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Winternationals Performance Shows Promise for Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports

Enders-Stevens crossing finish line at Pomona 2014

POMONA, CA — During the opening race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders-Stevens and Elite Motorsports proved their Chevy Camaro will be a threat this year among the Pro Stock ranks.

After a shaky Friday afternoon of qualifying that included an aborted run, the team rallied back Saturday to qualify 5th during the Circle K NHRA Winternationals from Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

“We were a little rocky at the get-go,” said Erica. “But by Saturday we were jamming and it felt good to put up a number we knew we were capable of. I’m very happy with the car and how the team has come together. We’re having a blast.”

The strong performance continued when the Elite Motorsports Camaro posted the third fastest pass during the opening round of Sunday eliminations.

Erica drove to a 6.540 at 212.13 mph to advance over Deric Kramer’s 6.554 at 210.37 in Round 1. However it was her quarterfinal match-up against V. Gaines that would put a close to the weekend.

In spite of a solid 6.544 second pass at 211.66 mph, Erica came up short against Gaines’ quicker 6.527 at 212.29 mph.

Gaines would eventually knock out number one qualifier Vincent Nobile before falling to event winner Jason Line in the final round.

“Hats off to V.,” said Erica. “He’s one of the other single car teams out here keeping us all on notice. He had the ET, out-drove us to the stripe, and got us that time, but we’ll be back in Phoenix.”

Erica and Elite Motorsports head to Phoenix in two weeks to the refreshed and renamed Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, where last year Erica took home her 5th Pro Stock Wally in a holeshot victory over Mike Edwards.

With Enders-Stevens Behind the Wheel, Elite Motorsports is Primed to Defend Pomona Pro Stock Win

Erica Enders-Stevens in new Sparco Elite Motorsports fire suit

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders-Stevens and the Elite Motorsports team are set to defend last fall’s Pro Stock victory at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway when they kick off the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals.

Erica joins Elite Motorsports, operated by Richard Freeman, along with the father-son crew chief duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, to usher in a new era for a young team that has experienced rising success in the hyper-competitive Pro Stock class.

“We spent the first half of the week testing alongside the other Pro Stock teams in Phoenix,” said Erica. “Everything has really settled in well, and it was great to spend that time as a team, learning from each other and going through the process of setting up the car and making passes. We’re confident about how things are shaping up heading into the season together.”

Elite Motorsports marks its return to Pomona after finishing last season with a trip to the winner’s circle during the NHRA Auto Club Finals. It was the first national event win for the team and it’s blazing red Camaro, including the first Pro Stock win for its driver, Rickie Jones.

It also made it back-to-back wins for Elite Motorsports’ engine program, led by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, having powered Shane Gray’s Camaro to victory in Las Vegas just two weeks earlier.

“Closing out the season like that was a huge boost for us. A lot of hard work and late hours went into getting us there,” said Richard Freeman. “It has definitely given us confidence we’re moving in the right direction, and if we keep putting in the work, we’ll do even better in 2014.”

“I’m blessed to have this opportunity with Richard and to be surrounded by a great group of guys,” said Erica. “I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and what we’ll be able to accomplish as a team.”

Qualifying sessions for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals takes place Friday and Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 pm each day, with ESPN2’s qualifying broadcast airing from 8-10:00 pm Pacific Time Saturday night.

Sunday’s final eliminations begins at 11:00 am, with broadcast coverage on ESPN at 5-8:00 pm Pacific Time.

Video: Erica Makes Test Pass in Elite Motorsports Pro Stock Camaro

In-car GoPro footage from day 2 of pre-season Pro Stock testing from Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Phoenix:

Enders-Stevens accepts deal to drive for Elite Motorsports

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HOUSTON (Nov. 21) – Popular drag racer Erica Enders-Stevens, the most prolific female driver in Pro Stock history, has joined Elite Motorsports for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Enders-Stevens will drive the team’s new Camaro, which will be tuned by the father/son duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, with in-house horsepower crafted by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

“I’m really excited to start this next chapter of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s hard to believe that 2014 will be my 10th year in Pro Stock but it’s true. We want to make it our best year yet, and we’re all going to be working very hard towards that goal.

“The last three years we’ve been in contention for the championship very late in the season, and we expect to be there again with Elite Motorsports. Rickie just won the NHRA Finals, so it’s obvious they have all the pieces in place to be successful.

“I’m sad to leave Victor Cagnazzi. We have worked together for the majority of my Pro Stock career, and I will always be appreciative of Victor and his wife Brita. I certainly value our relationship. The deal Richard (Freeman, team owner of Elite Motorsports) offered assures me a full-time ride in his top car, so at this point in my career I thought it was the best move for me to make.”

Enders-Stevens has fought hard to earn her place in the drag racing world during her nine seasons in the factory hot rod class. Despite running partial schedules at times, she has successfully qualified for 102 national events, won six Wallys in 17 final-round appearances, and been the No. 1 qualifier on six occasions. All of those marks represent records for female competitors in the category.

Following a successful Jr. Dragster and Sportsman career, Enders-Stevens made an immediate impact in the Pro ranks due in large part to her immense popularity, which was a result of the Disney Channel movie Right on Track, chronicling her and her sister Courtney’s time racing in Jr. Dragster. For the first time ever, young girls were dragging their fathers into the Pro Stock pits to meet their on-screen hero in person.

And Enders-Stevens didn’t disappoint on the track, racing to the final round in Chicago during her rookie campaign with Victor Cagnazzi Racing. She later collaborated with her father Gregg Enders, purchasing a turnkey race operation from Don Schumacher Racing before moving to Jim Cunningham Motorsports, where she attempted to resurrect the Ford brand in Pro Stock. She returned to Cagnazzi in 2011.

Her next three seasons were filled with career highlights, including her first victory, her first foray into the playoffs, and her first top-10 ranking. She has now finished in the top 10 in three consecutive seasons with a best of fourth place in 2012.

“I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far,” said Enders-Stevens, who finished sixth in 2013. “For many years I got to race with my dad, which was something we always dreamed about when I was younger and something I’d love to do again some day. I’ve also raced on my own and, although it hasn’t always been easy, I love this sport so much that I’ve fought to stay out here. The support I’ve received from my dad and the rest of my family, my longtime friends, and all of the wonderful fans out there have made it all worthwhile.

“This new start with Richard and Elite Motorsports is exciting for me. I hope I can repay their faith in me by being competitive and chasing after another championship.”

The team plans to test extensively in Florida prior to the season-opening NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

First-round loss won’t diminish Enders-Stevens’ solid season

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) – A first-round loss in the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway won’t diminish the accomplishments of Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Enders-Stevens finished sixth in the Pro Stock points standings after a season in which she missed six races with her Cagnazzi Racing team because of sponsorship issues. With a partnership with Husky Liners, Enders-Stevens returned for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, winning in St. Louis and moving as high as fourth in points.

“I was blessed to be able to make the Countdown and finish the year,” said Enders-Stevens, who won two races in 2013. “It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation by any means, but we did the best we could with what we had. It’s a cruel world out here, but I’m remaining positive and optimistic through all of the hard times. That’s important to do, and I can only hope next year will be better.”

Enders-Stevens goes into the off-season on a positive note after enjoying a fun weekend in Pomona. She appeared on KTLA 5 Morning News on Friday, followed by an appearance at the Night of Champions at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum on Friday night.

“I love coming to Pomona,” Enders-Stevens said. “I love the raw history of this sport and this racetrack, and the fact that my Jr. Dragster is here in the museum is an honor for me and my family. I really enjoy being in Southern California at this race.”

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 8 and was the first pair out in her matchup with Shane Gray. Gray made a pass of 6.586 seconds at 211.03 mph while Enders-Stevens’ run was 6.595 at 211.59 mph, as Gray got the win.

“It shook and took a hard turn right,” Enders-Stevens said of her launch. “I did what I could with what I had, but when the car is out of control and gets away like that, as driver, it’s a challenge. I probably should’ve shoved the clutch in and aborted the run, but I wanted that round-win more than almost any round-win in my career. God had a different plan, and I trust in it.”

Enders-Stevens determined to end season on a positive note

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 9) – A determined Erica Enders-Stevens is fired up for the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway after qualifying her Husky Liners Camaro in the No. 8 spot on Saturday.

Enders-Stevens made a top pass of 6.557 seconds at 211.43 mph in the third qualifying session and will line up against future teammate Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Cagnazzi Racing recently announced a merger with Gray Motorsports for 2014, though the two teams have already begun working together.

“The car is running consistent,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not flying but it’s consistent. We’re going to have a long, hard day cut out for us tomorrow. It’s the last race day of the year. Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day for me, both on the track and off the track.”

Enders-Stevens’ future is uncertain, pending sponsorship for next season, but that uncertainty has made her more determined than ever to put in a good showing on Sunday.

“I am determined,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m determined because my future is uncertain, and I’ve got a lot to prove tomorrow.”

Gray, who qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.567 seconds at 211.33 mph, moved ahead of Enders-Stevens in the Pro Stock points standings after his victory in Las Vegas, but she could still finish as high as second with a good Sunday.

“We’re going to practice what we preach and remain positive and optimistic about race day,” Enders-Stevens said. “First round with Shane Gray is crucial. I need to get my ground back. We’ll do our best tomorrow and see what happens.”

Pomona is one of Enders-Stevens’ favorite tracks, and she has enjoyed a fun weekend so far. On Friday night, she participated in the Night of Champions at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum, spending quality time with drag racing legends Tommy Ivo and Bob Muravez.

“It’s been a good weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “Good friends, good wine, good racing. I got to see the museum and pay my Jr. Dragster a visit. I got to hang out with some legends last night and that was exciting. It’s been a fun weekend, and I’m trying to soak it all in.

“This is one of the only tracks where Pro Stock gets to come back down the return road in front of the stands, so I’ve been trying to soak all that in. I know how quickly it can all disappear. It’s been a good weekend so far.”

Eliminations at the NHRA Finals get under way at 11 a.m. PST on Sunday. ESPN2 will air eliminations starting at 7 p.m. EST.

Enders-Stevens hopes to close season in Pomona’s victory lane

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6) – The best way for Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens to close out the 2013 Pro Stock season would be to win the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway.

Enders-Stevens has two victories in 2013, including one during the Countdown to the Championship. She won’t win the Pro Stock title this season, but she and her Cagnazzi Racing team made a good run in NHRA’s playoffs.

“That would be the best way to close this chapter of 2013,” Enders-Stevens said of a Pomona win. “I’m excited that the Husky Liners guys will be there, and I’m so appreciative of them stepping up to the plate to allow us to compete for the championship. I’m hopeful we can end the year on a really great note. We’ll do our best and let God do the rest.”

Enders-Stevens is sixth in the Pro Stock standings and can finish as high as second. She has raced to five final rounds and has one No. 1 qualifier. So far in the Countdown, she has won at least one round in all five races and scored a victory in St. Louis.

“The year has really flown by,” Enders-Stevens said. “Every time we come back to Pomona in November, it’s incredible how fast the year has passed.

“I’m excited to go back. We’ve always qualified well in Pomona and hopefully that trend continues. The guys have been working hard at the new engine shop, and we’ll see what SoCal has in store for us.”

Enders-Stevens would love to add a Pomona victory to her resume, as she appreciates the history of Auto Club Raceway.

“I do love racing in Pomona,” Enders-Stevens said. “And every time I’m back there, I remember the first time I pulled around the corner from the staging lanes in a Pro Stock car. I think of that and it’s very humbling and surreal and exciting.”

Plus, Enders-Stevens always makes a visit to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum next door to the racetrack.

“It’s where my first Jr. Dragster is,” Enders-Stevens said, “so I’ll go by the museum and tell her hello.”

Enders-Stevens is scheduled to make an appearance on KTLA 5 Morning News with Allie Mac Kay on Friday morning and will also be part of the Night of Champions at the museum on Friday night.

Qualifying for the Auto Club NHRA Finals gets under way at 1:45 p.m. PDT on Thursday from Auto Club Raceway and continues at 1:45 p.m. on Friday and 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. Eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 2:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 7 p.m.

Husky Liners driver Enders-Stevens runs out of luck in second round

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 27) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners Pro Stock team didn’t have the best of luck in the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, falling in the second round to points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., but of the drivers in front of her coming into the race, only Coughlin got past the second round, and he lost in the semifinals.

“If there’s a positive to it, at least the rest of the guys in front of me are out, too, so they can’t spread the gap,” Enders-Stevens said. “We can go to Pomona (Calif.) and finish as high as second. We just have to do a good job. It’s not over until it’s over.”

Enders-Stevens exits Las Vegas sixth in the points standings, but she’ll be 68 points out of second place with one race remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

She started Sunday with a rematch from the first round in Reading, but Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team were again up to the challenge against Buddy Perkinson. Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.650 seconds at 207.53 mph to take out Perkinson’s 6.664 at 208.04 mph.

Enders-Stevens’ pass matched the second-quickest run of the round, but she still didn’t have lane choice against Coughlin. He then went low in Round 2 with a run of 6.659 seconds at 207.15 mph to outrun Enders-Stevens’ 6.670 at 206.35 mph.

“I knew we’d be within a hundredth of him as far as performance goes,” Enders-Stevens said. “He was .060 on the Tree first round, and I knew he’d get up on the wheel for the second round. We talked about it, and I knew I needed to get up on the wheel but I just missed it.

“I don’t miss it often and neither does he. He missed first round, and I missed second round. It stinks it wasn’t reversed.”

Enders-Stevens had a .028-second reaction time in Round 1 and a .053 against Coughlin. He was nearly reverse with a .060 in the first round and .026 in the second.

“That was a huge round,” Enders-Stevens said. “If we had beaten Jeg there, things would have fallen a lot differently the rest of the day here and then in Pomona (Calif.). Everybody in front of us went out, and had I beat Jeg we would’ve been able to close the gap. It’s just one of those deals.”

Still Enders-Stevens is all smiles about her performance in the Countdown with one race remaining in the season. She has one victory and one No. 1 qualifier to go with a semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal showings in five races.

Enders-Stevens was in the top half in Vegas, qualifying No. 6, and had one of the cars to beat.

“My team did a good job,” Enders-Stevens said. “We got down the track every time. We’re doing the best we can, and we’ll just have to pick up and go to Pomona and race our guts out. I knew I could do it and they can, too. Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend in Pomona and finish second in the points.”

Cagnazzi Racing was competing for the first time since the announcement of a merger between Cagnazzi and Gray Motorsports for the 2014 season and beyond. Under the Gray Motorsports umbrella, engine development for both the Pro Stock and Cagnazzi’s successful COPO Camaro Stock Eliminator programs will take place at the Gray Motorsports facility in Denver, N.C., and chassis development for both will take place in Victor Cagnazzi’s facility in nearby Mooresville.

The new Gray Motorsports team is currently seeking support for a three-car team to include drivers Shane Gray, Enders-Stevens, and Dave Connolly.

Gray won the Las Vegas race by beating Vieri Gaines in the final round.

The team’s next event will be the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 7-10 in Pomona.

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