Enders’ GK Motorsports gang named sport’s ‘Hard-Working Crew’

cagnazzi-hard-working-crew.jpgHOLLYWOOD, CA — KLR Group driver Erica Enders’ GK Motorsports team repeated as the Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Award winners for the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class, earning the honor at the NHRA Awards Ceremony Monday night at the Grand Ballroom of the Hollywood & Highland Center.

Enders’ team was nominated for its performance in guiding her to an historic victory July 1 in Joliet, Ill. Enders became the first woman to won a Pro Stock race when he beat Greg Anderson in the final of the Route 66 Raceway.

ESPN’s crew determines the Hard-Working Crew for each national event. After the late October race in Las Vegas, four teams from each of the four professional categories were announced as finalists for the award, and fans voted on the winner.

“Back-to-back is awesome,” Enders said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. They are the reason why we have four trophies on our shelves this year. They work their tails off every day and spend a lot of time away from their families. They deserve this award a lot.”

Led by sponsor Gaston Kearby and team owner Victor Cagnazzi, the GK Motorsports team is comprised of crew chiefs Tommy Utt and Dave Connolly and crew members, Todd Bevis, Johnny Utt, Rich Saulino, Wayne “Turbo” Hasenmayer and Dan Duncan.

The team received a $15,000 check Monday night for winning the award.

“They do need the spotlight,” Enders said. “At the end of the day, I’m the one who gets a microphone shoved in my face when in all reality, all I did was drive the thing. Yeah, that’s a challenging job and you’ve got to be really good at it. But they’re the ones who make it happen. You can be the best driver in the world, but without a good, solid group of people behind you, you’ll go nowhere. I’m really blessed to have them.”

Enders finished her best season as a pro on Sunday when she ended up fourth in the Pro Stock points standings. She won four times, including back-to-back wins at Seattle and Brainerd, reached the final round seven times and won two No. 1 qualifiers.

History-making year a career-best one for Enders

POMONA, CA — KLR Group driver Erica Enders hopes to repeat next year what her good friend Allen Johnson did this year.

In 2011, Johnson finished fourth in the Pro Stock points standings. This year? Johnson won the championship.

Enders finished fourth in the 2012 title race and is pumped to get next season started so she can try to complete the second half of Johnson’s accomplishment.

“We’ve got a great organization, a great team, great horsepower,” Enders said. “Next year is only going to be better. I’m really excited to get home for a few days, take a deep breath and then start testing as soon as we get back from my honeymoon.”

Enders ended 2012 with a semifinal appearance in the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway on Sunday. She had a career season, winning four races and grabbing two No. 1 qualifiers all while posting her best finish in the points standings.

Plus, after she became the first woman to win in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class – in Chicago on July 1 – boyfriend Richie Stevens proposed. Enders’ wedding is December 7, after which she will honeymoon in Hawaii.

“It’s been a great year,” Enders said.

She qualified No. 5 in Pomona and won two rounds to run her season won-loss record to 38-19. Enders beat Shane Gray in the first round, leaving first with a .020-second reaction time and then making a pass of 6.517 seconds at 212.26 mph. Gray slowed to a run of 11.826 at 75.25 mph.

Enders had another solid light in the second round against V Gaines, .022, and made a pass of 6.528 seconds at 212.43 mph, getting the victory when Gaines tripped the red light.

That matched her up against Vincent Nobile, when she maintained her consistency on the Christmas Tree with a .023-second reaction time. But Nobile got to the line first after a pass of 6.543 at 211.49 mph, beating Enders’ lap of 6.542 at 211.86 mph.

The semifinal finish was her 11th in 22 races to go along with seven final-round appearances. Her best previous finish in the points standings was sixth last year.

“I expected more – at the risk of sounding unappreciative,” Enders said. “But this is our livelihood, this is what we do, how we make our living. We had our sights set higher than where we finished, but at the same time, we finished ahead a lot of big names.

“I’d hoped to finish the year on a little bit higher note, but any way you look at it, this year has been tremendous. I’ve got a great group of people around me, and for that I’m really thankful.”

Her GK Motorsports team is a finalist for the NHRA Full Throttle Hard Working Crew award which will be given out at the NHRA Awards Ceremony on Monday night. Enders’ team won the award last year.