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Erica Enders enjoying twilight hours of her back-to-back championship run

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POMONA, CA — Back-to-back and reigning world champion Erica Enders has one more day to race her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart with the No. 1 sticker on the door and she plans on making the most of the occasion as the 2016 season draws to a close.

“We’re having fun,” Enders said. “I think all of us are relieved to a large extent and I know the feeling in the pit is that it’s nice to wrap up the final qualifying session of what has been an extremely long and challenging year.

“I’d say we made a couple of okay runs in qualifying, and I think there are some things we can improve on for tomorrow. That’s a glimmer of hope I suppose. All we can do is try our best like we have all year.”

Enders is no stranger to the victory circle at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, having visited it as recently as 2014 after her dramatic final-round win over Jason Line that clinched her first championship. It was history in the making as she became the first female to win a Pro Stock title and just the third woman ever to win a championship in any major form of motorsports.

“This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the tour,” Enders said. “It holds a lot of great memories and the fans have been wonderful in reminding me about 2014. They all remember every moment, just like I do. It’s great to relive those times.

“We’ll go into race day like we always go into race day, that’s with confidence and a consistent race car. I’ll do my best to drive through a couple of win lights tomorrow.”

This weekend, Enders is qualified 12th on the grid after running a best of 6.608 at 210.05 mph during qualifying. She’ll open sudden-death eliminations Sunday opposite fellow Texan Alex Laughlin, who topped out at 6.570 at 210.97 mph during time trials.

“Alex is a good friend and he’s really had a strong car, especially down the stretch this year,” Enders said. “I’ll get up on the wheel and try to steal one away and we’ll go from there.

“I’m excited for the off season and the things we have in store for 2017. We definitely want the No. 1 designation back and to start winning races again. We have a great plan in place and I’m already wishing it was time for the Winternationals. Well, it maybe nice to have a little break to catch up on sleep first.”

Outgoing champ Erica Enders relieved to close out 2016 drag racing season

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POMONA, CA — Two-time world champion drag racer Erica Enders has a long and storied connection with Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, the site of this weekend’s 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. It’s a bond that dates back two decades, and one that’s immortalized with her own display at the heralded Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum across the fairgrounds from fabled Pomona Dragway.

“Some of the biggest moments in my drag racing career have happened at Pomona, going all the way back to my Junior Dragster days when we hauled our little dragster all the way from Houston just to race here,” Enders said. “Now that dragster is on display at the Wally Parks Museum, and I always go and visit her when we’re in town. It’s a great chance to reflect for a minute on how far we’ve come.

“I remember as teenager coming here and enrolling in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and earning my Super Comp license on this strip. That was a huge deal for me; kind of signaling my transition to ‘big’ cars.

“Of course, we came in here and won this race in 2014 with that crazy finish to the season. We needed every round, every point to get it done and we did it with so much pressure on us. That clinched our first championship and remains the biggest moment of my life. So yeah, this place is as special as it gets for me.”

Enders, 33, hopes to stir up a little more magic this time through as her 2016 season draws to a close with an unsightly zero in the ins column. After winning six races in 2014 and a whopping nine more in 2015, coming up empty was not what her Elite Motorsports team was expecting, even with big rule changes and a shift to Dodge Darts.

“It’s no secret we’ve had a tough year but in many ways it’s picked me up because I’ve seen a level of fight in this group of guys that is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve always said this team is exceptional and through all the struggles we’ve endured this year that feeling has only grown.

“It would be very cool to have a big weekend for the guys, to give them some sort of reward for the effort they’ve all put in this year. I will darn sure try my best to make something happen and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Although the car hasn’t been up to snuff, Enders herself remains one of the top drivers in the class, routinely leaving first on her opponents, a trait that helped her tremendously during her two championship charges.

Her expert ability to drive a Pro Stock should work well next season when the team launches a new campaign to reestablish themselves as title contenders.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 12 and 3 p.m., on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 8:30-9:30 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Two-time world champion Erica Enders anxious to put 2016 in her rearview mirror

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders lost a close race in the opening round of the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals to put a quick end to her weekend in Las Vegas, a place where she’s won four national events and a pair of K&N Horsepower Challenge trophies.

“I had a better feeling than normal today but we missed it a little bit that round,” Enders said. “I got left on for the first time in a long time and we shook the tires a little bit after that. It’s just one of those deals. That’s how it goes sometimes.

“Nothing will change my feelings for this track. We’ve had so much success here the last few years and I love The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway more than any place we go. We’ll be back here in the spring and we’ll start another winning streak for sure.”

Enders had a great .020-second reaction time but her opponent Chris McGaha had left first with a .003-second launch. He never trailed in the race, winning with a 6.714 at 205.01 mph to Enders’ 6.737 at 204.54 mph.

“The cool thing about my group is, no matter what adversity we face, we still have a blast together and next year’s a whole new year for us so I’ll be excited to get back to being competitive and hopefully making lots of trips to the winner’s circle again,” Enders said.

The season-ending 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, which run Nov. 11-13 in Pomona, Calif., is the next race for Enders, but she’ll be busy until then with multiple appearances at the SEMA show In Las Vegas.

“SEMA is an awesome trade show and I always enjoy getting the chance to spend some quality time hanging out with all the various companies that we work with or support us,” Enders said. “It’s a lot of work, but fun work, and it’s definitely nice to talk to people away from the racetrack.”

Erica Enders would love to win Vegas race for fifth time in her career

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Enjoying a relaxed weekend at the racetrack where she’s had the most success in her brilliant career, back-to-back and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew have put together one of their better qualifying efforts of the season.

The 21-time national event winner coaxed a steady 6.718 at 204.42 mph out of her Elite Performance/Mopar Dodge Dart, placing her ninth in the elimination field of the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. The team has qualified higher than ninth on just four occasions this season.

“We definitely made some decent runs for us this weekend,” Enders said. “It’s exciting to be back at one of my favorite race tracks on the tour. We’ve had a lot of past success here and I’m hopeful that this track produces that same success for us tomorrow.

“Everyone knows we’re at a performance disadvantage right now but it’s not so much that it can’t be made up with my left (clutch) foot so we are going to go to work tomorrow and see what happens. I’m definitely excited to race.”

Enders will race Chris McGaha in Round 1. He posted a last-gasp 6.712 at 204.82 mph in the final qualifying session to move into eighth place on the grid.

“We just have to go out there and have a consistent race car that goes A to B,” Enders said. “I’ve gotta let the clutch pedal out better than I’ve ever let it out before and see if we can send a couple of these guy packing.”

Getting into the spirit of Halloween weekend, the entire Elite Motorsports operation, along with many other teams, dressed in costumes for today’s sessions.

“We’ve had a really fun weekend with everyone that’s associated with Elite,” she said. “My guys, Jeg Coughlin’s guys, Vincent Nobile’s team, and Shane Tucker’s team, everybody under the Elite Performance banner, dressed up like weirdo bodybuilders. We’re just a bunch of goofballs having a good time this weekend.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the action live from 4-7 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Reigning champ Erica Enders uses The Strip at LVMS as her personal ATM

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LAS VEGAS, NV — In winning back-to-back world championships, Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders has used The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as her personal ATM, winning more than $250,000 at Bruton Smith’s masterpiece just north of Las Vegas.

It’s a trend she’d love to continue this weekend at the NHRA season’s penultimate race, the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.

“Las Vegas has been an awesome place for us, no doubt,” Enders said. “Most people blow all their money whenever they go to Vegas but we’ve managed to walk away with some nice checks, and for that we’re really grateful.”

It all adds up. Enders won four consecutive NHRA national events at The Strip, taking both the spring and fall titles in each of the last two seasons. Each of those wins were worth $25,000. She also won back-to-back K&N Horsepower Challenge trophies in 2014 and ’15, worth $50,000 each. By “doubling up” and winning both the K&N race and the national event in the same weekend, Enders received another $25,000 bonus from NHRA. That totals $250,000, plus contingency payouts that pushed her payout even higher.

“Including reaching the semis this spring, we ended up winning 24 elimination rounds in a row, which is hard to comprehend but really cool to have accomplished,” Enders said. “I’d have to ask (NHRA statistician) Lewis Bloom how many times that’s happened in the history of the sport to see where that streak stands all-time, but I can tell you it was a fight every step of the way. I’m proud of my team for having pulled it off.

“It makes this the best track, for sure, and the last two fall race wins were super special because I took over the points lead in 2014 by winning there and then last year we clinched the title outright by winning so there’s nothing but great memories for this track.”

This time through, Enders is a distant 10th in the world rankings and still in search of her first victory of the season.

“Reaching the semifinals in the spring tied for my best outing of the year so even in a down season Vegas has still been good to me,” Enders said. “We’re already working on new stuff for next year and there are big plans for returning to the top. I can’t wait for 2017 to start, to be honest, but we still have a chance to help Vincent (Nobile, teammate) win this year’s title so we’ll do all we can for him.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., Friday, and 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 4-7 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

No home state luck for Texan Erica Enders as two-time champ ousted early

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DALLAS, TX — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders was hoping for a taste of home cooking Sunday at the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals but instead the Spring, Texas native was eliminated early by title contender Greg Anderson at the Texas Motorplex.

The No. 15 qualifier out of 16 cars, Enders was hoping for a big upset of Anderson, a fellow multi-time champion ranked second in the world at the moment. Instead, Enders’ fouled out by a scant -.001 seconds, while Anderson took care of business, running 6.607 at 209.46 mph to Enders’ 6.682 at 207.08 mph.

“I figured I’d do all I could at the start and hope he was a little late and we could steal one away from him,” Enders said. “I was a thousandths of a second from perfect but ended up being on the wrong side of that red bulb.

“He obviously had us covered anyway but I ran the pass out just to get the data. There’s always Vegas and Pomona and we have designs on finishing as strong as possible.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports teammates will enjoy a weekend off before the second-to-last race of 2016, the Toyota NHRA Nationals, which take place Oct. 28-30, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Even though the results weren’t what we wanted, I still had a great time being here in Texas. I love this state and miss it when I’m not here. Thank you so much to all the fans that stopped by and encouraged us. We’ve had a tough year but I promise big things are straight ahead and we’ll be back better than ever in 2017.”

FOX Sports 1 will broadcast elimination action live from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Texas native Erica Enders will need perfection to defend Dallas title

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DALLAS, TX — Reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders will have to be perfect to defend the title of the annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals after an off-pace qualifying effort that left her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart in the 15th spot on the elimination ladder.

Enders powered to a convincing victory at this event one year ago that all but clinched her second straight world title. It was one of nine wins she recorded in a record-breaking year. The Spring, Texas native hasn’t been as fortunate this season, and she finds herself still searching for her first win of 2016.

“Three races left on the schedule so that’s three chances to win,” Enders said. “Realistically, it’ll be tough and we didn’t do ourselves any favors here during qualifying but that won’t stop us from giving our all tomorrow. We’ve seen crazier things happen in the past.

“We have three cars racing out of Elite Motorsports between myself, Jeg (Coughlin) and Vincent (Nobile). Vincent is still very much in the mix for the championship this year so at our last team meeting Jeg and I told him we’d do all we could to help him get there. The best thing we can do is knock off those cars he’s battling, so we’ll give it hell.”

Friday qualifying ended with Enders posting a 6.652 at 207.75 mph, but that number wasn’t good enough to lock up a spot in the top 12 so the team had to start over Saturday. In her first effort Saturday she was forced to shut off well before the finish line and she drifted to a 9.776 at 94.49 mph.

Later, she came back in the final session and ran a 6.748 at 184.45 mph, the 15th best time of the day. Her first match-up will come against championship hopeful Greg Anderson, who topped out at 6.579 at 210.11 mph.

“Greg and Jason (Line, Anderson’s teammate) have been 1-2 all year between the two of them so right off the start we have a chance to take out a top car,” Enders said. “Obviously they have us covered this weekend but you never know what will happen on race day.

“I’m so happy to be back in Texas. I love my state and I feel so great whenever I’m here breathing Texas air.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast all of the elimination action live from 2-5 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

World champion Erica Enders beats title contender Butner before fouling out of Reading

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READING, PA — Back-to-back world champion Erica Enders notched one of her biggest elimination round-wins of the year Sunday, beating title contender Bo Butner wire-to-wire in the opening session of the 32nd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals.

“To go out there and get this Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart a round-win at the Dodge Nationals was exciting,” Enders said. “The uphill battle this entire season has been for us continues, but with only one run on this racetrack throughout qualifying, we really had a challenge before us today and my guys, as always, rose to the occasion.

“People always hear me bragging on my crew, and today showed exactly why I do it all the time. These guys are the best, and at a point in the season where it would be easy to mail it in, they fought hard, dug down, and gave me a great race car that took out one of the best cars in the category this year.”

Enders herself contributed to the victory, leaving ahead of Butner with a stellar .019-second reaction time. Butner wasn’t far behind after a .029-second launch, but he didn’t have the horsepower to catch the sport’s most prolific female Pro Stock racer, losing to Enders at both ends, 6.644 at 207.34 mph to his 6.647 at 209.43 mph.

“That round-win allowed our teammate, Vincent Nobile, to pass Bo and go into third place, and then Vincent went on to win the whole race, so it was a big day for Elite Motorsports,” Enders said.

Nobile’s triumph at the end of the day came at Enders’ expense as he beat her in the quarterfinals en route to the victory circle. In that race Enders left too early, drawing a -.007 red-light disqualification, which negated her 6.656 at 207.72 mph. Nobile might have been too tough to beat anyway as he posted a stout 6.600 at 209.88 mph.

“That second-round race against Vincent was definitely interesting,” Enders said. “We were in and out of our race cars a couple of times because of all the rain delays. I did a burnout at one point, backed up, and had to shut off and wait again. There were a lot of variables that went into that run.

“It’s one of those shoulda, coulda, woulda deals, but either way I should not have been red. That’s disappointing to me because it ends like a five-year streak of not being red. Having said that, we would not have been able to turn that win light on. He flat out had us covered. I’m just glad it was against my teammate. He’s going to battle for the Mello Yello championship right to the end.”

The Countdown to the Championship resumes after one week off with the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals, Oct. 13-16, at Texas Motorplex near Dallas.

“We’ll head home for a week to work on things,” Enders said. “We’ll be ready for Dallas and try to help Vincent some more.”

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