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Texas girl Erica Enders wants another big win in her home state

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DALLAS, TX — Erica Enders is known as the reigning Pro Stock world champion. She’s also referred to as the points leader and odds-on favorite to win this year’s title, having led the standings for the last four races. She’s the most prolific female racer in class history and recently passed legend Shirley Muldowney for number of national event victories on the all-time list.

The bottom line is Enders can answer to a lot of different titles, but the one she relishes the most is a simple one: Texan.

Born and raised in Houston, Enders attended Texas A&M before chasing her drag racing dream full-time. The decorated driver of the Elite Motorsports Camaro often wears Texas-themed clothing and jewelry and always greets fellow Lone Star State inhabitants with a broad smile, no matter where in the world she might be.

It’s no wonder she’s so anxious to win this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, a racetrack at which she has competed since she was 8 years old.

“It’s time to get a pro win up there,” Enders said. “This would be the perfect season to get it done because we already won the Houston race in April, so we could sweep the Texas races. That would mean a lot to me, being a Texas girl and all.”

Enders certainly has the horsepower to get the job done. She has won an NHRA-leading and personal-best seven national events this year, including at three of the last five stops on tour, and has a comfortable three-and-a-half-round lead over her nearest rival in the Mello Yello championship points with just three races left in the season.

She has been the No. 1 qualifier five times, had the quickest car on the property six times, and posted top speed at three different meets.

“It’s all about this incredible team that (owner) Richard Freeman has put together,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “The guys in the Elite pit are the best in the business. I’m just the lucky girl that gets to drive the car and do the interviews on TV.

“Being a Texas girl, I do take a lot of pride in my work ethic, and having a fast hot rod makes me work even harder to be perfect whenever I climb into the car and put on my helmet. It’s always a lot of pressure, but over the years I’ve figured out how to thrive off of that pressure. I actually drive better when the stakes are highest, and as much as we want to win this race and put more points on the board, I’ll be feeling it for sure.

“We’ve made a few real good runs at the Dallas trophy before but never with a car like this one. We’re ready to get it done.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:45 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders to appear on Jay Leno’s Garage

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WYNNEWOOD, OK — Reigning NHRA Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders and Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman will appear on the premier episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, which will air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. Eastern on CNBC and will feature Enders teaching the talk-show host/comedian and car enthusiast how to drive a drag race car.

“It will be a great way to introduce the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series to a new audience,” Enders said. “That was a great experience and a neat opportunity. I grew up watching Jay Leno and always enjoyed him throughout my life, so it was cool to be able to work with him. He shares the same passion for automobiles that we do, and that was pretty evident.”

Leno has a stellar collection of automobiles, and he invited Enders and Freeman to tour his collection when NHRA returns to California for the season-finale in November.

Jay Leno’s Garage began as a YouTube series about cars and motorcycles with a one-hour special airing on CNBC last year, and it begins as a primetime weekly show this Wednesday.

Enders and Freeman traveled to California after winning at Tennessee’s Bristol Dragway in June to film the show at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, Calif. Division 7 racer Eddie Fischle supplied a Super Comp car, and the legendary Frank Hawley chipped in support, too.

Enders began by driving Leno around in a new Chevrolet Camaro SS, and the two chatted about their respective careers. Leno was host of NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009 and 2010 to 2014. Enders became the first woman to win the NHRA Pro Stock world championship in 2014.

“It was fun to be able to drive him around in the Camaro,” Enders said. “We talked a little bit about his life and a little bit about my career. Then we spent the rest of the day teaching him to drive, so it was a neat deal.”

Enders clearly is a good teacher, as she recently set an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots.

“It was a neat chance to be able to teach him how to drive a Super Comp car with Frank Hawley,” Enders said. “I ended up getting to make a pass in my buddy Eddie Fischle’s car, and he supplied us the cars for us to teach Jay to drive.”

By the end of the day, Leno wanted to make more passes in the car.

“That goes to show how much he enjoyed it,” Enders said.

Near-perfect reaction by Erica Enders not enough in Reading quarterfinals

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READING, PA — For the first time in two months, reigning Pro Stock champion and current points leader Erica Enders will not reach the final round of an NHRA national event in her Elite Motorsports Camaro. Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, fell in the second round to Bo Butner Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway when her engine expired, squandering a near-perfect .004-second reaction time.

“When it’s not your day, it’s just not your day,” said Enders, who has three wins and a runner-up in the last four races. “There’s nothing you can do about it. This whole weekend has been goofy with all the rain and only getting one qualifying session. Then we switched to a new motor this morning and hurt it against Kenny (Delco, first-round opponent). The guys thrashed to change it out and then we blew that one up big time against Bo.

“No one did anything wrong. My driving was good (.044-second advantage in Round 1 and .025 in Round 2) both rounds and the guys did everything they normally do. We just had some bad breaks.”

Enders entered the weekend a massive 113 points ahead of Greg Anderson, and even if Anderson goes on to win this race, the NHRA Keystone Nationals, she’ll still have a nice cushion atop the rankings.

“That’s a blessing,” Enders said of her lead. “We raced hard to get that lead, beating everyone straight up to earn those points, and we really wanted to add to it here. That obviously isn’t going to happen, but we’ll hold our heads high and move on to the next event and do what we’ve done all year.”

The NHRA tour takes next weekend off before heading to Texas Motorplex near Dallas in Enders’ home state of Texas. That race takes place Oct. 16-18.

“It’s a home race basically for me and for the guys from Elite,” Enders said. “I was born and raised in Houston and the Elite shop is in Oklahoma, so this is like meeting in the middle of where we’re all from. We always have fun in Dallas because being so close to all of our homes we have lots of friends and family come and support us.

“I think we’re all excited to have a weekend off, too. It’s a grind when you’re going hard every weekend, plus the break will give us time to go through the cars front to back and get these engines freshened up.

“We’ll come back stronger than ever and try to sweep the last three races and just put this thing away. It’s a fun time and we’re all enjoying the ride.”

Reigning champ and current points leader Erica Enders staying afloat in Reading

READING, PA — Two days of intermittent rain washed out three of the four scheduled qualifying sessions of the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, but reigning series champ and current Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports teammates were ready for the lone run they were afforded, qualifying sixth with a safe 6.537-second pass at 213.13 mph.

“It’s always nerve-racking going down a track when the surface temperature is 60 degrees, it’s really cold and damp and the dew point is way up there, but that’s where my guys really show how great they are,” Enders said. “We just went up there and made a very, very conservative run because we really didn’t know at that point if we’d get another session in or if it would start raining again.

“We played it safe and although the car kinda moved around a little bit and the tires were spinning, we got in the top half of the field, which is really what you want. Obviously, the e.t. we posted by no means shows our hand, so I’m really excited for tomorrow.”

Enders has been to four final rounds in a row, winning three races in a row before settling for runner-up against her teammate Drew Skillman last weekend in St. Louis. She entered the weekend 113 points ahead of her closest rival in the points, which equates to almost six rounds of elimination racing. There are only 16 rounds left in the season, so a big race day here could make it very tough on the other contenders.

“It’s been one of those weekends when we just wait and wait and wait,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “Honestly, it’s more exhausting doing nothing than when you’re busy. They say tomorrow is supposed to look better weather-wise and we’re all excited about that for sure. Once again I’m on the opposite side of the ladder from Drew, so we will just see if we can go to work tomorrow, repeat what happened in St. Louis, and spread the gap on everyone else.”

As the No. 6 qualifier, Enders will open elimination action with lane choice over part-time racer Kenny Delco, who posted a 6.606 at 207.15 mph in his lone trip down Maple Grove.

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m., with ESPN2 carrying all the action Sunday evening.

Growing points lead won’t alter Erica Enders’ strategy in Reading

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READING, PA — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders has stretched her Pro Stock points lead to 113 after two races into the Countdown to the Championship, but if you think the defending world champion and her team plan to alter their approach at this weekend’s NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, think again.

“We’re not changing one thing,” Enders said. “We’re just going to go on to the third race of the Countdown and race smart and calculated. We’ve got to keep pace, continue our points lead. That’s the mind-set going in. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. One round, one at a time.”

Enders has been on fire lately, racing to four consecutive final rounds and winning three in a row before falling to teammate Drew Skillman in the St. Louis final. She has won seven times in 2015, and one more victory this year would break Angelle Sampey’s mark for single-season wins by a woman.

Enders has been spectacular at the first two races of the six-race Countdown. She has won seven of eight rounds of racing, two of those on holeshots, including the Charlotte final. She left first on Skillman in St. Louis, but her Transportation Impact Camaro immediately shook the tires, and Enders had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Reading should be a fast race, as conditions are usually conducive to record-setting elapsed times. Enders has been fast in 2015, with five No. 1 qualifiers and qualifying in the top four at 16 of the 20 races to date.

“If the weather is conducive, it’s definitely a possibility to see a new record up there,” Enders said. “Elapsed time is the only one that is worth any points, so we’re going to do our best to get it, but we’re not going to change our game plan.”

Enders recorded the third-quickest e.t. in Pro Stock history, 6.464 seconds, in Englishtown last year. Jason Line holds the national record of 6.455 seconds, and his teammate Greg Anderson has been quick lately.

And while Enders and her team will try to lower the e.t. mark, the goal is to go as fast as possible in each round.

“We’ll do our best, and if it’s meant to be, we’ll set the record,” Enders said. “Greg (Anderson) is really fast right now, and those 20 points (for setting the record) are huge. We’ll go after it, but we’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 p.m., Friday, and 11:15 and 2:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday.

Erica Enders extends points lead with brilliant performance in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS, MO — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders fell short of her fourth consecutive victory, but she still extended her Pro Stock points lead with a runner-up finish at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on Sunday at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Enders continued to put on a brilliant driving display at Gateway. She became the first driver in NHRA history to win three consecutive finals on holeshots when she won in Charlotte last weekend and then left first on all four opponents this Sunday, including reaction times of .002, .002, and .003 in her last three rounds.

“I’m super comfortable in the car,” Enders said. “I know what I’m capable of, I know what my guys are capable of, and that gives me peace of mind. I’m able to go out there and do my job. We’re going to leave with our heads held high, go to Reading, and try to continue to spread the points on those KB boys.”

By racing to the final round, Enders extended her points lead to 113 over KB Racing driver Greg Anderson, who lost in the second round.

“It was a great points day,” Enders said. “The competitor side of us allows us to be frustrated when we don’t win, but we’ll go back and go through our notes, and one of us will stay and test tomorrow. It’s a great day. A.J. helped us a lot by beating Greg second round, and I was able to put another 40-point spread on him.

“That’s all that matters. We’ve got to keep pace. I really wanted to win four in a row and have eight for the season and have those records, but God has a bigger plan, and I’m OK with that. We’ve got our eye on the big prize.”

Enders began her day by blitzing Alex Laughlin with a pass of 6.586 seconds at 210.87 mph, but crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll made improvements on her Transportation Impact Camaro. Against Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, Enders had a .002 light and made a pass of 6.620 seconds at 211.66 mph to get the win.

Another .002 light gave her a jump on semifinal opponent Bo Butner, who made the quicker pass, a 6.520 at 212.43 mph, but Enders’ 6.524-second pass at 212.06 mph was enough to hold him off.

In the final, Enders had an .003 light, but her car went into immediate tire shake, and all she could do was watch teammate Drew Skillman get his first career victory with a pass of 6.529 at 211.63 mph.

“Of course we want to win, but today was Drew’s day,” Enders said. “It was just meant to be for him. If I have to lose, I’m glad it’s to my teammate, so we’re still able to share the winner’s circle under the Elite Motorsports banner.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders chases fourth straight win from No. 3 spot

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ST. LOUIS, MO — NHRA Pro Stock World Champion and currents points leader Erica Enders will be gunning for her fourth consecutive victory when she begins eliminations at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park from the No. 3 position Sunday.

Enders, driving the Elite Motorsports/Transportation Impact Chevrolet, will also be chasing her third victory in her last four races at Gateway, having won here in 2012 and 2013.

“We’ve got a consistent race car,” Enders said. “I’m really proud of my guys. It’s easy to not be slightly disappointed when you’re not on top but know what you are capable of, but at the same time, we’re third and we’re going into Sunday with a four-round points lead. Plus, I’m on opposite sides of the ladder from my teammate Drew (Skillman). I’m hopeful for a really long Sunday.”

Enders came to Gateway with an 83-point lead after winning the first race of the Countdown to the Championship last weekend in Charlotte. Greg Anderson accumulated eight more bonus points through qualifying, but Enders has still been very fast here. Her best pass was 6.508 seconds at 212.13 mph to qualify fourth or better for the 16th time in 20 races. The previous 15 times she has qualified fourth or better in 2015, she has scored seven victories, raced to eight finals, and reached 13 semifinals.

“We didn’t accumulate the bonus points that we would’ve liked this weekend,” Enders said. “But we’ll take those 20-point swings for winning a round. I’m optimistic going into Sunday. I know that my consistent race car is more than capable of being driven to the winner’s circle.

“Sometimes Sunday is about survival of the fittest, not the fastest. That’s what we’ve been blessed to be able to accomplish the last couple of weeks.”

Enders set an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots — in Brainerd, Minn., Indianapolis, and Charlotte — but she brushed aside the accomplishment.

“For starters, that’s my job,” Enders said. “I don’t know what all the hoopla is about. But we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of really cool firsts, and that’s another one to add to the book. The way I look at it is as long as that win light comes on, I don’t care how we get it.”

Enders begins her race at Gateway against Alex Laughlin, who qualified No. 14 with a top lap of 6.561 seconds at 211.63 mph.

Pro Stock champ, points leader Erica Enders heads to St. Louis with formidable momentum, new sponsor

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ST. LOUIS, MO — Erica Enders arrives at Gateway Motorsports Park for this weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on a three-race winning streak that has her 83 points ahead of her nearest rival in a quest to win consecutive Pro Stock world championships.

In addition, the driver of Elite Motorsports’ crimson cannonball, which will sport new sponsorship from Transportation Impact, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Enders is on a roll, having just passed legend and friend Shirley Muldowney’s career win total with her 19th victory last Sunday in Charlotte.

“It’s definitely a good point in the year to have momentum,” Enders said. “I’ve always said we create our own momentum, and it’s a great confidence-booster for everyone on the team. We’re one race into three consecutive events for the start of the Countdown to the Championship, and we couldn’t be doing any better. We were able to begin the Countdown with the No. 1 ranking and hold strong in Charlotte and win the race, so we definitely have a little bit of a lead.

“Passing Shirley was too much to even wrap my head around. She was the person I wanted to be when I grew up and to see her name next to mine is surreal. And then she was one of the first people to call me and say, ‘Good job.’ It’s very special and means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

As for this weekend, Enders already knows the way to Gateway’s victory platform, having visited it twice before. Now she’s hoping for another return to pad her lead that much more.

“I’ve never been shy to say St. Louis is one of my favorite tracks,” Enders said. “I had some success there in the Sportsman days and got my only Countdown win in 2013 there. It’s just an exciting, fun place to race. We recently tested there before Indy, so we got some good data for that facility. I’m excited to go back, especially off the successful three weeks we’ve had.”

Just one day after winning at zMax Dragway for the very first time, Enders and her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro team proudly announced a major associate sponsorship agreement with Transportation Impact, a privately-held logistics company that specializes in helping some of the largest companies in the world drastically reduce their shipping costs.

Enders will be celebrating a birthday shortly after the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, and she plans to blow out everyone else’s candles on Sunday before extinguishing hers on Oct. 8.

“I’m very optimistic and excited about what’s to come,” Enders said. “I’m hopeful we can carry our momentum to St. Louis.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:15 p.m., Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday.

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