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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.”

Quick Q4 pass has Erica Enders stoked for race day in Denver

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DENVER, CO — As far as Erica Enders is concerned, there is no one better to end Allen Johnson’s winning streak at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway than her and the Elite Motorsports team.

Johnson has won the last three races in Denver and six of the last eight, but it was Enders who was quickest in the final qualifying session Saturday, giving her momentum heading into Sunday. She qualified No. 3 with a pass of 6.882 seconds at 200.65 mph as she guns for her fifth victory of 2015.

“Tomorrow is going to be challenging,” Enders said. “A.J. has dominated up here for a lot of years and our single goal is to win this race tomorrow, so we will do our best and let God do the rest and see what happens. It’s pretty cool to have a fast Chevy up here.”

Enders’ run of 6.888 seconds at 199.97 mph topped the Pro Stock field in the final qualifying session, and it backed up a solid 6.922-second pass at 199.85 mph run earlier Saturday in the heat of the day.

“Today was more comparable to what tomorrow is going to be than having two night sessions,” Enders said. “We were able to get our race-day setup ready, and I’m feeling confident. I went up there and tried to cut a good light, and my guys just gave me a really awesome race car. I knew that when I uncluched it that it wanted to go somewhere. It’s definitely nice to go to sleep on a Saturday night with a run like that under your belt.”

Saturday’s two good passes came after a somewhat difficult Friday as Enders and her team adjusted to the Denver altitude.

“Friday wasn’t as great as we would have liked it to be but we are learning,” Enders said. “Having said that, we are still the third-quickest from the session last night, so it’s encouraging for tomorrow.”

Enders will race No. 14 qualifier Matt Hartford in the first round Sunday. Hartford’s best lap was 7.084 seconds at 197.25 mph.

After attending ESPYs, Erica Enders ready to kick off Western Swing

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DENVER, CO — Fresh off her appearance at the ESPYs, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is ready to kick off the Western Swing at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this weekend at Bandimere Speedway.

Enders was nominated in the Best Driver category, with NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick winning the ESPY. Still, attending the ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and rubbing elbows with some of the best athletes in the world was a thrill.

“It was definitely a neat experience,” said Enders, who earned the nomination based on winning the 2014 Pro Stock world championship. “I’ve watched on TV in years past, so to be a part of it was pretty cool. I got to see and meet a lot of pretty famous athletes, so that was great. Of course, we wanted to win, but the NASCAR guy is hard to beat.”

Enders was able to meet NFL player Devin Still, who accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in honor of his daughter Leah. Still gave a stirring acceptance speech that was one of the highlights of the night.

Enders now turns her attention to the three-race Western Swing, which also includes races in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle. She’ll race the swing for the first time since 2012, as her Elite team skipped Sonoma and Seattle last year and she missed several races in 2013.

“It’ll be fun,” Enders said. “Sonoma is one of my favorite places to race at, and we’ve got a history at Seattle. Of course, the Mopars are always dominant in Denver, so we’re looking forward to trying to knock them off their rocker.”

Racing the Western Swing also means Enders and her Richard Freeman-owned team plan to compete in all 24 Pro Stock races this season, but they still are searching for sponsorship despite making the commitment to finish the season.

“Our goal is to always race all of the races,” Enders said. “It worked out OK last year, but it was definitely a nail-biter. I’m glad that we can race them all. It’s going to be a cutthroat year, for sure. Richard is going to run 15 events a year, and we do our best to fund the remaining nine. We’re not there yet, but we’re betting on it.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 5 and 7:30 p.m. MDT, Friday, and 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 9 p.m. to midnight, Sunday.

Erica Enders heads to ESPYs with semifinal finish in Chicago

Erica Enders makes semi final appearance in Chicago 2015

CHICAGO, IL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders heads to the 2015 ESPYs with a semifinal finish at the Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.

Enders is nominated for the Best Driver award at the ceremony, which will be held Wednesday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Fans can still vote for Enders in the category that includes NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick, IndyCar’s Wil Power and Juan Pablo Montoya, and Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton here: http://espn.go.com/espys/2015/. Voting concludes at 8 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the start time for the live broadcast on ABC.

“It would’ve been nice to go there after a victory, but that didn’t happen,” Enders said. “We’re still excited about the nomination and the ceremony, and it’ll be a fun night, win or lose. It’s truly an honor to be in the Best Driver category, especially with such great drivers. I look forward to it.”

Enders won the 2014 Pro Stock championship to earn the ESPYs nomination, and her driving was showcased Sunday. In three rounds of racing, she had an average .024-second reaction time, but despite a stellar .017 light in the semifinals against Larry Morgan, she couldn’t get to her sixth final round of 2015. Morgan was .006 on the Christmas Tree, and his pass of 6.630 seconds at 209.88 mph held off her 6.625-second run at 209.36 mph.

“We just got beat,” Enders said. “Give Larry some credit; he’s a great driver and he got it done. That was a great race, but we came up a little short. I hate to lose and it stings when you get beat like that, but my Elite guys have my back. I appreciate that.”

With four victories, five final rounds, and four semifinal appearances, Enders remains second in the Pro Stock points standings. She was gunning for her second Chicago victory after an historic win in 2012 when she became the first woman to win a Pro Stock race.

“Chicago will always have a soft spot in my heart,” Enders said. “We have great success here, from my first final in 2005 and the win in 2012. We wish we could’ve gotten it done again today, but I still believe we have the best car and the best team. We’ll go after it in Denver.”

Enders started her day with a .024 light and a 6.593-second pass at 210.01 mph that dispatched V. Gaines, who slowed to a run of 18.683 seconds at 40.35 mph. Enders then left first on Rodger Brogdon with a .030 light, and she outran him with a pass of 6.608 seconds at 209.82 mph to beat his 6.624-second pass at 209.52 mph.

Erica Enders fired up about returning to scene of historic victory

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CHICAGO, IL – The memories of Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend’s Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals, are sweet for Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders.

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock world champion, raced to her first final round as a professional here in 2006, and she became the first woman to win a Pro Stock race when she beat Greg Anderson in the final in 2012.

“Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart,” Enders said. “It was the place where I had my first final-round appearance in 2006, and we finally went on to win there in 2012. I’m really excited to go back.”

Enders has since become one of the top racers in NHRA, winning 16 times and the 2014 Pro Stock championship, but she always has an extra bounce in her step when she pulls into Route 66 Raceway. Plus, crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones live two and a half hours away in Galesburg, Ill., making it a special event for her team, much like Enders’ love of the race in her hometown of Houston.

“It’s the home track for two of my crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones,” Enders said. “How I feel about Houston, they feel about Chicago. We’re going to do our best to get it done there.”

Enders, too, has motivation following a first-round loss in Norwalk, Ohio, last weekend. She qualified No. 1 for the fifth time this season, but her Chevrolet Camaro got sideways at the hit in the first round. Still, she sits second in the Pro Stock standings as the season reaches the midway point.

“We’ve got a lot to prove after Norwalk,” Enders said. “I know that we can do it. It’s times like these when we really thrive, and that’s when we have something to prove but it’s not to anybody but ourselves.

“I’m excited to have another shot this weekend. We go into Chicago with our heads held high because regardless of the results in Norwalk, we’ve still got the best car, the best team, and the best driver.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 4:15 and 7:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders stumbles in Norwalk first round

Erica Enders stumbles at Norwalk 2015

NORWALK, OH — For the first time this season, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders couldn’t repeat a 2014 race victory, unexpectedly losing in the first round of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Summit Motorsports Park.

Enders had repeated wins from Las Vegas, Houston, and Bristol, Tenn., from 2014, and she won this race a year ago en route to the Pro Stock world championship.

But her Chevrolet Camaro encountered problems at the hit in her first-round match with No. 16 qualifier Alan Prusiensky, and she lifted early as Prusiensky took the win light.

“It wasn’t good from the initial hit,” Enders said. “It hooked right on me right away and kinda smoked the tires. We shake but we don’t smoke like a fuel car. The track was tricky: The right lane was bald and the left lane was not in fabulous condition either, but my guys did the best they could with the information they had.”

Enders’ official numbers were 9.776 seconds at 94.97 mph while Prusiensky advanced with the slowest winning pass of the first round, 6.704 at 206.67 mph.

“I did my best to hang on as long as I could,” Enders said. “I pedaled the car, but it got way out of control. It got very crossed up — that’s the most crossed up I’ve ever been without crashing. To be honest, at the end of the day, I’m just thankful to take a shiny race car home.”

Enders is second in the Pro Stock points standings, as she has won four times this season. Her Elite Motorsports team returns next weekend for the Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago.

“We learned from today,” Enders said. “It sucks because we were on the pole and we lost to a guy who was a tenth slower than us. It’s not the best situation, but there’s a plan that’s bigger than mine, and that’s OK with me.”

Erica Enders rockets to Norwalk No. 1 during final qualifying session

Erica Enders qualifies number 1 in Norwalk 2015

NORWALK, OH — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team have qualified lower than fourth only two times in 2015, but she sat No. 7 heading into the final session of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Summit Motorsports Park.

That’s when the fireworks show began.

Enders blistered the track with a pass of 6.532 seconds at 211.23 mph in the final qualifying session to secure her fifth No. 1 of the season and 17th of her career.

“It was definitely not where we’re typically at throughout the first three qualifying sessions, but we were just testing,” Enders said. “I tried to remind myself what exactly we were doing in the first three qualifying runs. We were all joking back in the pit, ‘Man, we stink this weekend. We’re not doing a good job.’ But we were joking.”

That was proven in Q4.

“We’re one of the teams that doesn’t do as much testing, so we use qualifying runs as our test sessions,” Enders said. “We were just trying some new stuff and trying to learn, and we took what we did learn and applied it to this fourth session. We wanted to get after it a little bit, and we were able to do just that.”

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock world champion, faces No. 16 qualifier Alan Prusiensky in the first round Sunday as she tries to defend her Norwalk race victory from a year ago. Prusiensky’s best pass was a 6.690 at 206.80 mph.

“Regardless of the track conditions and the weather, we can still apply what we did tonight to tomorrow’s runs,” Enders said. “The first session Saturday and the first session Friday, the weather was more similar to what it’s going to be like tomorrow. We used those as baseline, race-day runs, and it leaves me feeling confident. I know what my guys are capable of, I know we have a great race car underneath me, and Norwalk’s been really good to us in the past.”

Enders has four victories this year, repeating wins in Las Vegas, Houston, and Bristol, Tenn., from 2014.

“Being the defending champ here in Norwalk is cool,” Enders said. “But tomorrow we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

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