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Houston-based Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants to sponsor reigning champ Erica Enders-Stevens

Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants to sponsor Erica Enders-Stevens

HOUSTON, TX — Lupe Tortilla, routinely voted the top Mexican restaurant in Texas, will assume title sponsorship of the record-setting Pro Stock race car of reigning world champion Erica Enders-Stevens at the upcoming O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.

A 31-year-old superstar in the world of professional drag racing, Enders-Stevens is a Houston native who attended Spring-Cypress High School and Texas A&M University. She has been supported by Lupe Tortilla founder Stan Holt, his wife Sheila, and their restaurants since she began her driving career at age 8, a relationship that continues to this day with her team owner Richard Freeman and his Elite Motorsports operation.

“Stan has always been a part of racing and my personal life for as long as I can remember,” Enders-Stevens said. “He has always been there for me and I consider him and Sheila part of my family. Stan even performed the wedding ceremony when Richie and I got married.

“We had the best year of our professional lives in 2014, winning six races and the championship. I was honored to become the first female Pro Stock champion and join my heroes Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey as the only women in history to win a major motorsports title. The neat thing is that Lupe Tortilla was with us every step of the way.

“It would be another dream come true to win this race for Stan, his sons, Sheila Mae, and all of their employees across the state. No matter what, if we can remind people to go eat at one of their restaurants, then I’ll be super happy, and trust me everyone leaves that place happy. It’s the best Tex-Mex ever.”

Based in Houston, Lupe Tortilla boasts 17 locations across the greater Houston area as well as Austin, San Antonio, Beaumont, and College Station.

“It’ll be really neat to see the Lupe Tortilla car on the racetrack,” said Holt, who drag races himself at the Sportsman level. “We came up with the idea to support Erica and the Elite Motorsports team at this race since it’s in our backyard, and when I talked to my sons about it they thought it would be a lot of fun.

“We always have a good time at the races, and many of the professional drivers and crewmen come to visit and have lunch or dinner when they’re in town. We have great relationships with so many people out there, including the Angel family, who own the racetrack. The NHRA is really a big family and we’re happy to feed them all.”

The 28th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals takes place from April 24-26 at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown.

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.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Las Vegas double

Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Vegas double

LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens hopes to double down for the second year in a row at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Last March, Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas and then doubled up the next day by winning the regular national event.

Is a repeat at this weekend’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in the cards?

“Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first win with Elite and we were able to double up there,” Enders-Stevens said. “Then we went there in the fall and won the race to take over the points lead for the championship.

“We swept the Vegas races last year, so we’re really excited to go back, especially coming off a successful test in Charlotte. It gives us a little boost of confidence heading to Vegas.”

Enders-Stevens joined Richard Freeman’s Elite team for the 2014 season, but she was winless with Elite before heading to Vegas. That changed when she knocked off Dave Connolly in the final of the Horsepower Challenge and beat Jason Line in the national event final.

“It was just a special weekend for my team and I,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were still pretty new together, and it was neat to see how well everyone worked together, even under such a high-pressure situation for $100,000. It was a weekend I’ll never forget.”

The K&N Horsepower Challenge is a special race for seven Pro Stock drivers based on qualifying points accrued since the 2014 event (one is added via a fan vote). Qualifying sessions Saturday are used for K&N Challenge elimination rounds, with the K&N final being an extra pass Saturday. The winner pockets $50,000.

“It’s a really exciting specialty race that K&N puts on every year for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “All of us Pro Stock guys are so appreciative of K&N for their involvement in NHRA and their support of our class. It’s an exciting weekend coming up, and being the defending champions makes it even more exciting for us.

“Two of the qualifying passes are K&N elimination rounds, so not only is Sunday important but Saturday is really important to us, too. We’ll get one day to get our ducks in a row and then we’ll swing for the fences on Saturday. I’m really excited about it, and I’m hopeful that we can get it done again.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday. Saturday qualifying will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and elimination action Sunday will be aired at 5 p.m.

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.”

Reigning champ Erica Enders-Stevens dips into ‘luck bank’ to make Charlotte field

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Drag racers generally like to save all of their luck for race day, but reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders-Stevens had to cash some in Saturday just to qualify for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Shortened to just two qualifying attempts due to Friday’s rain, Enders-Stevens didn’t get more than a few feet down the racetrack in either of Saturday’s two sessions. However, because only 16 cars attempted to qualify for this event, she will have the final spot on the elimination ladder, giving her Elite Motorsports team a chance to redeem themselves Sunday.

“You definitely don’t want to put yourself in this position, but if any team can get it together overnight and make a difference tomorrow, it’s this group of guys right here,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been through it all and this is just another chapter.

“We started the year with a brand-new RJ Racecars Camaro and it’s going to be the next big thing, no doubt about it, but we just haven’t figured out how to match the car and our Elite horsepower to the new tire and fuel the NHRA is making all of us use. We did OK in the first few races but decided to switch back to the car we won the championship with last year because we just know it so much better. She does what we ask her to do every time. The thought is that our learning curve will be shorter.”

Without question, the car swap coupled with Friday’s lost rounds played a role in Enders-Stevens’ subpar performance Saturday, but it’s unlikely that anyone she’ll face Sunday will be excited about seeing her race car in the opposite lane.

In Round 1, Enders-Stevens will line up against top qualifier Chris McGaha (6.474 at 213.70 mph), Shane Gray (6.525 at 211.99 mph), and Buddy Perkinson (6.528 at 212.49 mph).

“With the four-wide deal, the top-two cars from each foursome advance, so we need to make sure we’re one of the two,” Enders-Stevens said. “Fortunately, we have a pit full of champions at Elite, so no one will panic. We’ll do what we do and hope for the best. If we get a hold of the car and the tune-up, we can run with anybody.

“Our teammate (Drew Skillman) went 6.48 and Rodger Brogdon, who leases engines from us, went 6.53 with a super-safe tune-up, so we’ll go look at both of those runs on the computer and try to get our car dialed in.”

Elimination action begins at 1 p.m., Sunday, with Pro Stock starting around 1:45 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the action.

Three-time Four-Wide finalist Enders-Stevens ready to break through

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens has accomplished a lot in her drag racing career, winning 12 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races and the 2014 Pro Stock championship, but one race that has eluded her has been the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Enders-Stevens will get another shot to win the event this weekend in Charlotte, where she has raced to the final round for three consecutive years.

“Maybe the change in the race date will change our luck,” Enders-Stevens said of the event that has been run in April in the past. “We’ve done everything but win Charlotte, and it would be nice to get over the hump.”

Enders-Stevens is the only Pro Stock driver to reach the event’s final round in each of the last three years, a feat in itself given the difficult nature of four-wide racing. Traditional drag races are two lanes, but the Four-Wide Nationals places extra demands on a driver’s concentration and talent.

“The Four-Wide race is always interesting, for sure,” Enders-Stevens said. “We obviously don’t race anything like it all year, so it is always an adjustment when we get to Charlotte. But I have faith in my guys to give me a fast race car, and that gives me a lot of confidence going there.”

Elite Motorsports debuted a new Chevrolet Camaro for Enders-Stevens in Gainesville, Fla., and the car is still in the development stages, but with crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, as well as Mark Ingersoll and the entire Elite Motorsports crew, she is confident the car will produce long-term results.

“My guys are the best in the business, and I know that car is going to be fast,” Enders-Stevens said. “I can’t think of no better place for us to get its first win than in Charlotte. I love the fans there and the area is great, too. Plus, two of my best friends in the world — Laura Cochran and Lacee Tuttle — live there, and it’s always great to see them. We’ll do our best this weekend and hope for a great result.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. ET, Friday and Saturday, and final eliminations will start at approximately 1:45 p.m., Sunday. Qualifying will be broadcasted on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis and elimination action will be live on ESPN starting at 2 p.m. ET.

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.”

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