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After super-fast start, two-time series champ Erica Enders exits Gatornat’ls in Round 2

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Gainesville 2017

GAINESVILLE, FL — Erica Enders flashed the form that made her a two-time Pro Stock champion this weekend at the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, qualifying a lofty third in the field and zooming to a convincing first-round win Sunday morning. But the fun stopped there as her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro over-powered the racetrack in Round 2, sending her packing.

“You never want to lose a single round,” she said. “That’s just how racers are wired. But I think when we take a step back and look at the progress we’ve made in the first three races of the year, especially compared to last season, we’ll see we are miles ahead.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They are so consistent and good and give me such an awesome racecar every round. We just missed the tune-up a hair in Round 2 and over-estimated what the track would hold. It rattled the tires right off the launch pad and that was all she wrote.”

Race day had started extremely well for the Texan as she posted an impressive 6.493 at 213.87 mph in dismissing Alan Prusiensky, who was slower at the start (.033 to .073 seconds) and the top end, running a 6.566 at 211.13 mph in the defeat.

The run gave her lane choice by a massive margin over second-round opponent Shane Gray, who went 6.526 at 211.73 mph in the opening session, but the advantage didn’t pan out for the 21-time national event winner, even though she had a .016-second reaction time to Gray’s .032-second start.

“Our teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. rattled his tires in the left lane, which we thought was slightly worse than the right side, so the guys were comfortable in keeping my car set the way it was for my race,” Enders said. “I felt it shaking as soon as I dropped the clutch but kept my foot in it and pulled a gear to see if we could power through the shake. It just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to crash the car so I just pushed in the clutch.”

Gray went on to post a respectable, but certainly beatable 6.518 at 213.13 mph.

“We’ll get out of here and go test some more before the next race,” Enders said. “We want to win races with regularity once again, just like we did during our two championship seasons. I believe we’re very close to that goal.”

The next national event is the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, which takes place March 31-April 2 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Two-time champ Erica Enders presses towards top of Pro Stock category

Erica Enders | Gainesville NHRA Pro Stock 2017

GAINESVILLE, FL — Perhaps in a last-minute bid to impress voters in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders ripped off her first 6.4-second pass of NHRA’s fuel-injected era to qualify a lofty third on the elimination ladder of the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

Enders’ 6.490 at 214.01 mph was more than enough to lock up her best qualifying effort since last year’s Denver race, a span of 13 national events. It also makes her one of the favorites to win the prestigious and historic Gatornationals, one of the stops on tour she has yet to conquer.

“I’m really pleased with our performance here in Gainesville and if fans recognize we’re a true contender again and vote us into the K&N Challenge based on this weekend, that would be a real blessing,” Enders said. “It’s funny but it’s always the weekends where you don’t start off on the right foot where you tend to do better. We had to abort Q1 but we’ve been awesome ever since.

“Tomorrow is going to be a warm day, just like today. The race track is very tricky, very marginal so I think tomorrow it’s going to be a driver’s race, which I love. My guys give me a consistent car that goes A to B. That’s how we won both of our championships and I’m going to do my best to drive to the winner’s circle.

“Having run what we just ran in the heat of the day knowing there was more left in the car and being second quickest of the session gives us a lot of confidence going into race day. I’m really excited. One win I lack that is really prestigious is the Gatornationals so we are going to put our heads down and go to work tomorrow.”

The jump in performance wasn’t a surprise to Enders, who reported team owner Richard Freeman had her and the rest of his Elite Motorsports group test Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro following the last national event in Phoenix.

“Hard work always pays off,” Enders said. “Before Pheonix, I tested Jeg’s car. I think I made 25 runs in his car and I asked Richard if we could test my car when we got done with Pheonix. We had some issues to sort out with it and we all want to win more than anything so we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

“Testing a few days in Oklahoma and just being behind the wheel of a race car every day for the last two weeks straight kept me sharp for this race and allowed me to have a lot of fun. I’m blessed to be in the position I am, to have such a great team that stands behind me, all because of Richard. We’re excited about tomorrow and we’ll see what we can do.”

As the No. 3 qualifier, Enders will enjoy lane choice in her first-round race against Alan Prusiensky when Sunday’s eliminations begin at noon. Enders has her opponent covered by a tenth of a second — a stunning gap in the factory hot rod class — with Prusiensky topping out at 6.590 seconds and 211.69 mph in qualifying 14th on the grid.

FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying highlights at 11 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination action beginning at 1 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Two-time drag racing champ Erica Enders looking to add ‘Gator’ skin to her wall

Erica Enders 2017 NHRA Pro Stock

GAINESVILLE, FL — One of only three women in history to capture a world championship in any of the top forms of motorsports, Erica Enders has amassed 21 national event victories in her illustrious career. However, that impressive number of wins doesn’t include one from the prestigious Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, a fact Enders would like to change at the 48th running of the event this weekend.

“I’ve always looked at the Gatornationals as one of the big-time, heritage races on the schedule so certainly we’d love to win it,” Enders said. “There’s a real party atmosphere with Spring Break and St. Patrick’s Day going on, plus all the people escaping the snow up north come down for the weekend. It’s always a lot of fun.

“We’ve been super busy since Phoenix, testing the Pro Stock car, running our Omaha Track COPO Camaro in Stock at a divisional event, and even racing in an NMCA event. I’ve been driving some sort of racecar for 12 days straight. It’s been a blast.”

Enders certainly knows how to win as her Richard Freeman-led race team collected 15 Pro Stock victories in their two-year championship run, six in 2014 and nine more in 2015. She says the recipe and ingredients used to cook up those successes haven’t change a bit.

“Richard is really good at creating a family environment and keeping everyone happy and motivated at the same time,” Enders said. “We have three Pro Stock teams under the Elite umbrella this year and all of us have worked together for a long time now so we know how to get the best out of the entire group. There is no ego on this team. We’re all working together for the best of the team.

“All three cars have started well and we’re all in the top 10 in the Mello Yello points so we’re happy. Most of all, we’re still having the best time, hanging out and racing with each other. I wouldn’t trade this group for anything.”

Gainesville will offer Enders two chances to win as aside from her Pro Stock car, she’ll be racing Terry Peterson’s Omaha Track COPO Camaro in the first of five Factory Stock Showdown scheduled this season. The car features Patterson-Elite horsepower.

“It’s a great racecar, very fast and super smooth,” she said. “I do know we’ll be up against the best Stock racers in the country and everyone wants to win this deal so it’ll be cutthroat, but I pretty much have raced under that pressure my whole career. We’ll be ready.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions for the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals are scheduled for 12:45 and 4:15 p.m., Friday, and 12 and 2:30 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows, one at 12 a.m., Friday, and the other at 11 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination action beginning at 1 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Popular pro Erica Enders calling on fans to vote her into K&N Horsepower Challenge

K&N Horsepower Challenge | Erica Enders Racing

WYNNEWOOD, OK — Two-time world champ Erica Enders is calling on her legion of fans to vote her into the field of this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge, which takes place April 1 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during qualifying action for the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.

A star in the sport since her days in the Junior Dragster ranks, which resulted in Walt Disney Studios making a movie about her and her sister Courtney’s young lives racing against the boys entitled Right On Track, Enders has become an iconic figure in the sport. She’s one of only three women to have captured a major championship in any form of motorsports, and is a two-time winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, winning the special event trophy in her two championship years of 2014 and 2015.

“It’s the top eight drivers and cars in the Pro Stock class going after the biggest payday the NHRA offers so it’s a very important race to be a part of,” Enders said. “We didn’t qualify on points because we had a down year performance-wise in 2016 but we’re back in our trusted Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and feel as though, given a chance, we can make a serious run at this race title.

“My fans have proven to me time and time again to be the best in any sport any where. They have always been so supportive of me and I love them so much for always having my back. It would be huge if everyone takes a moment and goes to vote for me to run this year’s race. I won’t let them down!”

Voting runs now through noon ET, March 27. Interested parties should go to NHRA.com to vote using the link: http://www.nhra.com/KNChallenge. Each fan can vote just once and they must have a Facebook page to participate.

Enders has raced in the K&N Horsepower Challenge seven times in the past, winning the $50,000 top prize twice, and the $10,000 runner-up award once in 2013. Both times she won the race she also was victorious in the regular NHRA event taking place that weekend, which qualified her for a $25,000 “double-up bonus” from NHRA.

Fiery competitor Erica Enders resolute on improving after Phoenix

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock | Phoenix 2017

PHOENIX, AZ – Erica Enders’ race day in the desert ended much sooner than anticipated this morning during Round 1 of eliminations of the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the second of 24 events in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Two-time world champion Enders began Sunday qualified in the No. 10 position. Her Rick Jones Race Cars-built Chevrolet Camaro racing under the banner of Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports is a favorite to win every time out, but today she was the underdog of the opening round in a side-by-side battle against No. 7 qualifier Shane Gray.

As soon as the Christmas Tree flashed green, Enders’ bright red Camaro started shaking the big Goodyear slicks from lack of traction, which compelled Enders to begrudgingly abort her run. Gray finished with a 6.559-second, 211.23-mph mark, while Enders coasted across the finish line with a 7.961.

“We shook last (qualifying) session, but we didn’t expect to do that going up there today,” Enders said. “We weren’t set on kill or anything like that so we might have something wrong with our race car.

“The good news is we have a couple of weeks before Gainesville (next event) that we can go to work on it, the bad news is, our race day is over unfortunately. We are way better than that, and I fully expected to send that team packing first round for sure.”

Enders, the most successful female Pro Stock racer in NHRA history, has 21 national event victories. She is teammates with Elite Motorsports’ campaigners Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Vincent Nobile.

“Both my teammates Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile are going rounds today,” Enders said. “Jeg has a really fast hot rod right now and has the best capability of winning the race so our focus goes to his car, and we’ll see if we can’t get one of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance cars in the winner’s circle today.”

Enders will compete next at the famed Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, March 16-19.

FOX FS1 TV coverage of eliminations begins with three hours of elimination action at 4 p.m. MT, Sunday.

No shortage of confidence for two-time champ Erica Enders as eliminations near

Erica Enders | Phoenix 2017 | NHRA Pro Stock

PHOENIX, AZ – Two-time world champion Erica Enders will begin Sunday’s eliminations from the No. 10 qualifying spot in Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro at the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Enders will bring her bright red racer to the starting line in Round 1 to race No. 7 qualifier Shane Gray. Her 6.558-second, 211.53-mph qualifying mark is just a touch behind Gray’s 6.548 posting.

The most successful female Pro Stock racer in NHRA history, Enders has 21 national event victories in her career, including a trip to the Phoenix winner’s circle in 2013. She was runner-up finisher here in 2015.

Despite the uncharacteristically average qualifying spot, the ever-affable Texas native shows a sheepish grin when asked about her team’s preliminary runs.

“To be honest, we’re still testing some things,” Enders said. “We were trying stuff all throughout qualifying. We have our baseline set-up we know we can go back to for race day. Tomorrow morning I have all the confidence in the world we’ll be just fine.

“I don’t mind my draw at all and I don’t really think lane choice is a big deal here. Having said that, the whole program is moving in the right direction. Both of my teammates went a 6.541 so we at least know we can go that. Heading into race day, I’m totally optimistic – totally confident. I’ve won here before, and we’re excited to be back in Phoenix. So, we’ll see what happens. Like always, I put my money on us.”

The Elite Motorsports contingent includes Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Vincent Nobile. Coughlin qualified No. 5 and Nobile landed in the No. 4 slot.

Enders enters tomorrow’s eliminations in fourth place in NHRA Pro Stock championship points. She raced to a semifinal finish at the season-opening Winternationals two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif.

Eliminations start at noon MT, Sunday. Television coverage of qualifying is on FOX Sports 1 from 10-11 p.m. MT, Saturday, followed by three hours of elimination action from 4-7 p.m. MT, Sunday.

Popular two-time champ Erica Enders has program right on track for Phoenix race

Erica Enders 2017 NHRA Pro Stock

CHANDLER, AZ — Before she even turned professional, let alone captured two world championships, drag racer Erica Enders had a Disney movie made about her and her sister Courtney’s lives in the NHRA Junior Dragster ranks. The film, the most watched movie in Disney Channel history, was entitled Right On Track.

Heading into this weekend’s 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Enders says the same title could easily be used to describe Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports race team, the group she’s been with for four seasons.

“Everything is right on track, for sure,” Enders said. “It’s no secret we had a down year in 2016, and it was a big deal because we’d just won back-to-back championships (in 2014-2015). We just struggled with the car we had and never got the engine right.

“Richard made a big decision, a very expensive decision in the off-season to switch back to GM horsepower and Chevrolet Camaros. That’s the brand we had when we did all our winning and it’s already made such a difference. We are back in competitive form and come into this race knowing we have a darn good chance to win. It’s been more than a year since we’ve been able to say that.”

Enders won the Phoenix race outright in 2013 and was runner-up at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in 2015. She also was top qualifier at the track in 2015.

“It’s a really unique setting and a place where I really like to visit because I have family here,” said Enders, a 21-time national event winner. “The track can be good, depending on the weather, and it can also be tricky if the dust gets stirred up. We already tested there a lot this year so we’re ready for anything.

“I really enjoy the fans also. They are friendly and into what we’re doing. It’s always fun when the people are behind you and cheering for you because we all try hard to put on a great race for them. This year I’m feeling we can really do something special so maybe we’ll be celebrating with them in the winner’s circle again.”

There are three cars racing out of the Elite Motorsports camp and Enders, following her semifinal finish at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., is leading the way in fourth place. Teammates Vincent Nobile and Jeg Coughlin Jr. follow in fifth and sixth, respectively. All three crew chiefs work together and share data.

“We’re a true team in every sense of the word and we have a lot of fun racing as a team,” Enders said. “That’s our secret weapon.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. MT, Friday and Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon MT, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows from 10-11 p.m. MT, Friday, and 10-11 p.m. MT, Saturday, followed by three hours of elimination action from 4-7 p.m. MT, Sunday.

Erica Enders fires plenty of warning shots during season-opening Winternationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Pomona 2017 | Elite Motorsports

POMONA, CA — Back in the comfy confines of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, two-time world champion Erica Enders didn’t walk away with the trophy of this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, but she certainly reminded everyone of why she dominated the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

A year with a different manufacturer made the category’s most prolific female racer an afterthought to many, but as soon as she got back in her Chevy, she quickly re-established herself as a top contender.

“Not a bad first Sunday, especially after the year we had last year,” Enders said. “I’m extremely proud of my guys this weekend, as I always am. We are still a little bit behind the top cars but they can bet their butts we’re going to catch up and if anything they definitely know we’re here again.

“I’m extremely pleased with our outing and Phoenix will be even better.”

With a stunning race-day average reaction time of .011 seconds, Enders powered past Matt Hartford and teammate Vincent Nobile before squaring off with four-time champ Greg Anderson in the semifinals. There, despite yet another stellar reaction time which gave her a .02-second headstart, she was beaten by Anderson by half a car length, 6.574 at 211.10 mpg to her 6.599 at 210.18 mph.

” It feels good that my left leg still works,” Enders said, referring to her clutch foot. “I should have been there a little better against Greg. I was actually set up to be a little bit better than a .020 but there are a lot of variables that go into a reaction time and things were just a little bit different up there.

“I’m pleased with the weekend. I’m pleased with my driving. I’m ready to keep knocking the rust off. It’s always hard when you’re out of the car for three months. If you’re a pro golfer, you don’t go three months without picking up a club, but that’s what we all deal with every year. We’ll get back in the groove. I’m just excited to be going rounds again on Sunday.”

The second stop of the year, the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, take place Feb. 24-26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“All three of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance powered cars are running really well and I think you can expect to see a lot out of all three of us,” Enders said. “It’s going to be a long year, it’s going to be a great year. I chose to believe that we’ll be on top at the end.”

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