Record setter Erica Enders returns to Englishtown on a roll


ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — No one was faster during the 2014 Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park than Erica Enders, and no one is more excited to return for this year’s event.

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team set the national elapsed time and speed records in Englishtown a year ago, 6.464 seconds and 215.55 mph, and she still holds the speed mark.

“There’s a lot of history at Raceway Park,” said Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock champion. “I’m excited to go back because we set both ends of the national record there for e.t. and mph. The e.t. record was just broken by Jason (Line) in Charlotte, but we still hold the mph record. Definitely some fond memories there for me: My husband Richie (Stevens) has won there a handful of times, so it’s a lucky track for him.”

Plus, Englishtown is a favorite stop for Pro Stock competitors because fans in the area truly love the class.

“It’s Pro Stock country up there,” Enders said. “People there love Pro Stock, so it’s always exciting to get back to a racetrack where the whole grandstands want to see us race. The back of the pits are packed, and you get a lot of educated questions. It’s nice.”

Weather may not allow for record-setting runs this year, but Enders should still be among the fastest drivers. She is coming off a victory at Heartland Park Topeka, where she was the quickest in all three rounds of qualifying and in all four rounds of eliminations. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 80s this weekend with a slight chance for rain.

“Englishtown and Reading are always two of the most likely tracks to have weather conditions conducive for record-setting runs,” Enders said. “If the conditions are there, I definitely put our money on us. We’ve certainly got a good handle on our hot rod right now, and I’ve been driving really well. We’ll see what the good Lord deals us with the weather, and we’ll go up there and do our best.

“Record or not, our goal is to win the race. Coming off a win in Topeka, I’m very excited to get back behind the wheel.”

The Topeka victory put Enders back on top in the points standings for the second time this season, and she leads Line by 58 points, but this is no time to be counting points, Enders said.

“It’s always exciting to lead the points, but it’s a long season,” Enders said. “We’re only a third of the way through it, and we’ve got a lot of races left. There are a lot of tough competitors out there in Pro Stock, and it’s going to come down to the wire. With the Countdown format, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to get very far ahead. We were 250 points ahead last year, and it came down to the final round of the final race.”

Qualifying for the Toyota NHRA Summernationals takes place at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Elimination racing begins at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports dominate Topeka, take over Pro Stock points lead


TOPEKA, KS — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team scored a dominant victory at the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka, capping a perfect weekend with a win over Greg Anderson in the final round.

Enders was the quickest in all three qualifying sessions — the fourth was rained out — won the No. 1 qualifier and was quickest in all four rounds of eliminations to score her third victory of the season and take over the Pro Stock points lead.

“The last time we did this was Norwalk (Ohio) last year: We qualified on the pole and were low e.t. every round of qualifying and every round of eliminations,” Enders said. “It’s definitely a feat, especially in Pro Stock, as competitive as it is. Hat’s off to my guys; they are absolutely incredible.

“It speaks volumes of what they’re capable of when they’re given the tools that they need, and that’s what (team owner) Richard Freeman has provided them. I’m just really proud.”

Enders won for the first time in a new R&J Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro after the Elite team parked the championship-winning car of 2014.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to let go of the car I drove last year because we had such an awesome relationship,” Enders said. “We had a lot of success together. We’ve had 29 runs on this car, and it’s still very new and we’re still learning all about her. Rick and Rickie Jones built it and it’s a tremendous masterpiece, and we’re just going to get better and better.”

Enders started the day against No. 16 qualifier Mark Hogan, but her pass of 6.579 seconds at 209.10 mph was low of the round and beat his 6.855-second run at 201.58 mph. She then faced off against noted starting-line ace Jonathan Gray, who left with a .005-second reaction time, but Enders had a .013 light and then blew past Gray with a run of 6.586 at 208.78 mph, beating his 6.607 at 208.68 mph.

Larry Morgan then had a brilliant .007 light in the semi’s, but Enders ran him down with a 6.579-second pass at 208.94 mph to beat his run of 6.609 seconds at 208.68 mph.

“I missed the Tree a little bit against Larry Morgan,” said Enders, whose reaction time was .030. “I knew I was late and was looking over to see where he was. It was only a seven-thousandths margin of victory, so I guess if we had a lucky round, that was it, for sure.”

Then came rival Anderson, who had beaten Enders in the semifinals at Atlanta Dragway last weekend. This time, though, Enders ripped off a .009-second reaction time to Anderson’s .020 and then made a pass of 6.584 seconds at 209.33 mph to beat his 6.591-second run at 209.14 mph.

“He congratulated me down there,” Enders said. “He doesn’t like to lose to anybody; he’s got a very competitive spirit. We all do in Pro Stock. But everything’s cool, and I’m proud that we got the win. He got us (in Atlanta) and he outran us, so I was happy to pay him back just a little bit, but all in good fun.”

Enders now has a 59-point lead over Jason Line, who lost in the first round, after eight of 24 races.

“Because I had never led the Pro Stock points in my career until last year, I remember I screen-shot it every week because I didn’t know if that would disappear or we’d ever get back in that position, but because of my guys and what Richard Freeman has given us, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of great stuff together.

“It’s cool to be back on top, but it’s been a long, grueling season. Pro Stock is so competitive, and we’ll do our best to stay on top.

Nine years after her first No. 1, Erica Enders earns another in Topeka

TOPEKA, KS — In 2006, Erica Enders earned her first No. 1 qualifier at Heartland Park Topeka to become the first woman to win a Pro Stock pole. Nine years later, Enders went to the top of the chart in Topeka again, earning the No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Saturday.

“It’s pretty cool,” Enders said. “I thought about that coming in here on Thursday, so it definitely was a fun memory here, becoming the first female No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock. We’ve gone on to do some really great things (with Elite Motorsports).”
Enders won the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championship with Richard Freeman’s Elite Motorsports team and has 14 career victories and 15 career poles.

At Heartland Park, Enders led all three qualifying sessions — the fourth was rained out — with her top pass of 6.150 seconds at 211.43 mph earning her the No. 1 spot. She earned nine bonus points by being the quickest in each qualifying session.

“I’m always confident in my guys,” Enders said. “They give me a very consistent race car, and that makes my job a little easier, to where I just focus on driving and not wonder what the car is going to do — if we’re going to blow the tires off, if it’s going to hook right or left. Being low for every session is pretty exciting. We were able to do that some last year and accumulate those three bonus points per round that you’re low.

“Coming to the final race of last year, every point mattered, so we’ll take ’em when we can get ’em.”

Perhaps the only reason she didn’t earn 12 bonus points was because the final qualifying session was canceled because of rain.

“I would’ve liked it,” Enders said. “I’ll drive any chance I get, but it was a good call with the rain coming in. But I would’ve loved to have gone out there and given it another shot to see if we could be low one more time. I think we’ve got a good handle on the car and hopefully a good race-day setup for tomorrow.”

Enders begins her chase for the Kansas Nationals victory against No. 16 qualifier Mark Hogan.

“We’ve had an awesome weekend,” Enders said. “It’s a brand-new race car and our second race in a row with it. We’re just trying to get a handle on it, and my guys have done a great job.”

New Camaro propels Enders to track records in Topeka

TOPEKA, KS — The decision to bring out a new Chevrolet Camaro midway through the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season paid record dividends for Erica Enders during the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Friday at Heartland Park Topeka.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion set track elapsed-time and speed records with her new Elite Motorsports Chevy to snare the provisional No. 1 qualifier. Her pass of 6.515 seconds at 211.43 mph in the first qualifying session broke the e.t. record of 6.566 seconds set by Jason Line in May 2012 and the speed record of 211.30 mph set by Greg Anderson, also in May 2012.

“It’s been awesome,” Enders said. “We’ve had a really good hot rod for most of the year, and we brought out a new race car in Atlanta last week, so we feel like we’re taking baby steps to get it to run the way we want to. It’s proving to be an awesome race car so far.

“The weather is a little bit uncharacteristic of this time of year up here, so it’s cool to capture the record, but we’ve got our work cut out for us, as we always do. Pro Stock is super competitive, and I’m just really proud of my guys for running this well.”

The crew chief trio of Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll have been dialing in the new car, which debuted in Atlanta with a No. 2 qualifier and a semifinal finish. Enders credited a quick launch of the car in Topeka with her quick times.

“I have three tremendous crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll,” Enders said. “They were up yesterday looking at the track and today as well. Between that, they were tracking weather and putting the best setup we possibly could in our car. We picked it up at 60 feet. We’re not a top 60-foot team, and today, both times, we’ve been No. 1 or No. 2. The car is leaving really nice and smooth, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Cooler temperatures descended on Heartland Park on Friday, and Enders expected to pick up in Q2. She was quickest of the round, though she slowed slightly with a pass of 6.520 seconds at 210.93 mph.

“We thought it would be a little faster tonight,” Enders said. “My crew chiefs said we’d go a .51 first round, and we did. Tonight, we figured we’d be able to improve and run a low .50 or a high .49, and the water kinda moved in quickly while we were up there, so that’s what slowed it down a little bit.”

More water, in the form of rain, is expected Saturday, which could wash out the final two qualifying sessions. Still, Enders and her team are planning for Sunday’s eliminations.

“Since we’re sitting in the top position, we’ll keep trying to be consistent and bettering our runs and perfect that race-day setup,” Enders said.

Reigning world champ Erica Enders has fond memories of Heartland Park Topeka


TOPEKA, KS — Back before she was a champion, before setting multitudes of records, and before her regular visits to the Winner’s Circle, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders came to Heartland Park Topeka intent on proving herself in the cutthroat world of Pro Stock racing.

It was 2006 and Enders was racing for another team at the time. She would hear the rumblings that a woman didn’t belong in the class, including some jabs from other drivers in the category. Her self-confidence was high but she desperately wanted something to show for the team’s efforts, something that would quiet the critics.

“When someone asks me about Topeka, the first thing that jumps into my mind was 2006 when we got top qualifier,” Enders said. “It was the first time a woman had ever been No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and it was just such a huge feeling of accomplishment for all of us. It was a Saturday night I’ll never forget; definitely some high-fives in the pit.”

Although Enders and Co. couldn’t parlay that qualifying performance into a win on race day, the accomplishment proved she truly belonged in the professional ranks of the sport.

Fast-forward to this year’s NHRA Kansas Nationals and Enders arrives as the reigning world champion with 15 national event titles to her credit, just three behind legend and idol Shirley Muldowney. Enders’ top qualifying effort in Topeka 10 years ago has since been replicated 14 times, and her 175-117 elimination-round record gives her one of the best winning ratios among her peers.

But despite her unquestioned racing abilities, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, says not much has changed in her racing mindset.

“Ask me about Topeka right now and I’ll tell you the same thing I would have said 10 years ago: We go in there wanting to prove ourselves,” she said. “One of the best things about drag racing is every race is a fresh start. What you did in the past doesn’t help you at all. You constantly have to show what you’re capable of, and this team thrives on that challenge.”

The Elite Motorsports group hasn’t had any problems doing that this year, winning twice, finishing runner-up once, and posting a pair of semifinal results through the first seven races. Enders currently is ranked second, just a round and a half behind Jason Line.

“The thing about winning is it’s addictive,” Enders said. “We won in Las Vegas and Houston this year and then went to Atlanta last weekend and we went to the semi’s. It was kind of a bummer, which is crazy because 10 years ago that would have been huge.

“This team that Richard Freeman has put together, they work so hard. They’re champions, every single one of them. I’m the lucky one that gets to drive but they’re the reason we win.

“Hopefully, we can be No. 1 qualifier again this time through. Then I hope we can win the trophy and really make some more great memories at Heartland Park Topeka.”

The quest for another top qualifying honor begins with time trials at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, followed by the final two sessions at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m., Saturday. Elimination racing begins at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Winning streak ends at 10 rounds for Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders-Stevens | Atlanta 2015

ATLANTA, GA — Erica Enders’ bid to win three NHRA national events in a row fell a little short Sunday when she lost in the semifinal round of the 35th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, but not before she pushed her streak of elimination round-wins to 10 in a row, the longest such streak of the season in any pro category.

“It’s hard to be disappointed with a semifinal round showing, but I kind of feel that way because I know we have the car that can win,” said Enders, driver of the Elite Motorsports Camaro. “You can’t win them all, but it sure is addictive when you get on a roll. You feel so much confidence that it’s really weird when you come up a little short.”

In a class where races are routinely decided by thousandths of a second, this day was no different as Enders was quicker than everyone at the track except Greg Anderson. She posted a 6.543 at 211.49 mph in beating first-round opponent John Gaydosh and used a 6.561 at 210.97 mph opposite Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. But Anderson was fractionally better each time, running a 6.541 in Round 1 and a 6.560 in Round 2.

“That thousandth of a second he got us by in Round 2 was enough to give them lane choice in the semi’s, and when a track is as hot and tricky as this one you need every little edge you can get,” Enders said. “I think that right lane was just a touch better and our race pretty much proved that. I could have been better on the Tree, but it may not have mattered because he had a .015-second light.

“This is a Summit race and I know those guys put a premium on winning their title sponsor’s races. We spun a lot and the car moved around and we ended up with a 6.582 to his 6.562. Game over. I’m still really proud of this team, and winning 10 rounds in a row is special. We’ll have to just start another streak.”

It won’t be long until Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, and the Elite Performance team are back on track as the NHRA tour quickly turns to next weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals in Topeka, Kan.

“I love Topeka,” Enders said. “The first ever national event was in Kansas and there is some question whether we’ll race there again after this year, so it would be extra special to get another Wally there.

“We’ll stop by the shop in Oklahoma and freshen everything up. We did switch to our new Rick Jones car this weekend and it was perfect every time down. It’s like driving a Cadillac the thing is so smooth. We’re just getting to know each other but so far, so good. We’ll definitely be ready for Topeka.”

After back-to-back wins, Erica Enders switches race cars and improves


ATLANTA, GA — After winning the last two races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team made the surprising decision to switch race cars, and somehow the reigning Pro Stock world champion managed to improve.

“I understand the sentiment, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but we had so much confidence in this new Rick Jones race car that we knew it would be better,” Enders said. “And like my team owner Richard Freeman says, ‘We didn’t build it to sit at the shop,’ so the guys put it back into service and our results speak for themselves.”

Enders tied the quickest elapsed time of the weekend with a 6.546-second blast but qualified second due to Jason Line’s slightly better top speed. Line, who also posted a 6.546, topped out at 211.23 mph to Enders’ 210.28 mph.

“It takes a lot of self confidence to make a car change after winning two races in a row, but the guys felt comfortable enough to give it a try. We worked out a few bugs yesterday and then they really tuned it up today and we lost out on the pole by mph, so we are super happy.

“We actually started the year with this car, but the new fuel and tires they have us running put us a touch behind, so we brought out last year’s championship car and started gathering data. I have such a special place in my heart for that car, and I know how she runs and how she reacts to every little thing, so we were able to use her to figure out the fuel and the tire and apply that to this new car.

“This new one is absolutely the smoothest, most drive-able car I’ve ever driven. It’s the next generation, and I know it’s going to take us to a new level.”

As the No. 2 qualifier, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, will open elimination action at the 35th Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals against John Gaydosh, who posted a best pass of 6.699 at 207.66 mph.

“I was already extremely confident in my team, and switching to a new car without missing a beat makes me that much more convinced that we have the best team in the sport,” Enders said. “We have definitely started summer. The heat and humidity have been beating on us here, but we’re hanging tough and improving every time out there, so our spirits are high.

“It’s also very exciting and cool to be in Coca-Cola’s backyard. They’re such a huge part of what we do in this sport, and they had us over to headquarters for the Champions Dinner the other night, which was so special. I would love to win another race and have all the Mello Yello folks join us in the winner’s circle.”

Eliminations start at noon on Sunday and will be shown on ESPN2.

NHRA’s red hot Enders-Stevens set to scorch Atlanta


ATLANTA, GA — No one in the NHRA Drag Racing Series has amassed more championship points in the first quarter of the season than reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, who arrives at Atlanta Dragway for this weekend’s 35th annual Summit Southern Nationals on a two-race winning streak.

“We’re definitely on a roll and we want to keep it up,” said Enders, a native Texan who now lives in New Orleans with husband and fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “What better place to do that than Atlanta Dragway? This is the home race for Coca-Cola and we always want to put our best foot forward for them. They’ve sponsored our series ever since I’ve been a pro and we love ’em.”

The wildly popular Enders became the first woman in Pro Stock history to win the title last year, joining Shirley Muldowney (Top Fuel) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as the only women to win major motorsports championships. She used six victories and a remarkable elimination round record of 45-16 to get the job done.

This year, Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew already are ahead of last year’s pace with two victories and a 14-4 raceday mark through six races.

“It’s weird because it seems like we could be even further ahead than we are,” Enders said. “We started the year with a beautiful new Rick Jones Camaro but had a little trouble adjusting to the new tires and fuel mandated by the NHRA so we switched back to the car we won the championship with last year. That new car is so state-of-the-art we know it’s going to be even better when we get it dialed in. I really believe our best day are ahead of us.”

That’s probably not what Enders’ opponents want to hear as the 31-year-old hasn’t lost a round in eliminations since late March in Charlotte.

“Our team owner, Richard Freeman, has a knack for finding the right people, putting them in positions where they can succeed and getting the best out of them,” Enders said. “I look at Rick and Rickie (Jones, father/son co-crew chiefs), Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, who build our motors, all the crew guys, the people back at the shop, it’s just a group of winners.

“I’m living the dream right now. It took years to get to this point and plenty of highs and lows along the way, but this reward makes it all worthwhile. There is no better feeling as a driver than pulling through the gates at the track knowing you have a racecar and team that’s capable of winning that race. We have that every weekend.”

Enders has never won at Atlanta but she was the top qualifier last year. She’s qualified in the No. 1 spot twice this season, in Pomona, Calif., and Phoenix.

Qualifying rounds will take place at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 2:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all the action.

Page 28 of 47« First...1020...2627282930...40...Last »