Pro Stock champ Erica Enders encouraged by progress in Bristol

Erica Enders | NHRA Bristol 2016

BRISTOL, TN — The win light didn’t come on in the lane for Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders, but a smile soon came over her face.

As the two-time Pro Stock champion slowed her Dodge Dart in the first round of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, crew chief Rick Jones relayed her the numbers: 6.716 seconds at 206.32 mph.

They weren’t record-setting, but they were encouraging.

“As I went through the lights and my crew chief called out the numbers over the radio, I radio’d back and said, ‘We went a .71?’ ” Enders said. “He was like, ‘Yeah!’

That was her best pass of the weekend as Jones and the team continue to tune on the new Dodge. It nearly pulled off an upset of Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, whose Chevrolet qualified No. 5. Enders was off first with a .027-second reaction time, but Nobile’s 6.688 at 207.75 mph ran her down.

Nobile’s improvement, as well as the steady progress of Dodge teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who raced to the semifinals in Bristol, has injected some much-needed confidence in Enders’ team.

“They’ve been working so incredibly hard trying to figure this Dodge out,” Enders said. “I’ve said before that we’re making strides in the right direction, but that run boosted the morale over there. Jeg being able to get to the semifinals is pretty exciting for us.

“We’ll pack up, go to Norwalk, and see if we can continue to run better and close the gap on those KB guys.”

Enders, who saw her two-race Bristol winning streak come to an end, races in Norwalk, Ohio, next weekend as her team continues to inch toward the front.

“I’m especially excited, even if it’s just seeing a trickle of light at the end of the tunnel,” Enders said. “We’ll continue to chip away at it. It only matters when we get to Indy.”

Dad’s message continues to push Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders | NHRA Bristol 2016
BRISTOL, TN — On this Father’s Day weekend, the words of two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ dad have even more meaning to the defending Bristol Dragway winner.

Gregg Enders preached positivity to Erica as she moved up the ranks of NHRA drag racing, and she’ll remember those as she races her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge in the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.

“His message is always the same,” Enders said. “He’s where I get the quote that I use all the time: ‘Do your best and let God do the rest.’ You can only control so much. I’m a firm believer in, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.’ It’s on the back glass of my race car and is a big part of my motivation.

“But when you go up there, it doesn’t matter how far behind you are or what you have or haven’t accomplished in the past. It’s all about that moment with my car, my lane, and my guys. It’s up to us, and right now we’re at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t stop me from having a positive mental attitude and believing with all my heart that we’re going to be successful.”

Enders has struggled to repeat her success of 2014-15, when she won 15 races and the Pro Stock championship each year. Her best pass of 6.746 seconds at 205.10 mph puts her in the No. 10 spot, and she’ll race Elite Motorsports teammate Vincent Nobile in the first round Sunday.

Nobile qualified No. 5 — the 14-car field makes for unusual first-round matchups — with a top lap of 6.700 seconds at 205.85 mph.

Enders is coming into Sunday on a two-race winning streak in Bristol. Plus, she went to the final round in 2013 and 2011.

“Bristol is my absolutely most favorite racetrack in the country,” Enders said. “Not because of our recent success here, but because of the part of the country that it’s in. When you’re all strapped in your Pro Stock car and you’re fixing to do your burnout, you look down the racetrack and it’s amazing. There’s not another race facility that we go to that’s like Bristol.

“I really enjoy coming here. We’ve had a lot of success here the last four years with two wins and two runner-up finishes. To do that for my dad on Father’s Day the last couple of years was certainly a lot of fun.”

Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air eliminations from 4 to 7 p.m.

Elite/Mopar champion Erica Enders looking for three Father’s Day wins in a row


BRISTOL, TN– With two world championships, 21 national event wins, and a 221-137 race-day record, 32-year-old Erica Enders already has experienced many high points in her drag racing career, but perhaps the two moments she takes the most pride in happened the last two years at Bristol Dragway when she won back-to-back NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals titles on Father’s Day.

“Going all the way back to the beginning, my dad (Gregg Enders) always has been there for me,” Enders said. “He used to race himself and that’s what got me started. He sacrificed everything to make my dreams come true, and although I’ll never be able to fully thank him for what he’s done, winning the last two years on Father’s Day and dedicating those Wallys to him was a very cool feeling.

“Those two wins have made Bristol one of my favorite tracks of all time. I already loved the place because it’s a Bruton (Smith) track and it’s really, really nice. Then you throw in the way the fans treat us there and the beautiful scenery, it’s so easy to love that place.”

While it’s fun to reminisce on the past and conjure up the images of good times with her father, Enders can’t help but look at this year’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals as a place she’d love to finally get her Elite Performance/Mopar Dodge Dart on a winning course.

“It’s no secret we’re struggling a bit,” Enders said. “But as I’ve said many times, we have an awesome team of professionals over here and no one is complaining about all the extra work that has been put in this year trying to get our two Dodges up to speed.

“We see encouraging signs in testing, at the shop on the dyno, and even from our teammates Jeg (Coughlin) and Vincent (Nobile), so we know we’re getting closer. We just need to keep our heads down and work.”

As a driver, Enders has been doubling down on her efforts in the cockpit.

“I have a few things I do mechanically with the car, but I know the biggest impact I can make is behind the wheel,” she said. “I’ve worked extremely hard on my mental focus and keeping the exact routine every time. I want to do all that I can to help, and if that means I need to cut double-O lights at the Tree, then that’s what I strive to do.

“We won a lot of races and two championships as a team and we’ll get through this as a team. That’s what my dad taught me. There’s no quit in this pit.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 2 to 4 p.m. ET, Saturday, and eliminations from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday.

Rough launch negates Erica Enders’ chance at Englishtown glory

Erica Enders | Englishtown, NJ 2016 NHRA

ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders did something very few drivers have managed to do over the years: leave the starting line ahead of five-time series champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. But despite her quick start — an .038 reaction time to Coughlin’s .046 start — her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart began to rattle its giant rear slicks right away, allowing teammate Coughlin to pass her in the first few feet of the race and streak away fro the victory.

Enders fought to get her car under control and did manage to finish her pass with an elapsed time of 6.812 at 206.70 mph, but Coughlin was too far ahead, crossing with a 6.708 at 207.56 mph.

“We’re analyzing the data right now,” Enders said. “We’re still a work in progress. It’s tough to take at times because we certainly got used to winning these last two years, but I know I’ve got the best team in the world and I’m completely positive we’ll get these cars figured out.

“Jeg is running better and Vincent (Nobile, teammate) is really doing well, so all the indicators are there that we’re gaining ground. It’s not happening fast enough for my liking but I’m working on my patience. The good Lord only gives us what we can handle, and we’ve been so blessed the last two years that we will not complain one bit.”

Up next for Enders and crew is the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, which start Friday at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee.

“I’m pumped for Bristol because we’ve won that race the last two years,” Enders said. “We’re going to get our stuff together one of these days and Bristol would be the perfect spot to do it. Having a trophy to give my dad (Gregg Enders) the last two years was really special and continuing the streak would be super rewarding.

“We will continue to try our best. There is no quit in this pit.”

Today’s eliminations will air from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.

Englishtown yields top-half qualifying result for reigning champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | Englishtown, NJ 2016

ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — Reigning two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders successfully qualified her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart in the top half of the eliminations field for the third time this year with a pass of 6.617 seconds at 209.20 mph down Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is she now faces teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations, a task she’d rather have saved for later in the day.

“We picked up our qualifying a little bit but we have to race Jeg, so that’s not how we would have drawn it up if we had the chance,” Enders said. “I guess the good news is, like Jeg told me, at least one of us is sure to move on to the quarterfinals.

“It’s no secret we both want more out of our Dodges. Our teammate, Vincent Nobile, is running really good now, and we just need to get my and Jeg’s cars on par with his. He qualified third last weekend and is fourth here. More importantly, he’s right on the heels of the three KB Racing cars, so we can see we’re gaining ground.”

Enders’ second title defense has been somewhat of a struggle with only a semifinal and two quarterfinal results to show for the team’s efforts to date, but the native Texan says no one is down; in fact, quite the opposite.

“It’s become sort of a running game to see what we can do each week to make gains in our performance,” Enders said. “You can’t beat yourself up about it because it doesn’t do any good. You’re still in the same place you were when you started.

“The guys that built my motors the last two years when we won two championships and a boatload of individual races are still the same guys that build my motors now. The crew guys that prepped my race cars the last two years haven’t changed. My crew chiefs didn’t forget how to tune race cars. You just have to remember we switched manufacturers on a year when the NHRA made some of the biggest changes in class history. You can’t just flip a switch and everything works perfectly.”

Last off-season, NHRA mandated a change from carburetors to electronic full injection. They also shortened the wheelie bars and limited rpms.

“We’ll get where we need to be,” Enders said. “I wouldn’t change a thing about where we are and the guys I have around me.”

FOX Sports 1 will carry Friday and Saturday’s qualifying action from 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday.

Chemistry remains strong for Pro Stock champ Erica Enders and Elite Motorsports


ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — From her first day behind the wheel of an Elite Motorsports race car, Erica Enders knew she was in a special situation.

Chemistry between Enders and her race team was solid on that first day and has only continued to grow. So despite some struggles during the 2016 season, Enders and her team remain a tight-knit group as they head to the NHRA Summernationals this weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

Enders won the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships with Elite, going to the winner’s circle 15 times over that span. Why? People.

“I attribute most of our success to personnel, absolutely,” Enders said. “My guys build great horsepower, and my crew chiefs build a fantastic race car. But what we have is so unique and so special. Even through these hard times right now, it’s not wavered, not one bit.

“We used to say, ‘Horsepower is a great deodorant.’ But when things aren’t going right, it’s easy for people to have a shorter fuse and snap at one another.”

That hasn’t happened this season as Enders and her team develop a new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge.

“We still have a blast,” Enders said. “Does it stink not to run well? Absolutely. Are we mad we come back? Yeah, but it doesn’t change the bond that we have. It just makes us want to dig deeper and work harder. I wouldn’t pick anyone else in the entire world. I choose to spend my free time with these guys. They’re absolutely amazing, and I’m forever indebted to Richard (Freeman). He could’ve picked anybody, and he picked me.”

Team owner Freeman sets the tone for the solid team chemistry, hiring a group of people who work well together and have fun.

“I feel like people are the most important part of the puzzle,” Enders said. “Yeah, you need a good race car and good horsepower, but you can’t buy what we have. That’s what’s so cool about it. Every team out here has to be a little envious of what we have in that aspect, and that makes me proud.”

From crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll to engine builders Jake Hairston and Nick Ferri to crewmembers Chase Freeman, Robert Freeman, Royce Lee Freeman, and Brett McGehee, Enders’ team remains close.

“You couldn’t have hand-picked a better program,” Enders said. “I can thank Richard Freeman for that. He’s a really good judge of character, and he picked each and every one of us and put us together. I knew from the first test session we had together before the season opener in 2014 that it was different.

“I walked on the pit mat, and everything was different. It was fun, we were laughing, and we were doing well together.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders, Elite team go down swinging in Epping

Erica Enders | New England Nationals Eliminations

EPPING, NH — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team went down swinging in the first round of the NHRA New England Nationals on Monday at New England Dragway.

Enders and crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones made some major changes to the setup of her Dodge Dart, but despite leaving first in her matchup with Alex Laughlin, she couldn’t turn on the win light.

“We made some pretty big swings on this car, trying to figure out what makes it happy,” Enders said. “The car was a lot happier that time, but it just didn’t run well. We had the wrong setup in it. It’s one of them deals. I missed the Tree, my guys missed the setup, and it stinks. The end result is the same: A first-round loss.

“I guess if there’s any positive to it, there’s not a nicer guy out here than Alex. He’s a really great kid. I still want to beat him, though.”

Enders’ reaction time was .044-second, compared to Laughlin’s .063, but her pass of 6.684 at 207.15 mph wasn’t enough to hold off his 6.622 209.14 mph.

Enders and her Elite team continue to develop her new Dodge Dart with new fuel-injected engines, and the 2016 season hasn’t gone as well as her championship years of 2014 and 2015, but Enders and her team won’t get discouraged.

“It’s tough when you work so incredibly hard, and it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you go to sleep,” Enders said. “To come out here and not be competitive is hard on all of us.

“I have zero doubt we’ll get there. I don’t know when, but all we can do is keep trying. That’s what we’ll do.”

The Epping race was originally slated for Sunday, but persistent rain delayed final eliminations one day. Monday brought sunshine and blue skies, though many fans could not return.

“It is weird when there is a rain delay,” Enders said. “In the past, I’ve had pretty decent luck with rain delays, like Bristol (Tenn.) last year and Chicago in 2012 — my first win — both of which were rain-delayed. They didn’t run on Monday, but we didn’t run first round in Chicago until 4 o’clock.

“The atmosphere is different. There are fewer fans here, and it kinda feels like a test in a way. But the weather’s nice — just wish it was yesterday.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders knows success is close at hand


EPPING, NH — While strapped in her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge for the second qualifying session, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders let out a loud cheer that was audible to those near her race car.

Enders was cheering on teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s solid run, knowing her Elite Motorsports team may have turned a corner at this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.

“Jeg and Vincent (Nobile) both made strides in the right direction this weekend,” Enders said. “We’re not going to be far behind them.”

Nobile, driving an Elite Chevrolet, qualified No. 3, and Coughlin, in an identical Dodge to Enders’, qualified No. 7. Enders’ best pass was 6.631 seconds at 209.56 mph, and while the elapsed time is a tick off the best cars, the speed was an improvement.

The 2016 season hasn’t started as Enders and her team had hoped because development of the new Dodge Dart with fuel-injected engines has been tedious, but with improvement from Coughlin and Nobile, Enders knows better days are ahead.

“We hope for some better results Sunday, but either way, this weekend has definitely given our entire Elite Motorsports team a breath of fresh air and has shown that their hard work is starting to pay off,” Enders said. “We’ll keep working hard at it and continue to move in the right direction. We’ll catch up.”

Enders and her Elite team were unable to take advantage of cooler weather Friday, when Coughlin and Nobile made their better passes.

“Not making a great run Friday in better conditions got us a little behind the eight ball, but that’s part of the program,” Enders said. “This last run (in Q4), we hurt a motor, so we’ll be putting a new bullet in for race day.”

Whether that race day is Sunday or another day depends on the weather. The local forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of rain on Sunday, but Enders is hopeful of getting the race in.

“It looks like it’s lighter rain in the morning, and it’s not supposed to get bad until the afternoon, so hopefully it’ll miss us a little bit and we can get the race in tomorrow,” Enders said. “Either way, it’s great to be up here in Epping. I really enjoy racing here. The fans are awesome, and they really love Pro Stock. That’s refreshing.”

Eliminations are scheduled to start at noon, Sunday, and will air on FOX Sports 1 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

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