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With the Pro Stock title in sight, Enders-Stevens is focused on having fun

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) — Even with the NHRA Pro Stock championship on the line during this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, the No. 1 goal for Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team is to have fun.

That has been the goal since Enders-Stevens joined the team this year, and it has paid off with five victories and the points lead heading into the season finale. And there’s no reason to change now.

“It’s such an awesome environment to work in, and (team owner) Richard Freeman is just an awesome guy to work for,” Enders-Stevens said. “He’s great at managing people, making everyone feel important, and at communication. We have team meetings, and we all always just stay on the same page. I think that’s how you make any relationship work, whether it be business or marriage or whatever.

“He’s done a really great job with that, and he’s made it very evident that if we’re not having fun, we’re not going to do it. We have a blast together.”

Winning helps that attitude, of course, but Enders-Stevens and her team are always smiling and joking no matter what. That positive outlook has helped through some trying times this season and enabled Enders-Stevens to bounce back from losing the points lead to regain it at the most recent race in Las Vegas.

Enders-Stevens is 17 points ahead of second-place Jason Line heading into Pomona after she beat Line in the Vegas semifinal before winning the race.

“People are the most important part of the puzzle, and Richard has certainly organized an elite group of people,” Enders-Stevens said. “Rick and Rickie Jones as my crew chiefs and all of the guys that work on my car, it’s just awesome, and we do have a blast whether we’re out to eat or at the racetrack winning and losing together. It’s always a fun time.”

But they take racing seriously, too, as shown by their terrific season to date. She has led the points standings for 13 of the 23 events so far in 2014, even after skipping two Western Swing races to prepare for the end of the year. In addition to the five wins, Enders-Stevens has raced to one other final round and four semifinal appearances.

Plus, she has scored six No. 1 qualifiers, including the last three in a row. In 18 of her 21 races this year, she has qualified in the top three 18 times.

All those numbers could add up to Enders-Stevens becoming the first female champion in the history of Pro Stock.

“Yeah, it’s certainly a huge feat to accomplish,” Enders-Stevens said. “I would have my name on a list with just Shirley Muldowney and Angelle (Sampey), and those are two of my heroes. To be able to have the opportunity to get it done is awesome in itself.

“At the same time I think any female racer will tell you that we just want to be looked at as a driver. The car doesn’t know the difference in gender, and it certainly doesn’t matter to me, but at the end of the day I guess it would be very awesome to be able to make history and just show any other females that maybe even had a little bit of doubt that they weren’t capable or whatever that I’m a perfect example of a normal kid — through hard work and certainly surrounding myself with the right people and having such a solid support group — that anything is possible, and I hope that’s the message that comes across to them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry qualifying and elimination action.

Enders-Stevens surges to Pro Stock points lead with stellar Vegas victory

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 2) — When in high-pressure situations, champions deliver.

Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens delivered under pressure Sunday, knocking out points leader Jason Line in the semifinals and then beating five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. to win the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The victory was the fifth of the season and 11th of her career, and it vaulted her into the Pro Stock points lead with one race remaining in 2014.

“It can’t get much better,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s just really incredible. I can’t be any more proud of my team. We had a meeting coming in here on Thursday. (Team owner) Richard (Freeman) just reminded us to go out there, have fun, and stop putting pressure on ourselves. There’s no pressure from him or anyone else.

“When I came in here today I told myself I was going to give it all to God and do my best. I was a nervous wreck in Reading and I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be. That’s what I wanted to change coming in here. I just wanted to go out there and do what I know how to do. I’m confident in my guys and they’ve given me a great race car. Every time I fire up the car, it’s up to me.”

After winning in the first and second rounds, Enders-Stevens lined up against Line in the semi’s with championship implications in the air, and Enders-Stevens ripped off a .009-second reaction time, getting the crucial round-win when Line turned on the red-light.

Then, facing Coughlin in the final round, Enders-Stevens was even better, cutting a .007 light against one of the best drivers in the history of NHRA. She sped to the win with a pass of 6.587 seconds at 206.36 mph to beat Coughlin’s 6.596 at 209.14 mph.

“Those were two of the most important rounds of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “I stepped up the plate and it feels good. (Crew chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones were talking in my helmet and telling me, ‘Give it to God, do your best, if you want it, you’ve got to take it, don’t let up, and go after it.’

“That’s exactly what they did with the tune-up on the race car and that’s what I did behind the wheel today.”

The win against Line moved her to within three points of the lead, and beating Coughlin moved her 17 points ahead with only the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Nov. 14-16 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., remaining on the schedule.

“This is what it’s all about,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve been driving for 22 years, 10 of which I’ve been trying to make this Pro Stock deal work. Everything is just starting to come together. I know God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. All of those ups and downs in my Pro Stock career make this just that much sweeter.

“We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us in Pomona but what a cool position to be in. How blessed are we to be here? Regardless of how this ends, it’s been an incredible year and I could not be more proud.”

Title push continues with Enders-Stevens locking up No. 1 spot in Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 1) — The Pro Stock championship charge of drag racing superstar Erica Enders-Stevens continued Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the 31-year-old securing her third straight and sixth overall No. 1 qualifying effort of the 2014 season.

Enders, who entered then weekend 35 points behind class leader Jason Line, managed to make up eight markers in qualifying, closing the gap to 27 points, but the Texan knows the real damage can be done in eliminations, where each round is worth 20 points.

“There was still some left in that last run that ended up putting us on the pole,” Enders said. “We’ve got to piece it together even better tomorrow, be consistent, and go A to B every run. If I let the clutch out on time, we can go to the winner’s circle with this Elite Motorsports Camaro. We’ve all got to do our jobs and not get ahead of ourselves.”

Aside from her four victories, 13 races atop the points standings, and six No. 1 qualifying efforts, Enders-Stevens has qualified in the top three another 12 times.

“That’s pretty neat,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve had six No. 1s and eight No. 2s, and several of those second-place efforts we just barely missed being on top. It’s definitely the most No. 1s in one season in my career by far. It just goes to show what this team is capable of.

“Being able to get the top spot in the fashion we did it today was pretty exciting because all the cars were hauling out there. I was optimistic going into the last round. Analyzing the data from the three previous runs, we hadn’t killed it yet. That was really encouraging, so we were able to get after it on that last run.”

For her efforts, Enders-Stevens will open race day against first-timer Jeff Isbell, who ran a best of 6.829 seconds at 204.29 mph. Should they both advance through the earlier rounds, she could face Line in the semifinals.

“I’m really excited and really proud of my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “All of this is so monumental to me. This is 10 years that we’ve worked to get to this point and it’s all coming together. Regardless of how the year ends, I’m just really proud of my team.”

Eliminations for the Pro Stock class will begin at noon. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Leading lady Enders-Stevens continues Vegas reign

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 31) – Looking to grab her third No. 1 qualifier in a row and sixth of the season, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens ended Friday’s first two qualifying sessions for the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on top of the leaderboard.

Laying down a fast time of 6.647 seconds at 208.01 mph, the Royal Purple Camaro continues to earn to earn those crucial qualifying bonus points.

“I’m really proud of my entire Elite Motorsports team,” Enders-Stevens said. “Those baby points are going to matter. They’re very significant, especially with as tight as Jason (Line), Dave (Connolly) and myself are right now. Glad to end the day with four.

“We were really conservative the first session. If you look at our 60-foor time, we were ninth and then went straight to the top of the page. We’ll throw something at it tomorrow and see what happens.”

Entering the Las Vegas race second in points, 35 outof the lead, Enders-Stevens wants to gain as many of those extra points as possible when she can. However, Enders-Stevens is more focused on having fun the remainder of the season and letting the chips fall where they may.

“I try to not focus on what’s out there,” Enders-Stevens said. “We all know what’s at stake, and of course I want that more than anything – and so does my team. But coming here, three weeks out of the car is a significant time. I feel like it’s been a year, but I’m glad to be back in the race car.

“The mindset is the same as any other race, the same as it was when we walked in the gate here in the spring race. It’s take it one round at a time and do the best we can.

“We had a team meeting, and my team owner, Richard (Freeman) said, ‘We’re going to stick to our main game plan as when we started this year. That’s to have fun. No stress, no drama.’ We’ve been able to do that all year long, and there are two races left, and we’re going to continue it.”

After sweeping the Las Vegas race weekend earlier in the year with both a Sunday win and the K&N Horsepower Challenge win, Enders-Stevens is glad to be picking back up where she left off last.

“I’m excited about the weekend,” Enders-Stevens. “I felt good when we walked in the gate here today, and it’s a really exciting time for us all. This is the first time any of us have been in this position. We’re going to try to execute the best we can and let God do the rest.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. PT, Saturday. Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

Enders-Stevens named to Board of Directors for Serving Orphans Worldwide

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (Oct. 31) – Furthering a successful partnership that began at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Serving Orphans Worldwide (SOW) has invited Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens to fill a seat on its Board of Directors.

“After being introduced to Richard Baker and Serving Orphans Worldwide earlier this year in Indianapolis and learning the significant impact they have on kids around the world, I was honored when they asked me to serve on the Board of Directors,” Enders-Stevens said. “This charity has really touched me and Richie (Stevens, husband and fellow driver). We’ve been able to learn so much from them and how they help kids.

“It’s very humbling to be chosen to represent such a great endeavor as SOW. They already do so much and I only hope this opportunity brings more attention to their efforts. The best part is the Board of Directors and their affiliates cover all the administrative costs so 100 percent of the funds raised go directly to the orphans and orphanages.”

SOW’s Chief Operating Officer Richard Baker knew almost immediately after meeting the Pro Stock superstar that he wanted to appoint Enders-Stevens to an open position on his board.

“It was very obvious to me and the rest of the staff that Erica and Richie were very touched when they visited our office in Bristol,” Baker said. “Erica immediately expressed her passion for helping children but never had been exposed to a ministry that was currently involved with orphans. Once she saw the reality of what we were doing, you could tell she was deeply touched.

“From that moment I was considering her for the board because I knew she would clearly be doing this out of the kindness of her heart, not because she was expected to do it.”

With the common goal of spreading the word about SOW’s efforts, Baker feels Ender-Stevens motorsports background can help bring a new perspective to the organization as it tries to reach a wider audience.

“Since she is race car driver and from such a different background as the rest of the board,” Baker said, “I think she can bring a different element to the table. We’re trying to make the board more diversified to reach a wider population. With her having the opportunity to travel around the country and race, Erica is the perfect ambassador to help spread the word of SOW.

“We’re all very excited about having Erica join us and we know this will be a great fit.”

Enders-Stevens hoping for another dream weekend in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — No Pro Stock driver accomplished more at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March than Elite Motorsports’ Erica Enders-Stevens, but she is far from satisfied with her 2014 success in Vegas as she and her team prepare for this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals.

Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge race in Las Vegas in March and then doubled up when she went to the winner’s circle in the regular national event.

“I always enjoy racing in Vegas,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s one of my favorite tracks to run at. We had a lot of fun there in the spring and a lot of success, being able to win the K&N Challenge and then double up and win the race on Sunday. That was definitely an exciting showing at The Strip, so I can’t wait to go back.”

Another good showing in Vegas would help Enders-Stevens continue to move up the ladder in the Pro Stock standings. With two races left in the Countdown to the Championship, she sits second, 35 points out of the lead. She has gained two spots in each of the last two races, where she has qualified No. 1 both times and reached the semifinals in each.

Enders-Stevens has four national event victories, five No. 1 qualifiers, and five final-round appearances in 20 races this season, and she also set the national records for elapsed time and speed in 2014.

Winning her first Pro Stock championship is the ultimate goal, but Enders-Stevens and her team are focused on doing the best they can in each round of qualifying and racing.

“Of course, it’s crossed my mind, as far as being the champion is concerned,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s every driver’s goal and it’s our team’s goal as well. We’re going to do everything that we can to get it done.

“Having said that, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. God’s already got a plan, so we’ll do our best and see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens, who last raced at Maple Grove Raceway three weeks ago, is fired up to get back to racing.

“We’re not preparing any different than any other race,” Enders-Stevens said. “The guys have been working really hard in the shop, trying to find more horsepower. We’re excited to get these next two races underway.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all qualifying and elimination action.

Stevens, Enders Plan Visit to Thailand in Support of Serving Orphans Worldwide

NHRA stars Richie Stevens and Erica Enders-Stevens Present Donation to Serving Orphans Worldwide

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Oct. 7) — Serving Orphans Worldwide (SOW) recently hosted NHRA Pro Stock drivers Richie Stevens and Erica Enders-Stevens at its offices in Bristol to plan the couple’s upcoming trip to SOW orphanages in Thailand.

Stevens and Enders-Stevens helped raise more than $40,000 for SOW during the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals with branding on their race cars and on-air promotion during the ESPN2 television coverage. Serving Orphans Worldwide Chief Operating Officer Richard Baker accepted the check from the decorated couple.

“The support Richie and Erica have helped raise will have a tremendous impact on the children we serve,” Baker said. “The fact they are excited about our work and want to continue helping us achieve our vision is an outstanding blessing.”

Stevens and Enders-Stevens joined Baker at the SOW office to plan a trip to Thailand with the organization at the completion of their racing season. While in Bristol, Stevens and Enders-Stevens viewed a short video about Baan Zion Children Ministries in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Baan Zion cares for more than 30 orphaned girls whose mothers are detained in Thai prisons.

“The work that Serving Orphans Worldwide is doing is pretty incredible,” Stevens said. “They are truly changing lives at the most basic level. To see the profound differences they make in these children’s lives is incredible. I know Erica and I are both very honored and humbled to be able to offer a little bit of help and we can’t thank the NHRA community enough for all of its support.”

During their trip in December, Stevens and Enders-Stevens plan to visit four of SOW’s orphanages, including Baan Zion. The money they raised at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will keep the doors open at that orphanage for the next year.

“We were all very excited to show Richie and Erica how incredibly valuable their support is to our organization,” Baker said. “Who better to tell them thank you than the children themselves in December?”

Enders-Stevens Powers into Second Place with Semifinal Showing in Reading

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) — A strong semifinal showing at Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals has thrust superstar racer Erica Enders-Stevens back into the championship picture with two races left in the drag racing season. Enders-Stevens, who led the Mello Yello points for 13 races during the regular season, is now just 35 points behind Jason Line, who exited in the quarterfinals.

“I have such an awesome team,” Enders-Stevens said. “They gave me a great race car all weekend, from qualifying No. 1 to going to the semifinals today. I wanted to give them more — I wanted to get to the finals and win — but to close the gap on Jason to less than two rounds is really exciting.

“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and we’re ready for it. Having the quickest car here has given us so much confidence. Now we’ve got a couple weeks off to get back to the shop and regroup. The last two races will be incredible.”

After coming within two-thousandths of a second of resetting her own national record in qualifying, Enders-Stevens remained red-hot on race day, beating Frank Gugliotta with a 6.469 at 213.30 mph to Gugliotta’s 6.579 at 209.79 mph. She then downed Vieri Gaines with a 6.484 at 213.60 mph to Gaines’ 6.507 at 212.69 mph.

It wasn’t until the semifinals against good friend and past series champion Allen Johnson that Enders-Stevens was quieted, slowing to a 6.759 at 210.87 mph to Johnson’s 6.499 at 212.69 mph.

“The car just shook the tires really hard down low,” she said. “I pedaled it and got back on the gas as fast as possible, but when you lose all of that early momentum there’s not much you can do. I stayed after it just in case Allen had trouble but I saw him all the way down the track. That round was a bummer but we’re still smiling over here.”

The NHRA tour takes a two-week break before resuming action with the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We were undefeated in the spring race in Vegas, so we’ll try to keep that streak alive,” Enders-Stevens said. “We won both the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the regular national event, so we have nothing but good thoughts going through our heads.

“It’ll be good to get home, catch up on our rest, and have time to service the car and the motors. Having four races in a row was pretty taxing for everyone. Even so, we’ve put ourselves in an incredible position to challenge for the title. I’ve dreamt of this my whole life and it’s so cool to be living in the moment right now.”

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