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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.”

Enders-Stevens, Elite Motorsports exploring potential on new Camaro in Gainesville

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GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens will start the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway from an unusual position: Outside the top three.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion had swept both No. 1 qualifiers before Gainesville and had started third or better in 21 of her last 24 races, including sixth or better in every race since 2013.

But as her Elite Motorsports team tunes a new Chevrolet Camaro, Enders-Stevens will begin Gainesville eliminations from the No. 7 spot.

“It’s an unusual position to start Sunday from, but it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish,” Enders-Stevens said. “If anyone can do it, I know we can.”

Enders-Stevens last qualified outside the top six at the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in November 2013 when she was with another team.

Enders-Stevens won six races and the 2014 championship in her first season with Elite Motorsports. Crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones built a new Camaro for Gainesville and beyond, and the team knows the new car will be better in the long run.

Getting there isn’t a simple process, of course, because new race cars always take some development.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have not shown what we’re made of or what we’re capable of this weekend, but that’s part of the growing pains of trying to make strides in the right direction. We’re working the bugs out of this thing, and we’re figuring out the potential.”

Enders-Stevens’ best qualifying pass in Gainesville was 6.551 seconds at 211.79 mph. She’ll square off against No. 9 qualifier Jonathan Gray in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations. Gray’s best run was 6.555 seconds at 211.76 mph.

“I know exactly what we’re capable of,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got to get in the car and be up on the wheel tomorrow. I know my guys will give me the best they have.”

Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Defending champ Enders-Stevens looks to continue hot streak in Gainesville

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GAINESVILLE, FL — After picking up right where she left off at the end of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens is looking to continue her hot streak and capture her first victory of 2015 at this weekend’s Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway.

“My mentality is positive, optimistic, and excited about the races to come,” Enders-Stevens said. “I think that we have a lot to look forward to. As long as we figure out what happened in the final round in Phoenix and learn from it, we’ll be good to go.

“This new fuel and tire combination is a challenge that we’ve had to work to overcome so far. I’m confident in my guys, though, that we’re going to get there and we’ll be all right in the end when it matters.”

Sitting second in the points standings, just 21 points behind fellow Elite Performance companion Rodger Brogdon, Enders-Stevens isn’t concerned with how the first two races have gone for her and her team. In fact, she couldn’t be happier with how well things are working out for everyone at Elite Motorsports.

“Going into Gainesville, usually the weather is conducive for some record-setting runs,” Enders-Stevens said. “You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be swinging for the fences this weekend.

“I’ve got all the faith in the world in my guys, but the most important part is to just go out there and have fun. It’s still early in the season, and as long as we’re learning and enjoying ourselves, what better place is there to be than racing together.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. ET, Friday, and noon and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Enders-Stevens earns prestigious Racer of the Year Award

Erica Enders-Stevens Racer of the Year

WYNNEWOOD, OK – Reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens has been named RACER Magazine’s 2014 Racer of the Year.

The Elite Motorsports driver is the first woman to win the prestigious award, and she beat out NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick, IndyCar champ Will Power, Formula 1 titlist Lewis Hamilton and others among motorsports’ best. Enders-Stevens also won the magazine’s Drag Racer of the Year Award.

“I truly can’t put into words how I felt after I found out we had won the Racer of the Year award,” Enders-Stevens said. “First of all, I am incredibly thankful for all the fans who took time to vote for us. I’ve always said my fans are the best, and they proved it again.”

Enders-Stevens earned 48.9 percent of the vote from fans in Racer of the Year voting, easily topping Harvick’s 6.2 percent and Hamilton’s 5.4 percent. She garnered nearly 66 percent of the vote for Drag Racer of the Year, while John Force was next with 14.6 percent.

Enders-Stevens won the 2014 Pro Stock title in dramatic fashion, as the championship battle went down to the final round of the final race. She won six times in 2014, including the final two races, to become the first woman in history to win the Pro Stock title and the third woman to win an NHRA championship.

Enders-Stevens, 31, was fourth in the points standings with four races remaining, but she raced to the semifinals in St. Louis and Reading, Pa., to move to second place.

At the penultimate race, in Las Vegas, Enders-Stevens faced points leader Jason Line in a pivotal semifinal battle. She won that round and then beat five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round to win the race and take over the points lead.

At the season finale in Pomona, Calif., Enders-Stevens and Line were once again on a collision course as the two were on opposite sides of the ladder. After winning her first two rounds, Enders-Stevens faced Jonathan Gray in the semifinals. For the first time in NHRA pro history, both drivers ripped off perfect .000-second reaction times, with Enders-Stevens advancing to the final thanks to a quicker pass.

That put her against Line in a winner-take-all final round, and when Line went red, Enders-Stevens joined Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey as the only women to win an NHRA title.

“When my Elite Motorsports team and I achieved my lifelong goal of winning the NHRA Pro Stock championship last year, we all felt on top of the world,” Enders-Stevens said. “When we found out we won the prestigious Racer of the Year award, those feelings came back. I’ve got to thank my team owner Richard Freeman, my crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and everyone at Elite for making the 2014 season the best of my career. We were fortunate enough to win six races – and the special K&N Horsepower Challenge event – and we were fast all year, thanks to our tremendous horsepower from Jake Hairston and Nick Ferri.

“But our championship was still in doubt, right down to the last round of the last race. In what was truly a Hollywood ending, we were able to win that round, that race and the championship.”

Enders-Stevens was named to the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association All-America Team for 2014. She was the lone female among the eight drivers selected.

“Shirley Muldowney was one of my heroes growing up, and I learned a lot from her and Angelle Sampey during my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “We are just a small part of a growing fraternity of women who are chasing their goals in all forms of motorsports. Hopefully one day soon we can all simply be considered racers.”

Champ Enders-Stevens pulls runner-up card in the desert

Erica Enders-Stevens reaches final round in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Progressing through the elimination ladder once again, reining World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens came up one win light short of victory at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Taking on No. 16 Joey Grose in the first round of final eliminations, Enders-Stevens was able to power her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on with a win after Grose experienced an issue with his car early in the run.

In the second round against Greg Anderson, Enders-Stevens cut a .013 light and never looked back, running a 6.570 to beat Anderson’s 6.603 and advance to her second semifinal of the year.

However, the semifinal round was a tight battle in which both her and Chris McGaha had almost identical reaction times, her .027 to his .026. McGaha’s car stepped out and swerved partway down the track though, allowing Enders-Stevens to cruise on to her first final-round appearance of the 2015 season.

“What a great weekend for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “It speaks volumes for our team, how hard they work and their determination for perfection. To be three of the final four cars two weeks in a row is unreal. The morale is awesome around here. It’s three different groups but it’s really one team.

“I know I talk about my team a lot, but that’s the most important part of the puzzle. We certainly have a great group of guys, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be a part of it.”

After battling with Brogdon all weekend for the top spot in qualifying, Enders-Stevens had one more showdown with her fellow Elite Performance driver in the final round. Enders-Stevens killed the Christmas Tree with a .017 reaction time and was out in front until an untimely mechanical issue reared its head and Brogdon passed her at the line for the win.

“We’re having a blast,” Enders-Stevens said. “Did I want to win? Absolutely. It’s so hard to get to a final round in Pro Stock, so to give one away it sucks. I am very happy for Rodger though. We’re glad to have him on board as part of our team. He had the fastest car all weekend and he deserved to win.

“We were going after it in the final. I was up on the wheel and on the Tree, and we just had an unfortunate miss in the car. It’s one of those loses that kind of burns a little bit because all we had to do was get down the racetrack and we would have won. God had a better plan though, and it was Rodger’s day.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action will continue with the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 12-15, at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.

Enders-Stevens heads into Sunday No. 1 in Phoenix

Erica Enders-Stevens qualifies number 1 in Phoneix

PHOENIX (Feb. 21) — Nothing is slowing down Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens this weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, where she looks to continue her title defense from the No. 1 qualifying spot during tomorrow’s final eliminations at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.

“It’s been a great start to the year for our entire Elite Motorsports team, at least a better start to the year than we had in 2014,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m really proud of the guys, especially with how much we’ve struggled so far. We’ve been able to post two No. 1 qualifying positions, but at the same time we’ve struggled behind the scenes. I’m really proud of their determination and perseverance. It’s just really exciting for me to be on the pole going into Sunday.”

Posting her fastest time of the weekend during Q2 Friday of 6.545 seconds at 211.20 mph, Enders-Stevens just edged out fellow Elite Performance-powered racer Rodger Brogdon simply on speed. Even through two more qualifying sessions Saturday, Enders-Stevens was able to keep her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on top of the leaderboard, lining her up against No. 16 Joey Grose in round one.

“When I unclutched it in that final session tonight, it felt the best it has felt since we starting racing in all of 2015, test sessions included,” Enders-Stevens said. “I went out there in third gear and it deadheaded, so the G-meter dropped off and it slammed the nose of the car down. It was just a shame because we would have blown the scoreboard up with that run for sure.

“It definitely started off to be a really great run, and to be able to still put 211 mph after you slam the nose of the car is crazy. It’s basically like you’re driving on the freeway and you put the car in park. Even with that, I’m not worried about tomorrow. In fact, I’m very optimistic after how the car launched in the final session today.”

While Enders-Stevens and her entire team are optimistic about the results they are seeing so far, they feel like there is still more horsepower under the hood.

“Any time you can go run on a national event track within a month or so of the race, it’s ideal to be able to collect data,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s exactly what we did. Our test by no means was great here but we learned a lot, and I think we were able to translate that to the race this weekend.

“It’s not an easy task to get one of these cars down the racetrack from a crew chief, crewmember, or even a driver standpoint. We certainly have a lot to be optimistic about. However, this by no means is the end of our road as far as performance is concerned. We’re still not pleased with where we are at, and we’re going to continue to dig deep and work hard at it.”

Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Phoenix heat proves no match for Enders-Stevens’ first-day performance

Erica Enders-Stevens provisional no 1 in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Continuing to build off her success in Pomona, defending Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens put it all on the line during the first day of qualifying at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, snagging the provisional No. 1 spot at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

“I’m just so excited for our performance today,” Enders-Stevens said. “After not making a pass in Pomona on Friday, this is definite progress. There was also definitely more left in that run after we went back and looked at the data. We’ve been a little bit conservative this weekend because we don’t have the data that we’re used to having with the other parts and pieces. With hindsight being 20/20, obviously we’ll go in and make those changes this evening and try to get after it a little bit tomorrow.”

Going into Q2 in the No. 2 position, Enders-Stevens was looking to put her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on the top spot, snatching it from fellow Elite Motorsports power counterpart Rodger Brogdon. Enders-Stevens was able to equal Brogdon’s pass of 6.545 seconds, but it was her 211.20-mph speed, compared to Brogdon’s 210.90, that gave her the top spot.

“With how crazy our test went here in Phoenix,” Enders-Stevens said, “we’re clearly taking some steps in the right direction in regards to the new rules that were implemented on tires and fuel. We’re still learning and trying to acquire some data, but having team cars out there really helps. We’ve got four guys in Pro Stock, including myself, that are running Elite Performance power, and we’re currently first, second, and third. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Putting up a successful performance at one of her favored tracks, Enders-Stevens knows that they still have a lot of work ahead if they want to remain on top of the board Saturday.

“Phoenix is one of my favorite spots to race at,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s where my family is from, so it’s basically like a second home to me. We do have our work cut out for us tomorrow though. We’re only No. 1 by mile per hour, so it’s going to be very close. We’ll go back and analyze the data some more and do our best tomorrow.

“Being No. 1 is just a cool perk in this sport. I’m proud of my team and really honored to be here, but at the end of the day, it’s how we finish on Sunday.”

Qualifying will continue at approximately 1:30 and 4 p.m. PT, Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

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