after it tomorrow. We’ll keep fighting and try to make it better.”

Success in Sonoma on the mind of reigning world champion Erica Enders

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SONOMA, CA — Two against one may not be fair, but reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders’ season-long battle with rival teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line hasn’t phased the popular professional from Texas. If anything, the two-pronged attack against her has only served to motivate the sport’s top female Pro Stock racer, who has been ranked first or second in the points for the last four months.

“With the exception of two races early in the year, either Greg, Jason, or I have been in the No. 1 spot and we’ve swapped it around nine times already in 14 races, so it’s been another super tough year in Pro Stock,” said Enders, who lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “It’s a huge challenge every week but that’s why we race. It’s stressful but fun at the same time.

“We knew coming into this year with the No. 1 on the side of our Elite Motorsports Chevrolet that we were going to be the hunted, and that’s proven to be true. Everyone takes their best shot against us, and we’ve had to raise our level to keep up the fight.”

Enders enters this weekend’s 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals just 37 points, or roughly the equivalent of two elimination rounds, behind Anderson. Line is a distant but always dangerous third, 176 points in arrears of Enders. To date, Enders has a 4-2 record in head-to-head matchups with Anderson and is 1-0 against Line.

Although Sonoma Raceway isn’t one of the places where Enders has hoisted a Wally trophy, she still ranks the track as one of her favorites and is excited to get back to wine country and regain the top ranking in her class.

“Sonoma is definitely in the top three on my favorite’s list,” Enders said. “I’m excited to be able to go back, especially with a really fast, consistent hot rod.

“It would be really awesome to get it done in Sonoma. It’s wine country and along with the Wally you get a giant bottle of wine from the track if you win. I’m fortunate to have a bunch of winos on my team, so we’d love that.

“My team owner, Richard Freeman, has never been there and has never raced there, so it’s new territory for him. A couple of my crew guys have never been out there, either, so it’ll be a fun, exciting weekend.

“We’ve definitely got a lot of confidence, even though we’re not coming off a win in Denver. We’ve got momentum and confidence heading into Sonoma, and that sits well with me.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 and 6:45 p.m., Friday, and 1:10 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will carry both qualifying and elimination action.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders kicks off Western Swing with semifinal finish in Denver

Erica Enders posts semifinal finish in Denver 2015

DENVER, CO — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders came within an eyelash of reaching the final round of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway, but she dropped a close race to eventual event winner Larry Morgan in the semifinals, her 10th semi in 14 races during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

“We definitely had the car to do it,” Enders said. “We were running really fast and I have been driving really well. I believed that today was our day, and you have to believe that as a driver. If you don’t think and believe that you’re the best and that you’re going to win you might as well leave your car on the jacks at your pit.”

After losing to Morgan on a holeshot in Chicago, Enders ripped off a .015-second reaction time this time, getting a quick jump on Morgan, but Morgan ran her down with a pass of 6.914 seconds at 199.32 mph to Enders’ 6.920 at 199.26 mph.

“I was surprised to lose,” Enders said. “I knew Larry Morgan was going to be tough because he has a consistent race car and he always seems to get up on the wheel against me, which is a compliment. This time I left on him and paid him back a little for Chicago when my win light didn’t come on.”

Enders has four victories in five final-round appearances in 2015 as she tries to defend her Pro Stock world championship. Denver’s semifinal was the fourth time in the last five races she has raced to at least the semi’s.

And she got to the semifinals with an impressive win over current Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson. Enders got the best of Anderson on the Christmas Tree (.018 to .051) and on the racetrack (6.900 at 199.91 mph to 6.904 at 199.73 mph).

“It was definitely cool to turn the win light on today against Greg,” Enders said. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a tough road to hoe because we had Greg second round, Larry third round, and most likely A.J. in the finals.

“To be able to knock Greg off was awesome. We have just been making better runs here than they have. I feel like it’s going to be a battle between he and I the rest of the year. Not counting any other drivers out but Greg’s going to be tough, and we are going to make it just as tough for him.”

Enders inched to within two rounds — 37 points — of the Pro Stock points lead by kicking off the three-race Western Swing with a semifinal finish.

“I feel good about the rest of the Swing,” Enders said. “I’m thankful that we get to run Sonoma and Seattle this year. We will take a fast, consistent hotrod to California.”

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