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Erica Enders suffers red-light disqualification in opening round race versus husband

HOUSTON, TX — Two-time world champion Erica Enders threw away what was the quickest and fastest pass of the 30th annual NHRA Spring Nationals by leaving the starting line nine-thousandths of a second early in a Round 1 loss to her husband Richie Stevens.

The automatic disqualification negated a stellar 6.523-second blast at 213.37 mph that would have delivered an easy win over Stevens’ 6.589 at 210.64 mph. It left the Cypress, Texas native more than a little perturbed.

“There was no showing off there,” Enders said, quelling talk she was trying too hard to best her husband. “That was just a simple A to B run. I was set up to be conservative on the tree so we weren’t showing our hand against someone we can easily outrun by six or seven hundredths of a second.

“It is an extremely unfortunate outcome that we red-lit. I’m pretty damn good with sitting on my clutch pedal and I gamble with thousandths of a second all the time and to miss it by nearly a hundred of a second, that just does not happen with me. I’ll risk sounding a little over confident because I think our track record speaks for itself.”

Enders immediately questioned the distant between the pre-stage and staged timing beams, which can sometimes get knocked out of alignment ever so slightly, causing fractionally quicker reaction times.

“I don’t think it was accurate,” Enders said. “Richie didn’t have better than a .040 light all weekend and he went red too (by .003). Go look at all of the other first round match-ups and how good the tree was for everyone. It doesn’t add up.

“I would bet everything I have the roll out (distance between beams) was messed with overnight. It had to been. There’s no way I missed it that much. They get messed sometimes, they absolutely do. They take the whole thing down every night and put it back up so when I’m out here gambling with thousandths of a second, that’s a big risk.

“We were set up there to have about a .020 light and that just wasn’t the case. I am sorry to my whole Elite Motorsports/Lupe Tortilla/Transportation Impact Chevy Camaro team. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow but the good news out of all of it is we finally have a racecar again and they know we are coming.”

Enders won’t have long to brood about her regrettable race as the tour immediately heads east for next weekend’s eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Hometown girl Erica Enders primed for big race day, starting against her husband

HOUSTON, TX — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders loves racing at home and her hometown fans love her for bringing so much glory to the Bayou City. It’s a relationship the Cypress, Texas native wants to expand Sunday when she races from the No. 4 qualifying spot for the trophy of the 30th annual NHRA Spring Nationals.

“So happy to be back in Texas,” Enders said. “It’s no secret I love this state and being at the track where I started racing as an 8-year-old kid is perfect for me. We won Pro Stock in back-to-back years in 2014-2015 and those were the same years we won it all so Royal Purple Raceway is obviously good luck for me.”

Behind the wheel of Richard Freeman’s Lupe Tortilla-sponsored Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, Enders blasted to a best of 6.573 seconds at 210.14 mph to set up a first-round elimination date with her husband Richie Stevens, who topped out at 6.615 at 208.52 mph during time trials to qualify 11th on the grid.

“We’re getting all our ducks in a row here at Elite Performance,” Enders said. “My teammate Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) is on the pole and Vincent (Nobile) and Alex (Laughlin) are both looking strong. We’re looking to dominate the class like we did during our championship runs and we’re definitely getting closer to that goal every weekend.

“Richie hasn’t raced in almost a year so it’s great to see him come out and make some good runs. But once we line up tomorrow I’ll treat him like any other competitor and do everything I can to rip his throat out. We’re here to win and it’s been more than 16 months since that’s happened so we’ll do whatever we have to do.”

Enders has now qualified in the top half of the field three times in the first five races of the season. She was third in Gainesville, Fla., and sixth in Pomona, Calif. Still, the 21-time national event winner knows qualifying well hardly matches a victory on race day, but it’s a great start.

“We won with Lupe Tortilla on the car two years ago and sharing the winner’s circle with (owners) Stan and Sheila Holt was a memory I will always cherish,” Enders said. “There are a million ways to say ‘thank you’ but nothing beats winning the race. That’s the ultimate ‘thank you.’

“Having them back on the doors this year is super special to me because they have supported me since I started drag racing as a kid. Plus, they’ve been feeding us every day so we’re feeling great and everyone is happy.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon with television coverage on FOX Sports 1 kicking off at 4:30 p.m., Sunday.

“It would be hard for me to say how much my team means to me,” Enders said. “These guys are so awesome and special and it’s really nice to see their hard work pay off with a strong qualifying effort like this. Now we’ll get back to work and see what we can do about winning this race.”

Erica Enders coming home to race Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Pro Stock racecar

HOUSTON, TX — Winning her hometown race always has been a great talisman for native Houstonian Erica Enders, a trend she’d love to continue at this year’s NHRA Spring Nationals, which take place Friday-Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown.

Enders, who was born and raised in Houston, won the Pro Stock title at her home track in 2014 and 2015, which propelled her to NHRA championships those same two years. Now, with sponsorship from Houston-based Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, Enders is hoping another Lone Star victory will spur a successful journey to this year’s Mello Yello world championship.

“We’re looking for nothing less than another win,” Enders said. “I love this race above all the others. It’s home, not only for me but for my guys as well because we’re close enough to the shop (in Wynnewood, Okla.) that all of our family members and friends are able to come to the race.

“We are all thinking about eating at Lupe Tortilla every day. Stan and Sheila Holt (Lupe Tortilla owners) have been my best friends forever. I love them so much and to have their support again for this race is extra special. We’ve won with Lupe Tortilla on the doors before so we know they are good luck!”

This year’s visit to Royal Purple Raceway will feature Enders racing the same Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro she piloted to the 2014 Houston title and world championship, giving her a real level of comfort.

“We’re definitely getting better,” she said. “I know none of us have been home very much because we’ve been constantly testing since even before the season started. We’re used to winning races and winning championships so anything less than that is not up to the standards we set for ourselves.”

Currently seventh in the championship points after four national events, Enders has a semifinal and two quarterfinal finishes to her credit. She also raced to the final four in the elite K&N Horsepower Challenge at the tour’s last stop in Las Vegas.

“We’ve got big horsepower,” Enders said. “We keep working at matching that power to the car. All this time we’re investing will pay off very soon. I can feel it. We’re ready to light up the scoreboard in Houston.”

Aside from her duties in Pro Stock, Enders will be competing in Super Gas in Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski’s ORTEQ Energy Technologies Chevrolet Camaro roadster. “Another chance to win,” said Enders, who won Super Comp at the Houston track in the past.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with a live qualifying show at 7:30 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in CDT).

Two-time world champ Erica Enders reaches quarterfinals at Denso NHRA Nationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Las Vegas 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will have to wait for another time to log a fifth career victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a one-up, one-down day at the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.

Enders drove her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro past teammate Vincent Nobile in Sunday’s opening round before losing to Bo Butner by a scant .014 seconds in the quarterfinals. As usual, Enders had superior reaction times in both races but her head-start in Round 2 wasn’t enough to hold off Butner.

“I think I could have done more behind the wheel to help us win but either way I’m pleased with today’s race,” Enders said. “Of course, we want to win every race we enter but we really turned a page today so I’m feeling very optimistic.

“We looked at everything from Friday and Saturday last night and decided to get back to basics and make damn sure the car goes from A-to-B every run. I know how to drive the car and my confidence in my abilities is high so it’s okay if we’re not the quickest and fastest every weekend. We just need to win races.”

Against Nobile, Enders got the jump by .004 seconds and lead the entire way down the track, winning with a weekend-best 6.683 at 207.11 mph to Nobile’s 6.785 at 205.94 mph. The story started the same against Butner with Enders logging another .004-second advantage at the launch. But Butner had the horsepower to track her down and win with a 6.695 at 206.45 mph to her 6.713 at
206.80 mph.

“The outcome could have been better against Bo but it’s still early in the year and we’re just getting all the new parts and pieces we have working together,” Enders said. “We’ll leave here and go back to the shop in Oklahoma and get some test passes in on both my car and Jeg’s (Coughlin Jr. teammate) car and be better next time.”

Enders will have two weekends off before returning to her hometown race, the 30th annual NHRA Springnationals, which will be held April 21-23 at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. Enders grew up on the other side of Houston in the Cypress area.

“I’m so excited to be racing at home,” Enders said. “I’ll be fortified with all the delicious food from Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants and I know we’ll have a ton of support from Stan and Sheila Holt and all our other hometown friends. I think we’ll have a good weekend, and that’ll be a perfect time to get our first win of the year.”

Erica Enders shocks top qualifier Jason Line early in K&N Horsepower Challenge

Erica Enders | NHRA Las Vegas 2017 | K&N Challenge

LAS VEGAS, NV — Racing on the strength of a fan vote, popular hot-rodder Erica Enders made sure top qualifier Jason Line remained winless in the lucrative $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge Saturday with a huge victory in the opening stanza of racing action. Although she lost a round later in the semifinals, Enders once again established herself as one of the hottest shoes in the sport.

With the daunting task of taking on 10-time top qualifier Line in the opening round, Enders coolly pulled of a .006-second reaction time just a blink after Line red-lighted away his chances, as he jumped the tree by -.004. The foul start was made all the more painful for Line as he got out of shape and was forced to shut-off, with Enders running away to 6.723-second, 206.26-mph victory.

Line has now raced in the K&N Horsepower Challenge 13 times but has yet to win the coveted crown. Enders is a two-time champ, having won it all in 2014 and 2015. She was also runner-up in 2013.

“Jason’s one of the best and any time you can beat him it’s a good thing,” Enders said. “I knew I needed to get up on the steering wheel and try to cut the best light possible because he’s been running very strong all year. I was ready and I guess he was a little too ready, so we got a big round win there.”

The semifinals pitted Enders against Shane Gray, but despite her superior reaction time of .028 seconds to Gray’s .042-second start, her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro was soon shaking its tires, allowing Gray by for the win.

“I wish we could have turned on the win light two more times to honor all the fans who voted me into the K&N Horsepower Challenge,” Enders said. “It was a huge deal to me and all the guys on this race team and the fans’ continued support means so much to all of us. All I can say is we tried our best. At least we scored that big win over Jason. It just wasn’t meant for us to go any further today.”

As for the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Enders wound up as the No. 11 qualifier with a best pass of 6.713 at 206.45 mph. That sets up a first-round race against Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, who qualified sixth with a 6.666 at 206.32 mph.

“Obviously, we know what that car and that crew is capable of so we’ll do what we always do whenever one Elite car races another one, and that’s go out there and drag race,” Enders said. “Vincent’s my buddy and he’s a great driver but when the helmets go on we both want to tear the other person’s heart out.

“We would have liked to have qualified a bit better but the guys are working on a bunch of little things tonight they think will help us tomorrow so we’ll get after Vincent and see what happens.”

Pro Stock eliminations for the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. Live television coverage on FOX Sports 1 starts at 3 p.m., Sunday. (Times listed in PDT).

Fan pick Erica Enders ready to strut her stuff at her favorite racetrack in Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV — No one in drag racing has enjoyed a better run of luck at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway than two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, who returns to her favorite drag strip this weekend with two chances at glory during the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs
NHRA Nationals.

Thanks to her legion of loyal fans, Enders will be taking part in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, a special race-within-a-race for the top eight Pro Stock drivers from the previous 12 months. Enders earned the final spot in the elite field by virtue of an online fan vote.

“Our fans have proved, once again, to be the best in all of motorsports,” Enders said. “I feel so blessed and I am so thankful for their incredible support. We will do everything we can to show our appreciation by running the wheels off this Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to try and win this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge.”

From 2013 on, Enders has been a nearly unstoppable force in Las Vegas. After racing to a runner-up result at the ’13 K&N Horsepower Challenge, Enders reeled off an incredible streak of 23 elimination-round wins at The Strip. The run included victories at the spring and fall national events and the K&N Challenge in both 2014 and 2015. It finally ended in the semifinals of lastyear’s Challenge.

“We had a dream run, for sure,” Enders said. “It got to the point where it seemed like we just wouldn’t ever lose again. That’s pretty darn rare for drag racers because we all know that only one person wins on a given weekend.

“All the credit in the world goes to (team owner) Richard Freeman and this crew. We’ve been through the highs and lows as an unbreakable family and that streak was certainly one of the highlights. It may have looked easy but I assure you it wasn’t. That was some of the toughest racing ever but we came out on top every time.”

A native Texan with the fight to match her Lone Star pedigree, Enders cautions her rivals not to take her team lightly even though they needed the fan vote to make the field of this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge.

“I feel a lot of confidence with our racecar right now,” she said. “We qualified No. 3 at the last race in Gainesville and had a really great car until we shook the tires in Round 2 of eliminations. We stayed after the event and tested until we got the car completely figured out so we have a good feeling coming to Vegas. My guys are the best and my wonderful fans are giving us this chance to show what we can do. I am one happy girl.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions for the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals are scheduled for 2 and 4:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:40 and 4:05 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 1 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows, one at 3:30 p.m., Friday, and the other at 4 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination action beginning at 3 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PDT).

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).

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