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Enders-Stevens bursts back on Pro Stock scene with No. 4 qualifying effort

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CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 14) – Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens hasn’t shown any rust in her return to Pro Stock racing, grabbing the No. 4 qualifying spot for the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals on Saturday at zMax Dragway.

Enders-Stevens missed six of the last eight races because her Cagnazzi Racing team was sidelined, but Husky Liners joined the team as a marketing partner for the Countdown to the Championship. Charlotte is the opening race to NHRA’s playoffs, and Enders-Stevens is right in the middle of the title hunt.

“The car’s running really well,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a great run this morning and we were on a really good run this afternoon. That’s promising for tomorrow, especially since we’re getting off the starting line.”

Enders-Stevens, ninth in the points standings, had a top pass of 6.546 seconds at 211.83 mph in the third qualifying session. She was solid in her other runs, but the Q4 pass was aborted when her Camaro darted out of the groove.

“I’m pleased with how the car’s running,” Enders-Stevens said. “That gives me confidence going into tomorrow. The conditions will be similar to what they were today, and I think tomorrow is going to be a driver’s race. It’s a really tight field, and everybody seems to be running well. We’ll see how it goes and keep a positive attitude.

“We want to do well, not only because it’s the first race of the Countdown but for Husky Liners, too. We’re so blessed they stepped up, and we want to make them proud.”

Fans at zMax have been good to the popular driver, as crowds have gathered around her pit area all weekend to see her again.

“The fans have welcomed me back with open arms,” Enders-Stevens said. “A lot of them have said, ‘Welcome back. We’re glad you’re back.’ I haven’t stopped smiling all weekend. It’s been great.”

She wants it to continue into Sunday, when she’ll kick off eliminations against Rodger Brogdon, who qualified No. 13 with a lap of 6.594 seconds at 210.64 mph.

“Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ll all have to be on our game, and I’m excited about our chances.”

Eliminations begin at noon EDT on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 3:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 8:30 p.m. later that night.

Enders-Stevens, Husky Liners ready to race for NHRA title

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 10) – Erica Enders-Stevens is certainly counting her blessings now that Husky Liners has given her an opportunity to return to her Cagnazzi Racing Pro Stock Camaro, but the five-time NHRA winner wants to do more than race: She wants to win the 2013 championship.

With new title sponsorship from Husky Liners, Enders-Stevens will compete in the Countdown to the Championship, which begins with this weekend’s sixth annual Carlyle Tools NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

“We’re excited and optimistic about the weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re so blessed to have Husky Liners on the side of the car.”

Enders-Stevens missed six of 18 regular season races because of sponsorship issues but had such a strong season that she still qualified for NHRA’s playoffs. She won a race and reached the final at three others during the regular season to earn the No. 9 seed in the Countdown.

“Everyone knows we’ve got a great team and a great car and really good horsepower,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and giving the guys a run for their money.”

Her Cagnazzi Racing team returns with Tommy Utt and Dave Connolly serving as crew chiefs. The Victor Cagnazzi-owned team is based in Mooresville, N.C., not far from zMax Dragway, though the team is still looking for its first win at its home track.

“Starting off the Countdown at our team’s home track in Charlotte is going to be important,” Enders-Stevens said. “We certainly have a lot of test runs there, and the last time through this spring we runner-upped. We’ve had a lot of success there, and we’ll see if we can finally get it done at zMax. It’s the only track left on the tour where Cagnazzi Racing hasn’t won.

“To be able to do that this weekend would be awesome, but we’re going to take it one day at a time, one run at a time, and see how it goes.”

Enders-Stevens was fourth in the Pro Stock standings before her team missed six of the last eight races. In the interim, she drove in two ADRL Pro Mod races for Keith Haney Racing to stay sharp.

“I missed out on a lot of seat time but it’s like riding a bike, and I’m hungry and going after it,” Enders-Stevens said. “I went from a few days ago thinking we were going to sit out the Countdown, to now where we’ve got a real shot to chase the championship.

“We’re the underdog. I’m in the ninth position and we’ve got our work cut out for us, but if anybody can do it, we can. My guys are awesome.”

Enders-Stevens, Keith Haney Racing make improvements in Rockingham

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 8) – RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil driver Erica Enders-Stevens dropped a first-round matchup Sunday against the Pro Mod No. 1 qualifier, but her Keith Haney Racing team made marked progress during ADRL’s Dragstock X at Rockingham Dragway.

Pro Mod cars are notoriously difficult to get a handle on, and with a new, lighter driver they become more recalcitrant. But Haney, Lethal Acceleration’s Brandon Pesz, and the team made the right adjustments to allow Enders-Stevens to get down the track on two consecutive runs, including Sunday’s pass in hot, slick conditions.

“We’re making progress,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve been fighting the car for a few weeks, but we made a good run last night and then getting down a 135-degree racetrack today was a feat in itself. Of course we wanted to win, but we took a good swing at it.

“I’m proud of the team. We put our heads down and worked through it, and we won’t give up. It’s encouraging to improve like that.”

The team made an adjustment for Sunday’s hotter conditions, and Enders-Stevens made a clean pass of 4.161 seconds at 185.64 mph, but that wasn’t enough to overcome No. 1 qualifier Chris Rini’s pass of 3.954 at 189.26 mph.

Now, though, the team has something to build on for the ADRL season finale in Houston at Enders-Stevens’ home track.

“I look forward to maybe some more testing and then heading to Houston for the final ADRL race,” Enders-Stevens said. “Thanks to RacingJunk.com and Lucas Oil for helping us get here. I’m appreciative of Keith and all of his guys for the opportunity to drive their hot rod.”

Team owner Keith Haney, who failed to qualify for Sunday’s eliminations, was appreciative of Enders-Stevens and the attention the five-time NHRA Pro Stock winner brought to his team and sponsors.

“The crowd loved her,” Haney said. “She sold out all of her hats and we sold out of T-shirts. ADRL and Kenny Nowling made us feel so welcome. She was on the cover of the local paper here, which was pretty cool.

“We need to step back and regroup with my car and look at some of the things we’re doing. We need to get better.”

Enders-Stevens in at No. 16 after crazy day for Keith Haney Racing

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 7) – Keith Haney Racing experienced the gamut of emotions during qualifying for ADRL’s Dragstock X on Saturday at Rockingham Dragway.

For starters, team owner Keith Haney failed to qualify for the race in his RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil Camaro, but Haney then watched as his other car, the RacingJunk.com/Lucas Oil Camaro driven by Erica Enders-Stevens, bumped its way into the top 16 in the final qualifying session.

Enders-Stevens’ spot wasn’t secure, though, and she was knocked out of the field soon after her run. However, Tim Savell, one of the two drivers who moved her out of the top 16, crashed in his Q3 pass. Savell will be unable to make the call for Sunday’s eliminations, putting Enders-Stevens in the field at No. 16.

“I was excited that we could get the car from point A to point B,” Enders-Stevens said of her Q3 pass, which was 4.071 seconds at 187.08 mph. “So far that’s my quickest run in the car: 187 mph is pretty dang good in an eighth of a mile. I’m really excited for the team.”

But then her heart sank when two cars went quicker and then sunk even more when Savell hit the wall after his pass.

“All the excitement went out the window when Tim crashed because we wanted to make sure he was all right,” Enders-Stevens said. “Being a new driver in Pro Mod, that’s not exactly something I like to see: a veteran crashing. It goes to show what a challenge these cars are to handle.

“But at the end of the day, we’re all safe and we get to race on Sunday. That’s what’s important for our team.”

Haney, unfortunately, was unable to get his Camaro down the track in Saturday’s three qualifying sessions, as he was struck by different issues in each run,

“It was a tough day for both of us but it was probably tougher for me,” said Haney, who failed to qualify for the first time this season. “The first one we shook, and the second one we blew the tires off. We had a mistake by the driver, but we blew the tires right off the hit, so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been dead on my game. Then the last pass we had a team malfunction, and I sounded like a popcorn machine going down the racetrack because I didn’t have enough nitrous.”

After Haney disappointingly crawled out of his car, he watched for Enders-Stevens’ run, which was a solid pass.

“I’m jumping up and down and Rickie Smith goes, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Haney said. “I said, ‘She went down the racetrack.’ I saw the chutes come out and said, ‘Oh, yeah! I don’t know what she ran but yeah!’

“I’m jumping up and down, don’t know what the heck to do. I’m ticked off because I’m not in, but I’m happier than hell and hoping she’s in.”

Enders-Stevens, too, was happy with the run but hopes to improve on Sunday against No. 1 qualifier Chris Rini, whose best lap was 3.876 seconds at 190.59 mph.

“We got back to our baseline with this car,” Enders-Stevens said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to tune from there for tomorrow. There’s no reason why we can’t run better. That Q3 run felt really soft. They can definitely hop it up a little bit and hopefully tomorrow is a good day. We have to face the No. 1 qualifier, but I’ve seen stranger things happen on Sunday. We’ll go in with a positive outlook and see what we can do.”

Enders-Stevens will race for NHRA title with new sponsor Husky Liners

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WINFIELD, Kan. (Sept. 6) – One of the most popular drag racers on the NHRA tour, Erica Enders-Stevens, will run for the 2013 championship with new title sponsorship from Husky Liners.

Enders-Stevens successfully qualified for the Countdown to the Championship two races ago in Brainerd, Minn., but was facing the prospect of watching the six-race playoffs from the sidelines until team owner Victor Cagnazzi struck an eleventh-hour deal with Husky Liners founder Bob Tyler.

“This is very exciting for us,” Tyler said. “There’s not a lot of things you can do that can make an instant impact on your sales, but we know that vehicle sales are on the upswing and this is the time of year that historically we do pretty well. To have Erica and Cagnazzi Racing promoting our line of Made In America products now is just an unbelievable opportunity for us.”

Cagnazzi and Tyler got together at the recently completed U.S. Nationals in Indy when the two COPO Camaros they own met in the final of the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown with drivers Dave Connolly and Todd Patterson going head-to-head. It was the second year in a row the two drivers met in the money round.

“We got to talking about Erica and I told Victor I felt she’s someone that should be out there,” Tyler said. “She’s so good for the sport. Of course, we’re always interested in getting more exposure for Husky Liners, so after a few texts back and forth we struck this deal. I think it’s going to be great. I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

Enders-Stevens certainly has proven herself a worthy title contender. She qualified for the Countdown despite missing six of the 18 regular-season races due to funding issues, winning her fifth career title during the Phoenix stop and taking runner-up honors in Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Bristol, Tenn.

“I can’t believe how fortunate we are that Mr. Tyler and his company have signed on to support us,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s pretty crazy because I’m a Texas girl and in high school I had a 4×4 pickup truck that had floor mats and mud flaps from Husky Liners. Their stuff is awesome. I know from first-hand experience.

“The guys are super pumped. This has given us new life, for sure. I think everyone in the class knows what we’re capable of doing and at the same time we know what it takes to compete at this level. We all kind of feel like we need to make a statement, and winning some races and contending for the championship would say a lot about us. We went to the final in Charlotte last time through, and that’s the home track for Victor Cagnazzi Racing, so we hope to get off to a fast start. We’ll be ready.

“I encourage everyone that supports drag racing and my team to go to HuskyLiners.com and check out their products. And when they order something, tell them thanks for the support. Sponsors are so hard to get, and I want to make sure these guys get their money’s worth from us.”

The team will unveil their Husky Liners Chevrolet Camaro Sept. 13-15 at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at zMAX Dragway.

Keith Haney Racing, Enders-Stevens ready to rock at ADRL Dragstock X

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Sept. 5) – A recent test session has Keith Haney and Erica Enders-Stevens pumped about ADRL Dragstock X this weekend at Rockingham Dragway.

Haney and Enders-Stevens tested Keith Haney Racing’s Chevrolet Camaro at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park last week, with Enders-Stevens testing two days in the black Racing Junk/Lucas Oil Camaro and Haney one in the Lucas Oil Chevy.
Keith Haney and Erica Enders-Stevens will team to race at Dragstock X.

“After adjusting chassis and making corrections on a lot of the nitrous setup, we finally did really well,” Haney said. “We found a couple of issues that we had in the black car. We believe we’ve fixed the issues from Memphis (Tenn.), so we obviously found a lot of things in the test that will allow us to do real well at The Rock.”

Haney said wiring issues with Enders-Stevens’ car were causing some problems, but once those were discovered crew chief Brandon Pesz of Lethal Acceleration was able to put in a solid tune-up.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in the car,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re getting closer with the setup. It’s always a challenge with a new driver and having to move weight around to get the car optimized for the best performance, but the test session definitely helped.

“Having Racing Junk on the car is pretty cool, too. I know how hard it is to get sponsorship these days, so for them to come on board is a feather in Keith’s cap. We’re excited to run well for them this weekend.”

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Enders-Stevens made her first appearance in a nitrous race car in Memphis last month, though she lost in the first round. Expectations are higher this time around.

“I’m excited,” Enders-Stevens said. “I wasn’t nervous the first run of the test session. I feel a lot better in the car, and I’ve gotten acquainted with the car. As a driver that is always helpful when it comes time to go racing.”

Enders-Stevens certainly knows Rockingham Dragway, as she has tested there for years while racing in NHRA Pro Stock.

“That is our home test track for Pro Stock,” said Enders-Stevens, a five-time winner in the ultra-competitive NHRA class. “I’ve been testing there for the last 10 years, at least a few times a year. I’m very familiar with the track and the personnel. It was one of ADRL’s biggest events in the past, so I’m looking forward to a packed house this weekend.”

Enders-Stevens’ appearances in ADRL has drawn plenty of attention for the league, Keith Haney Racing, and its sponsors: Lucas Oil, Pro Torque, Racing Junk, Five Star Bodies, Monroe Guest Motorsports, Regional Hyundai, Suburban Chevrolet, Classic Chevrolet, Miami Chevrolet Buick GMC, Nissan of Muskogee, and Tulsa Raceway Park.

Haney also sends a special thank-you to Kenny Nowling and the ADRL for the support he and the league have given Haney and Enders-Stevens.

“She’s a lot more confident,” Haney said of Enders-Stevens. “We were real happy with the whole test session. We had Brandon Pesz from Lethal Acceleration just concentrating on her and I and it went real well. We’re real excited about it.

“We’re going in with a chance to win. That’s what matters.”

Haney and Enders-Stevens will test on Friday in Rockingham, with three rounds of qualifying on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday.

Enders-Stevens returns to Keith Haney Racing for final two ADRL races

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TULSA, Okla. (Aug. 25) – Drag racing star Erica Enders-Stevens will be back in Keith Haney Racing’s Pro Mod Camaro for the final two ADRL events of the 2013 season, team owner Keith Haney announced on Sunday.

Enders-Stevens will race in Dragstock X on Sept. 6-8 at Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, N.C., and then in her hometown event, the World Finals IX, on Oct. 19-20 at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. Brandon Pesz of Lethal Acceleration will continue as crew chief.

Enders-Stevens, a native of Houston, raced for Haney in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this month,
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marking the first time she drove a nitrous-powered race car. The five-time NHRA winner qualified for this year’s Countdown to the Championship in Pro Stock, but her Cagnazzi Racing team has been sidelined because of lack of sponsorship.

“I’m really excited to have been invited back to drive for Keith,” Enders-Stevens said. “That was a really fun opportunity in Memphis, and given some more time in the car it will only get better. I’m glad to be going back.”

Haney, Enders-Stevens’ car owner and teammate, was overwhelmed by the response she got in Memphis, giving additional exposure to Keith Haney Racing sponsors Lucas Oil, Pro Torque, Racing Junk, Monroe Guest Motorsports, Regional Hyundai, Suburban Chevrolet, Classic Chevrolet, Miami Chevrolet Buick GMC, Nissan of Muskogee, and Tulsa Raceway Park.

“It was really, really good for her and good for Sportsman racing,” Haney said. “It was amazing for us, too. We just keep growing.”

Haney hopes to continue capitalizing on Enders-Stevens’ popularity through social media and fan interaction.

“It’s good for the sport,” Haney said. “It’s good for Keith Haney Racing, it’s good for our sponsors.”

Plus, it’s good for the ADRL, and league co-founder Kenny Nowling knows it. He offered the team free entry and free testing for Enders-Stevens’ appearances in the remaining ADRL races.

It’s also good for Enders-Stevens, who loves racing in Houston. After the race in Memphis, she immediately inquired about racing again for Haney.

“She got out of the race car and said, ‘I’d love to drive again,’ ” Haney said. “I said, ‘OK. What race would you like to drive?’ She said, ‘I’d like to drive in my hometown.’ ”

Houston has always been special for her, as it was the site of her first national event victory, in Super Gas in 2004.

“I’m so glad to be going back home,” Enders-Stevens said. “We raced there in April and didn’t have the best of showings, so to be able to have another opportunity in a car with twice the horsepower is really cool. I’m looking forward to it.”

As an added bonus, husband Richie Stevens will be part of Haney’s crew in Rockingham.

Pro Stock winner Enders-Stevens to drive for Keith Haney Racing in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 31) – Five-time NHRA Pro Stock winner Erica Enders-Stevens will drive for Keith Haney Racing in this weekend’s ADRL Memphis Drags IV at Memphis International Raceway. Led by team manager John Collins, Keith Haney Racing will compete in the Pro Modified class in Memphis, with Enders-Stevens and Haney driving Chevrolet Camaros.

“It’s good for Keith Haney Racing to have a racer of Erica’s caliber sitting in the seat of one of the cars,” Haney said. “It’s big for me and big for her. She stays in front of the public eye with her stature and her reputation, and she gets to deliver to her fans and potential sponsors.

“My team couldn’t be more excited, and it’s a perfect fit for what we’re doing.”

Haney has ties to NHRA Pro Stock racing through fellow Oklahoman Mike Edwards, and several Pro Stock teams test at Tulsa Raceway Park, co-owned by Haney and Todd Martin.

Enders-Stevens, who won the NHRA Pro Stock race in Phoenix earlier this year, has been sidelined because of a lack of funding for the Cagnazzi Racing team, so when Haney asked if she could drive for him in Memphis, she jumped at the chance.

“He sent me an text telling me I could drive his Pro Mod car in Memphis if I wanted to,” Enders-Stevens said. “I wrote him back with one word, ‘Seriously?’ ”

Haney was serious, and after the two talked and Enders-Stevens got approval from Pro Stock car owner Victor Cagnazzi, the deal was done.

“It’s a competitive car, and Keith has a first-class operation,” Enders-Stevens said. “I remember being at ADRL races last year when Richie (Stevens, husband) was driving Extreme Pro Stock and just admiring how awesome his cars looked. Those two Camaros he has are really nice cars.

“I’m appreciative to Keith for the opportunity, and I’m excited to see what the weekend holds.”

Haney, a driver/owner in ADRL and X-DRL, was looking for a driver since regular shoe Monroe Guest had shoulder surgery. When he first considered Enders-Stevens, he called Lethal Acceleration co-owner Brandon Pesz, who tunes Haney’s race cars.

“She’s good on the Tree and she can drive a race car,” Haney said. “Brandon has known her since she was little, and he’s from Texas. I called him first and said, ‘Hey, if I offer Erica a ride in the car, what do you think?’ He said, ‘Get her in it. She can wheel any type of race car.’

“It’s a one-race deal, and I’m sure she’ll be back in a Pro Stock car very soon, but for now Keith Haney Racing is fortunate enough to have a five-time national event winner wheeling one of its Camaros.”

Enders-Stevens is ready for the challenge, too.

“I’ve never driven a Pro Mod car, never driven a nitrous car,” Enders-Stevens said. “It will definitely be a learning experience, and I’m sure the learning curve is significant, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

“I’m going into it with an open mind. I give speeches to kids about following their dreams, jumping on every opportunity possible and not letting fear stand in the way of anything they do. I’m taking my own advice in this instance. I’m a professional race car driver, and I’ll do the best I can. We’ll see what happens.”

Haney has the backing of Lucas Oil, a longtime supporter of his race team, as the two companies have worked together for many years. Haney uses Lucas Oil products in his race cars, and the company co-owned by Forrest and Charlotte Lucas has been a big proponent of Pro Mod racing.

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