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Phoenix will be champion Erica Enders’ 200th Pro Stock race

2016 Phoenix NHRA marks Erica Enders' 200th race

PHOENIX, AZ — Erica Enders’ epic racing career will reach another milestone when she races at this weekend’s CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. The event will be her 200th career Pro Stock race, dating back to her debut in Pomona in February 2005.

Over that span, Enders has become an NHRA superstar, winning the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock championships and 21 NHRA national events.

“It’s hard to believe in one sense,” Enders said. “In another sense, it’s like, ‘Are you sure it’s not 200,000 races?’ I feel like I’ve been out there forever.

“It’s definitely a cool milestone. I’m excited to have accomplished that. It means we’ve been out there for quite some time. With God’s grace, I’ll get 200 more races. We’ll see how it goes.”

In 199 career races in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, Enders has 21 wins, 14 runner-up finishes, 58 semifinal appearances, 18 No. 1 qualifiers, and a 217-128 win-loss round record.

Enders has been outstanding the last two seasons, winning 15 races and both championships. She set an NHRA record in 2015 by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots (Brainerd, Minn.; Indianapolis; and Charlotte).

Her nine victories last year broke Angelle Sampey’s single-season mark of victories by a woman (seven) set in 2001, and Enders remains second to Sampey (41) in career wins by a woman.

Enders’ 2016 season didn’t get off to the start she wanted, losing in the first round in Pomona Calif., against Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. The Elite team switched to Dodge in the offseason, compounding the issues relating to NHRA-mandated changes for the entire Pro Stock class (fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm and shorter wheelie bars), but Enders believes in her team, just as they believe in her driving ability.

“I think there will be a lot of improvement made,” Enders said. “We won’t be running at the top of the pack, but we’ll slowly claw our way back up there. We’re hopeful to pick up a hundredth and a half to two-hundredths before Phoenix, but the scoreboard will have to tell us there. We’re certainly going to go home and work on our stuff. It’s a new program, and I know with this group of people, anything is possible.

“I’ve never met a more determined bunch, which fits my personality perfectly, so I know they’ll dig deep. They’re super passionate about it, and they hate losing as much as I do, so you bet your ass we’ll be back where we belong. It’s just going to take some time, and we’ve got to keep that in mind, and that’s OK. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Phoenix is one of Enders’ favorite tracks, mostly because her brother, Tom, lives in the area. He’ll be in attendance with his wife, Stacy, and two daughters, Addison and Alexis.

Plus, Enders raced to a victory there in 2013 and to the final last season.

“Phoenix is like a second home track for me,” Enders said. “I’ve done well there in the past and am hopeful of doing well there again.”

FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying from 7-9 p.m. PT, Saturday, with live coverage of eliminations from 2-5 p.m. PT, Sunday. More than 1.1 million viewers tuned in to the first broadcast of the season.

Start of Pro Stock title defense doesn’t go as Erica Enders planned

Erica Enders burnout at Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders hates losing, so it’s fair to say she won’t love this Valentine’s Day.

Enders lost in the first round of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener, shaking the tires at the hit and almost immediately getting out of the throttle of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart.

She could only watch as Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. sailed to the victory, but Enders is far from distraught. After massive changes in the off-season — a manufacturer switch to Dodge and an NHRA-mandated change to fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm — Enders knows better times are ahead.

“We’ve got to keep a positive attitude and keep the mindset that this is only a beginning for us,” Enders said. “We just finished putting our motors together on Wednesday in Phoenix. We can only go up from here, and I know that with all my heart. It is a very tough pill to swallow. I hate losing, I hate losing first round. If there’s any consolation to it, at least it was to my teammate.”

Enders qualified No. 9 in Pomona, the first time since the Sonoma, Calif., event last August that she qualified outside of the top half of the field.

“We’ve got to do some work with these race cars,” Enders said. “That run marks run No. 15 under our belts, and that’s nothing, considering I had over 300 runs on my other car. We’ll learn it, we’ll get it, and we’ll be back to the top — you bet your butt.”

Enders had tempered her expectations for Pomona, knowing the new Dart and Mopar engine is early in its development by Elite Performance, but she didn’t expect such tire shake against Coughlin.

“The track was way different today than it was the whole weekend,” Enders said. “We run behind the fuel cars, and they did zero track prep, which is pretty detrimental to our class. Of course, being first out doesn’t help, but that was our own fault.

“All things considered, coming here we figured we’d be a middle-of-the-pack car, and that’s exactly what we were. We’re going to go home and go to work on this stuff. We’ve got a couple weeks until Phoenix, and in between Phoenix and Gainesville there’s another couple of weeks. I fully expect by the Gatornationals to be a lot more competitive. We’ll keep moving in the right direction.”

Two-time champion Erica Enders shows continued improvement in Pomona

Erica Enders qualifying Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — In the ever-evolving new world of Pro Stock, improvement is the No. 1 goal.

Two-time champion Erica Enders nailed that goal every time at the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race, the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

Enders improved in every qualifying session with her Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart, ending up No. 9 for Sunday’s eliminations.

“I think we have a lot to be optimistic about,” Enders said. “We have slowly picked away at it through these four qualifying sessions. We made a pretty big change for that last run just to see how the car would take it. It adapted well, so that gives us a little confidence going into tomorrow.”

Enders started off the new era in Pro Stock — one that includes fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm rev limit — with a pass of 6.676 seconds at 208.62 mph, but in the subsequent three qualifying sessions, her elapsed time dropped: 6.669, 6.652, and finally 6.651 seconds at 207.62 mph, which was her best pass.

“When we put this whole program together we knew it would take a little time to get acclimated as far as building the horsepower is concerned and tuning the EFI, and drive-ability is a huge change for me,” Enders said. “We’re all learning and this is just the beginning.”

Enders won the 2014 and 2015 championships with a powerful combination of superb horsepower, excellent tuning, and terrific driving. A switch to Dodge for 2016 may force her team to do a little catch-up, but Enders is the same driver who set an NHRA record last year by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots.

“We certainly have a lot of work to do, and Pro Stock is really interesting in that aspect,” Enders said. “You don’t always need to have the fastest car to win; we’ve proven that many times before. My job remains the same tomorrow, and that’s to do my best behind the wheel and cut some good lights and hit my shift points and hopefully drive this Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart to the winner’s circle. That’s our goal.”

Her first battle comes against new Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who qualified No. 8 with a pass of 6.645 seconds at 208.55 mph.

“Figures” Enders said. “It’s all right. You know it’s bound to happen when you have 25 percent of the field under one canopy. We were hopeful that wouldn’t be the case, especially at this first event. We have pretty equally matched hot rods, so I guess we’ll see who the best driver is tomorrow.”

Race day eliminations will air live from 2-5 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1.

Two-time champ Erica Enders hopes good things come in threes

Erica Enders ready for Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least Erica Enders hopes so.

The Elite Motorsports driver has won the last two NHRA Pro Stock World Championships, with the 2015 title won in dominant fashion. She went to the winner’s circle nine times last year, clinching the title at the penultimate race of the season.

But big changes are on tap for 2016, starting with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona: The class is switching to fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm limit and wheelie bars are shorter. On top of that Enders and her team are switching to Mopar, and she’ll be driving a new Dodge Dart along with new teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“I’m excited to get the season started, to get a feel for where everybody’s at,” Enders said. “We’ve beaten all the changes into the ground talking about them, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. It’s definitely going to be a tough year.

“I’m excited about going back to Pomona. We’ve had some success there in the past and our plan is to continue that. We’ll head west after we finish testing Wednesday and see how it goes.”

Enders won the season-finale in Pomona in 2014, winning the championship by beating Jason Line in the final round of the final race. She won six times that year, but 2015 was even better.

“You learn a lot when you experience things with the right people,” Enders said. “I’d always hoped for what I have here at Elite, and to have finally gotten a chance to work with such an elite group of people and to win the championship our first two years together says a lot.

“What impressed me last year is we were able to top what we accomplished in 2014, which was an absolute dream season. You wonder if that’s even possible, and then we went out there and did just that by winning nine races, the U.S. Nationals for the first time, and then to wrap it up a race early was just crazy.”

Enders and her Elite team have succeeded through a combination of talent, hard work, and perseverance. They believe in each other, and Enders is convinced the team’s chemistry will help them get through the big transition this season.

“I pick them over anybody else in the whole world,” Enders said. “I know that if anybody can, we can. It’s very challenging and there’s definitely going to be a learning curve involved. It’s going to take time to get better, but at the same time, you’ve got to be optimistic, and we are — we’ll be just fine.

“A lot of the teams over the offseason worked on the horsepower they had, but we built two new teams, two new race cars, and a whole new Mopar engine program. We’ve jammed as much as you could pack into an offseason. And with EFI added to the equation with a lower rev limiter and shorter wheelie bars, it’s crazy.”

Enders, though, is motivated to take a run at a third championship in a row.

“It’s been an incredible run, and I feel like we’re nowhere close to being done,” Enders said. “Having said that, it’s tough out there every year. It’s going to be a real tall order this year, for sure, with all the changes involved and the new program that we’re building, but we’ll get there. It’s going to take time, but we’re going to be fine. I always say it, but my money’s on us. We’ve got the best group, the best crew chiefs, the best team owner, the best chassis builder, the best drivers. Game on.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. Qualifying action will be broadcast at 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 a.m., Sunday, on FOX Sports 1, with eliminations broadcast live at 5 p.m., Sunday.

Today fans can enter to win tickets for Racing in Red premiere, meet Erica Enders

Racing in Red

WYNNEWOOD, OK — Two-time defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is hosting a contest to give away tickets for the premiere of Racing in Red, the film documenting her charge to the 2014 title.

To enter, fans on Twitter can tweet to her (@erica_enders) using the hashtag #racinginred and explain why they should be awarded tickets to the premiere. The contest will close at noon Pacific time on Monday, Feb. 8, and winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the premiere.

Enders will select two winners who give the best response. Winners will also get a chance to meet Enders.

Racing in Red will premiere at 5 p.m. PT, Feb. 11, at the Harkins Chino Hills 18 theater, six miles south of Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Only fans who can attend are asked to enter.

Elite Motorsports team members, the film production crew, media, sponsors, and Kickstarer contributors will be in attendance.

Before the 2014 season, Elite team owner Richard Freeman partnered with Danielson Entertainment Group, LLC, and Design con Carne, Inc., to capture on film the ins and outs of what turned out to be a championship season.

The filmmaking team traveled with Enders and her Elite team through most of the triumphant 2014 season, capturing behind-the-scenes moments that most fans don’t get to see. They were able to document the highs and lows of Enders’ season, getting portraits of Enders and her team members, from owner Freeman and his family to crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

The film will soon be available for purchase at the PiranaZ trailer at NHRA national events.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders pumped after successful first test with new Dodge

Erica Enders tests her new Dodge Dart | Competition Plus
Photo: Chris Graves / CompetitionPlus.com

DENTON, TX — Two-time defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders completed a successful first test with her new Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart on Saturday at North Star Dragway.

The Pro Stock class will switch to fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm limit, and wheelie bars will be shorter. Plus, Enders and her team have a new manufacturer with Mopar and Dodge, which meant a new RJ Race Cars Dart built in the shops of crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

The first full day of testing, though, could not have gone any better.

“I was really impressed,” Enders said. “It was a pretty awesome experience. I feel like my expectations were a little tainted by what other people had reported about EFI and I didn’t know what to expect, but then to experience it first-hand with my guys, I’m very optimistic. Things went well, and I’m excited about the season.

“We accomplished a lot in one day, and we did that because of the preparation and hard work of all my Elite guys.”

Enders drove her new Dodge through a full day of testing, learning many of the differences between the former Pro Stock configuration and the new one.

“The drivability is absolutely different,” Enders said. “It’s definitely challenging, but change always is. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience with it. We had a great track to test on, and with a brand-new race car and all the new EFI stuff, we went out and went right down the racetrack — no blips, no hiccups, nothing. It was great.”

Enders didn’t notice much of a change with the removal of the hood scoop on the new car, made necessary because of the elimination of carburetors.

“I’ve never raced with an open windshield like that,” Enders said. “I’ve always had a hood scoop or a blower or something, so it was definitely different to have a wide-open view. That was a big change, but I ignored that aspect of it because I was so focused on doing my best in the race car. That wasn’t even a thought.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team continue preparation for the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., starting next Sunday.

Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders ready to blaze another new path

Erica Enders wins 2015 U.S. Nationals at Indy

HOUSTON, TX — No NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver had a better run over the last two years than Houston native Erica Enders. Not Antron Brown, not Tony Schumacher, not Matt Hagan, not even the legendary John Force.

Enders, who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow racer Richie Stevens, won back-to-back Pro Stock World Championships, winning 15 times in the last two seasons, including a dominant nine-victory 2015. Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew were the team to beat nearly every week, as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll were able to tune their hand-crafted Elite Performance horsepower to perfection.

In 24 races in 2015, Enders qualified No. 1 six times and started from the top half of the field 22 times, thanks to powerful engines built by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

Enders herself was on top of her game, too, setting an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots. No one in 64 years of organized drag racing had done that.

But that combination is gone.

“We were pretty good at what we were doing before: My guys tuning on the carburetors and me driving it,” Enders said. “But now it’s all different and all new, so we start over.”

They start over because of new NHRA-mandated changes to the Pro Stock class. Trying to catch up with the times, the sanctioning body eliminated carburetors for the cars in lieu of fuel injection.

Plus, those new engine combinations have a limit of 10,500 rpm, much lower than before, and in another big change, shorter wheelie bars are mandated, changing the dynamics of the launch from the starting line.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” Enders said. “Everybody is starting with a clean slate. None of us have run fuel injection before, and there’s only been a few teams so far that have done any on-track testing.”

Enders and her team plan to test this weekend in Denton, Texas, and again in Phoenix the week before the season opener in Pomona, Calif., in mid-February. Elite is a team that doesn’t test as often as others, but that hasn’t seem to hurt them, especially the last couple of seasons.

And there’s another ingredient to an already busy off-season: Elite Motorsports is switching to Mopar for 2016, running a two-car team with Enders and five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. Needless to say, things have been humming between the Elite shop in Wynnewood, Okla., and RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., where the Jones’ have been building the new Dodge Darts.

“The guys at RJ Race Cars — Rick and Rickie Jones and all their people — have been working really hard on getting mine and Jeg’s new Mopar Dodge Darts done for the 2016 season,” Enders said. “My car just got back from paint, and everything is on schedule.

“Rick and I are going to get together on when they’re going to be done assembling it. We built a chassis, sent it to powdercoat, put the body on it, and sent it to paint. There’s a process of assembling it, and once everything is put together in the cockpit, I’m going to fly up there (to RJ Race Cars). They built the inside just like my championship car, so everything should be the same for me, but I’m going to go up there and fine-tune everything.”

Enders said her new Dart is a masterpiece.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said. “They both have said these two cars (for her and Coughlin) are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

The team is also building new engines, basing their Dodge motors off their tried-and-true Chevrolet engines they will now put in teammates Drew Skillman and Vincent Nobile’s Camaros.

“We’ve had our dyno converted, and my guys have been working non-stop on trying to figure that out,” Enders said. “Their dynoing all our GM stuff now, and everything should translate to our Mopar stuff. We don’t have all the parts for mine and Jeg’s stuff, but they’re working on that.

“The plan is to test for a week or so in Phoenix before Pomona. We won’t be on-track until right before the season starts, but that’s the same schedule we have every year.”

Still, Enders remains confident in her team, which has proven itself with back-to-back championships. No title is earned without perseverance and hard work, and that continues with the switch to Dodge and the new rules.

“I always put my money on us,” Enders said. “My confidence in my team is as strong as ever, and I know there’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. There will be some bumps, I’m sure, and it comes with a learning curve.

“We’ll get through it. We’ve gotten through everything we’ve had thrown at us. We had fun doing it, we did it with class, and we were able to come out on top. My money is on us.”

ee-dart-1

‘Racing in Red’ film chronicling Erica Enders’ first title run to debut in Pomona

Racing in Red

WYNNEWOOD, Okla. (Jan. 18) — Racing in Red, the film documenting Erica Enders’ charge to the 2014 Pro Stock world championship, will premiere in southern California before the start of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

A few lucky fans can win tickets to the invitation-only event, as well as meet Enders, through a special Twitter contest to be held Feb. 4. On that day, fans should use the hashtag #racinginred and tweet why they should win the contest, and Enders will choose her favorite entry.

The Racing in Red private premiere will take place at 5 p.m. Pacific time, Feb. 11, at the Harkins Chino Hills 18 theater, six miles south of Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. The contest winners will join Elite Motorsports team members, the film production crew, media, sponsors, and Kickstarter contributors at the special event.

To purchase a copy of the film, visit RacingInRed.com. The film should be available in mid-February.

Before the 2014 season, Elite team owner Richard Freeman partnered with Danielson Entertainment Group, LLC, and Design con Carne, Inc., to capture on film the ins and outs of what turned out to be an historic season.

The filmmaking team traveled with Enders and her Elite team through most of the triumphant 2014 season, capturing behind-the-scenes moments that most fans don’t get to see. They were able to document the highs and lows of Enders’ season, getting portraits of Enders and her team members, from owner Freeman and his family to crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

“For them to have been there and captured our dream season is pretty surreal,” Enders said. “I can’t wait to see the finished product, and I know it will give the fans a behind-the-scenes look at exactly what we went through to accomplish what we did.”

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