Rare mistake yields semifinal finish for Erica Enders at NHRA Finals

Erica Enders Pomona Finals 2015

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders didn’t become a two-time Pro Stock World Champion without being competitive, so one can understand why she was disappointed after falling in the semifinals of the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

An extraordinarily rare mistake cost Enders against Allen Johnson, ending her triumphant season with nine victories and the 2015 championship.

“I didn’t drive like I wanted to this afternoon, but our season was great,” Enders said. “The competitor in me is really mad that I screwed up. I am human and it’s the first time I’ve done so probably since the spring. I guess we’re all entitled, but at the same time I’m better than that.

“I hate it because we probably win the race if we get through that round. It’s just one of those deals. There’s nothing to hold our heads down about.”

Enders clinched the championship at the previous race, in Las Vegas, winning her second consecutive event and third in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

But after beating Vieri Gaines and Larry Morgan on Sunday in Pomona, Enders had some issues on the starting line against Johnson. She decked the engine before Johnson was staged, and then after backing off and hitting the throttle again, Enders had a rare poor reaction time, .068-second. By comparison, she had an average light of .016-second in the playoffs.

Johnson got off the line with a .005 light, and his pass of 6.572 seconds at 209.17 mph was enough to hold off Enders’ quicker 6.542 at 212.43 mph.

“What happened on the starting line was really screwed up and was my fault,” Enders said. “I didn’t rise to the occasion. I hate it; I wanted to win 10 on the year. But what can you say? I had a career season. People in drag racing would give anything to have a season like I did.

“If you put everything in perspective and look at the big picture, it’s kind of hard to be mad about one race. I just know that I’m better than that.”

Still, Enders will celebrate with her Elite Motorsports team at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony on Monday night at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

“My guys were the first ones to pick me up,” Enders said. “We carry each other. We’ve had a lot of races where things didn’t go right setup-wise, and we’ve had a lot of races where the driver hasn’t been very good.

“But that’s where we’re different than everyone else. We stand by each other, we’re not critical, and we don’t pile on each other when the other messes up. That’s how we roll.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for 10th victory of 2015

Erica Enders Pomona 2015 Auto Club Finals

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders has already captured the biggest prize in the Pro Stock class of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: the 2015 championship. But the two-time series champion is far from finished with the season. Enders is a nine-time winner in 2015, meaning she already holds the record for most wins in a season by a woman, but she wants No. 10.

“I’m proud that we locked the championship up last weekend,” Enders said. “But I’m going into tomorrow with the mindset that I want to win No. 10 on the season. That is my job, that is my goal, and that is what I will do.”

Enders, who clinched the championship during her victory in Las Vegas, qualified No. 2 for the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a stellar pass of 6.503 seconds at 213.33 mph.

“That was our first decent run of the weekend,” Enders said. “Obviously, that’s nice to be able to go to sleep on Saturday night with that run. (No. 1 qualifier) Greg (Anderson) made a killer run and he had us by a hundredth in the 60-foot, and that’s what he outran us by. We know where we need to improve.”

Enders starts her pursuit of victory No. 10 on Sunday against V. Gaines, who qualified No. 15 with a top pass of 6.570 seconds at 211.63 mph.

“We have a great race-day setup,” Enders said. “That’s something my guys are excellent at, giving me a fast, consistent race car on Sunday. We’ve proven all year that’s what it takes to win, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Enders will also keep an eye on Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman, who qualified No. 4 and is on opposite sides of the ladder from her. Skillman, the leading contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as the NHRA’s top rookie, is fourth in the points standings but has a shot at finishing second.

Enders is also looking to cap a spectacular Countdown to the Championship, in which she has won three of the five races in the playoffs, including two in a row. Plus, she has raced to the final in four of the five Countdown races.

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders not resting on laurels in final race of 2015

NHRA Drag Racing

POMONA, CA — The 2015 Pro Stock championship belongs to Erica Enders and the Elite Motorsports team, but don’t think for a second that Enders will coast her way through the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Enders wrapped up her second consecutive Pro Stock championship in Las Vegas two weeks ago, winning her ninth race of the season, but she and her team want win No. 10.

“We’re all racers, and we all grew up at the racetrack,” Enders said. “I started in a Jr. Dragster. (Co-crew chief) Rickie Jones was at the track when he was a little kid as well. We stay hungry because it’s our passion and we want to be the best.

“My guys are perfectionists. We go out and make an excellent run and win the race, then come back and analyze the data and say, ‘We needed to do this and that.’ They just want to be perfect. Even though we were the best that day (in Vegas), they want to get better.

“I’m the same way as a driver. I want to go in and just do the best that I can for the guys that work so incredibly hard for me. We accomplished what we wanted to as far as the championship is concerned. That pressure is off of us, but we definitely want to go out there and finish the season strong.”

Enders and her Elite team have made an amazing run in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. Enders has three victories and four final-round appearances in the five Countdown races, proof that championship athletes perform their best when under pressure.

She heads to Pomona on a two-race winning streak, too, having won in Dallas before clinching the title with the victory in Vegas.

“All this stuff is so storybook, so awesome,” Enders said. “I’m really blessed to be a part of a great team and great organization at Elite Motorsports. Our season’s not over yet. We get to go to Pomona and plan on winning that one, too. We’ll see how it goes.”

Enders’ two-year run at Elite Motorsports includes two championships, 15 race victories, and 12 No. 1 qualifiers.

“My career took a turn for the best when I joined Richard Freeman and Elite Motorsports,” Enders said. “It just goes to show that with the right people, anything is possible. Money and sponsorship doesn’t hurt, horsepower doesn’t hurt, but those things don’t win races, those things don’t win championships. It’s been proven over and over again because the wealthiest guys in the sport haven’t been able to get it done.

“We run on a very limited budget and we’ve been able to do it. It’s just the right group of people in the right places. We have great team chemistry, we’ve jelled so well, we work well together, we trust each other. Most importantly, we have fun. Having that much fun, I feel like it makes us even more successful on the racetrack. It has been a whirlwind to have been able to win (15) Pro Stock races in (two) years. It’s crazy. I had always hoped, but I never thought it would happen. Just goes to show that God’s timing is perfect.”

Erica Enders clinches second consecutive Pro Stock championship


LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders seems to be able to do anything she wants behind the wheel of a Pro Stock race car.

Enders won her second consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, clinching the title in the second round, and then won the NHRA Toyota Nationals with a perfect reaction time in the final round.

Enders became the 33rd driver in NHRA history to win multiple championships and the ninth in the Pro Stock class. She’s also the first back-to-back champion in NHRA since 2011-12, when Eddie Krawiec won the Pro Stock Motorcycle title.

Enders is the first to win consecutive Pro Stock titles since the legendary Jeg Coughlin Jr. accomplished the feat in 2007-08.

“It’s just an incredible day,” Enders said. “I’m kind of speechless. Vegas has always been really good to me, and it’s nice to keep our streak going with now 22 consecutive round-wins. It’s mind-boggling.

“We came into the weekend and everyone was talking about the championship — what we have to do, crunching points and all that. My crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, and Brian Self) and I decided we weren’t going to talk about that and just take things one round at a time. Our goal was to make it 22 (in a row). It’s an incredible thing to accomplish. The streak we have here is incredible. I’m excited to be part of such a great group like Elite Motorsports.”

Enders has won the last four national events and the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races in Las Vegas, running her consecutive round-win streak here to 22.

Her 20th consecutive round-win clinched the championship. Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, and Drew Skillman were the only Pro Stock drivers with a chance to extend the points battle to the season-finale in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks, but Anderson lost to Vincent Nobile and McGaha fell to Bo Butner.

So when Enders knocked out Shane Gray with a round-low pass of 6.596 seconds at 209.39 mph, Enders had the championship locked up.

“After watching my teammate Vincent beat Greg second round, I got excited, of course, because I knew what could happen,” Enders said. “Then I thought, ‘We have to win this round.’ I fire the car, pull into the waterbox, and all my guys are jumping around, clapping, and I’m just trying to get my composure and get my heart rate down.”

Enders then beat teammate Skillman in the semifinals when Skillman left .004-second too soon, setting up a final-round match with Butner.

“I knew it was going to be a tough race against a drive like Bo, who I know is hungry for his first win,” Enders said. “To be able to cap the second championship off with another win in Vegas is just crazy.”

The victory was her ninth of the season and 21st of what is becoming a hall-of-fame career. She has won 15 of the last 45 races she’s entered with the Richard Freeman-owned Elite team.

“Finally I feel like I’m home with this group of guys,” Enders said. “I couldn’t have dreamed up a better crew. We truly get along, we have such great chemistry, and most importantly we have fun together. That’s why we’re so successful on the racetrack. Horsepower doesn’t hurt, but we don’t have the biggest budget. We get it done because of the people. It’s been a long road, but I’m glad to be where I’m at. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

With championship in reach, Erica Enders snares No. 1 spot in Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS, NV — First things first.

Erica Enders, the 2014 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and current points leader, grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot for the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, she can clinch her second consecutive championship.

Enders increased her points lead to 162 over the Pro Stock field by being quickest in all four rounds in Las Vegas. She needs to finish the race with a 151-point lead to wrap up the title.

“Tomorrow is going to take consistency,” Enders said. “I say it all the time: A to B, focus one round at a time. Every round is tough. There are no gimmes in Pro Stock. I know better than anybody that you can go from hero to zero really quickly.

“Las Vegas has been really great for me in the past, so I’m looking forward to continuing that trend tomorrow. We’re going to just do our best and see what happens. My goal is to not think about the championship, even though everyone keeps asking me about it. I want to win the race, and that is my first goal. Tomorrow is one round at a time.”

Drivers receive 20 points for each round victory, so Enders needs to match or exceed the performance of her closest competitors in the points race, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Drew Skillman, Allen Johnson, etc.

Otherwise, Enders would take a sizable lead to the final race of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 13-15 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif.

But after earning her sixth No. 1 of the season and 18th of her career, Enders is focused on winning the race, too. She has won three national events in a row in Las Vegas, and counting the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, Enders has won 18 rounds in a row here.

That prowess continued into this weekend, as her track-record pass of 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph earned her the No. 1 spot. That run was Friday, but she was also quick in the two qualifying sessions Saturday.

“We did have some great runs today,” Enders said. “Today’s conditions were a little bit different than yesterday’s. It was obviously warmer, so the track was warmer. We made two really nice, consistent passes just getting ready for tomorrow. It is going to be the warmest of the three but not much warmer than today.

“I’m excited that we were able to make those four consistent passes and fine-tune some things. I am confident going into tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens.”

Erica Enders smashes Las Vegas track records to earn provisional pole

Erica Enders Las Vegas 2015 Countdown

LAS VEGAS, NV — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team aren’t trying to cruise to their second straight title, but they threw down a monster pass in the second qualifying session of the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

The run, 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph, set track records for elapsed time and speed and it was the fastest corrected run in Pro Stock history — taking into account altitude and other factors — at 6.381 seconds at 216.65 mph.

“I’m glad we were able to accomplish it,” Enders said. “Having said that, we’ve got two more important runs tomorrow. We need to scoop up all the qualifying bonus points we possibly can and try to stay on the pole. We need to go into Sunday with our heads down and get to work. We’ve got a lot to accomplish still, and I want to win the race. I want to make it four in a row. I couldn’t be more proud to be their driver; they’re an awesome group of men.”

Enders needs to leave Las Vegas with a 151-point lead to clinch the championship. She came into the race 154 points ahead, padding that by three based on qualifying points from the first two sessions.

Plus, she has been dominant in Las Vegas over the past two years, sweeping both national events in 2014 and winning here in April. To go along with those two victories, Enders has won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge here the last two years.

“I think we have 18 consecutive round-wins here, and the goal is to get to 22,” Enders said. “Having said that, we go back to taking things one at a time. My guys performed really well here, and my crew chiefs seem to have a good handle on this track and the dry air.

“Our race car is working. We stumbled onto some stuff in Dallas that we had been working really hard to figure out. As most people watched, they could see our performance change a little bit on Sunday. We certainly translated that to here. I’m excited and cautiously optimistic to be in the position we’re in.”

Enders has been quickest in both qualifying sessions this weekend, but her Q2 pass was the most impressive.

“We made a good run in the first session,” Enders said. “The weather (for Q2) was actually not as good as it was for the first session, so we really just stepped on it. I could not be more proud of my team. Our Elite Performance horsepower is really showing through right when we need it most. Pair that with our excellent teamwork, and my driving has been pretty decent lately. The sky is the limit for us.

“That run was pretty hateful. Of course, my guys got back to the computers in the trailer and were nit-picking, trying to be perfectionists about it. That’s what makes them as great as they are.”

Vegas is ‘just another race’ for championship front-runner Erica Enders


LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders can clinch her second consecutive championship at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. After all, she has a massive 154-point lead on her nearest rival in the standings and is riding an otherworldly winning streak of 18 straight rounds of competition at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning five successive races at the facility.

Yet the record-setting driver from Texas says this weekend’s race is no different than the first 22 this year, of which she has won eight, an all-time, high-water mark for female drivers.

“I’m treating this race like all the other ones; I want to do my very best to put this Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “We have an awesome team with the best mechanics, engine builders, and crew chiefs in the world and we have a lot of confidence. To change the way we’ve been racing at this point would be crazy.”

Crazy indeed. Enders’ eight victories (Las Vegas 1, Houston, Topeka, Bristol, Brainerd, Indianapolis, Charlotte 2, and Dallas) lead all professional drivers, regardless of category. Her 52-14 race day record also blows away the entire professional field.

As for her good fortune at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, has won three national events and two K&N Horsepower Pro Stock Challenges in her last three trips to the high desert.

“It’s no secret Las Vegas has been very, very good to us,” Enders said. “I love the track, and the fans that come to those races are already in a party mood being in Vegas, so the atmosphere is always very upbeat.

“Coming off a win in Dallas (Oct. 18), that also raises our level of confidence. We are carrying a lot of momentum at the right time. Last year was do-or-die every round when we came to Vegas. This time we have a little cushion in the points, but we know we’re not done racing. There is work to be done, and these guys are super hungry to get another championship.

“God has a plan for us and it takes a lot of stress off my shoulders knowing that my destiny has already been set. I just need to do what I can behind the wheel and then let God handle the rest.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.

Erica Enders bags NHRA-leading eighth win of the year, extends points lead

Erica Enders-Stevens wins Dallas 2015

DALLAS, TX — Erica Enders proved she’s the best drag racer in the country Sunday, beating her nearest two rivals in the Mello Yello points to power to a massive 154-point advantage with just two races left in the season. It was her NHRA-leading eighth win of the year, and first in Dallas.

“I am so glad we were able to get this eighth win here in my home state,” said Enders, who grew up in the Houston suburbs. “You know, I have been talking about a cowboy hat for months, just waiting to come here and win a cowboy hat, so I’m excited to be able to get that done in front of all of our friends and family. It’s just a huge blessing.”

A cowboy hat is the traditional winner’s gift at the Texas Motorplex, a complex owned by former Funny Car driver Billy Meyer. This year, the winner’s also got a belt buckle to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the event.

As usual, Enders was a demon behind the wheel, taking out Vieri Gaines in Round 1 to set up a big match up with bitter rival Chris McGaha, who is third in the points. Helping the cause, McGaha had beaten second-ranked Greg Anderson in his opening race.

“Those first two rounds were very significant,” Enders said. “First round, we watched (McGaha) beat Greg right in front of us and then we crushed his ET by .400s to earn lane choice in our race against him. We didn’t want to give him anything.

“There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t know about and (McGaha’s) team has been running their mouths. I said from the beginning we’ll let the scoreboard do the talking. There’s no need to argue with ignorant people, so when I went up there and he double-bulbed me, I said ‘bring it on, I don’t care,’ and I was able to drill him with a .008-second reaction time and then totally out-run him. I think we sent a big message. I definitely wanted to beat him, and my guys wanted to beat him even more so that was a nice deal for us.”

There was no looking back from there as Drew Skillman and Jonathon Gray fell in order to give Enders the victory and the big edge in the standings.

“We just have such great team chemistry and great horsepower so I’m a happy girl,” Enders said. “(ESPN top-end reporter) Gary Gerould said in our interview, that we have an eight-round lead with only eight rounds of racing left, and that’s really cool, but I don’t care. I want all the points that we can get.

“We go into every race wanting to win more than anything in the world and we do our best to step up to the plate. You know, I talk about my guys all of the time but I’ll put my money on them every single Sunday, every single round of qualifying, because they are the best. They bring it and I bring it and together I think the sky is the limit for us.”

Page 1 of 2612345...1020...Last »