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Erica Enders misses out on third final round of season by .006 seconds in Tennessee

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

BRISTOL, TN — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders came up two feet short of what would have been her third final-round appearance of the 2017 season after a close semifinal contest with class points leader Bo Butner Sunday afternoon at Bristol Dragway.

After beating Alan Prusiensky and one of her Elite Motorsports’ teammates, Vincent Nobile, earlier in the day, Enders got a .007-second jump on Butner in their race and held the lead until somewhere around halftrack when the winner of the Houston and Atlanta races passed her and inched away to take the finish line stripe by .006 seconds.

“I definitely had a car that could win today and I feel like I let my guys down a little bit, unfortunately,” said Enders, who won Epping and was runner-up in Atlanta. “All we needed was for me to be six-thou (.006 seconds) better on the tree to beat Bo but I was only .026. I still left first but I didn’t do my job behind the wheel good enough to get us the win.

“This one’s on me because I didn’t kill it on the starting line and I can tell you it stings pretty good but now I’m gonna brew on it and get pissed off enough that I’ll drive my butt off next weekend in Norwalk. We want another win as soon as possible and Norwalk is next on the schedule.”

The official numbers had Butner winning with a 6.732 at 205.44 mph to Enders’ 6.745 at 205.01 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

“Bo’s been great all year that’s why he’s No. 1 in the points,” Enders said. “To be the best we need to beat the best and we had a good chance right there. Congrats to him and his team. We’ll be looking for them next time.”

Enders day started with a fairly pedestrian victory over Alan Prusiensky. She earned a .060-second head-start with a superior reaction time and never looked back, driving away for the win with a 6.742 at 205.38 mph to Prusiensky’s 6.807 at 203.61 mph.

After losing to good friend Nobile the last time they raced in the opening round at Topeka, Enders managed to improve this year’s head-to-head record against the New Yorker to 3-1 with a come-from-behind win of 6.761 seconds at 204.88 mph to Nobile’s tire-shaking 16.442 at 49.55 mph.

“All of these Elite Motorsports cars are running well,” Enders said. “Alex Laughlin is the last one standing and he’s got Bo in the final so we’ll be pulling for him. Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) was No. 1 qualifier here and I had to race Vincent in the quarterfinals but it was cool to see four Elite cars as part of the final eight today. We’ll be seeing a lot more of that every race.”

The final race of four-in-a-row is up next with next weekend’s 11th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. FOX Sports 1 will air the Bristol race beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET, Sunday.

Just days removed from Epping victory, Erica Enders takes dead aim at Bristol crown

Erica Enders | NHRA Thunder Valley Bristol 2017

BRISTOL, TN — Two-time drag racing world champion Erica Enders celebrated her 22nd national event win less than two weeks ago in Epping, N.H., and the sport’s most prolific female Pro Stock driver is geared up to repeat the feat after qualifying a lofty third in the field of the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Enders coaxed a very competitive 6.704-second quarter-mile pass at 205.66 mph out of her car in the cooler Friday evening qualifying session to lock up her third-best starting spot of the year. The only time she’s qualified better in 2017 was when she earned the No. 2 spot in Charlotte and Epping.

“The whole Elite Motorsports team is looking great this weekend, and really has been for the last several events,” Enders said. “I’m No. 3, my teammate Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) is on the pole, my other teammate Vincent (Nobile) is No. 6, and Alex (Laughlin, fourth team member) is No. 8 so we have half of the top-side of the field. I’d say that’s pretty darn good.

“My new favorite saying is that ‘I’d put my money on us every time,’ and I sure feel that way right now. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and certainly no one is going to give us anything, but I like our chances.”

As the No. 3 qualifier in 13-car field, the modified elimination ladder will have Enders racing Alan Prusiensky in the opening round of Sunday’s eliminations. Prusiensky qualified 12th on the grid with a best pass of 6.786 at 202.79 mph. Enders, who is 2-0 against Prusiensky this year, will have the advantage of lane choice.

“Our Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro has been running across the top of the timing sheets just about every round here,” Enders said. “We also have the ability to look at Jeg’s, Vincent’s and Alex’s runs as well so I’m sure Rick (Jones, crew chief) will cook up something competitive for tomorrow.

“We’re a true team. It’s the way our team owner Richard Freeman said it would be and he always does what he says. I always want to win but I’m also pulling for my teammates. If one of us goes out early, the crew guys all go and help the other teams so we can give it our best effort every time.

“I won Epping two weeks ago and I was runner-up in Atlanta. Vincent was runner-up last weekend in Englishtown. Jeg was runner-up in Houston and Topeka. I’d say we’ve had a really strong first half of the year and it’s only going to get better.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air all the action at 6:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

“I’ve won two Father’s Day races for my dad (in 2014 and 2015) and it would be great to give him another Wally this time through,” Enders said. “I’ll certainly do all I can.”

Erica Enders eager to go racing at her all-time favorite track — Bristol Dragway

Erica Enders | NHRA Thunder Valley 2017 Preview

BRISTOL, TN – Like with most things in life, people have favorites. Some may have a favorite pizza joint, while others may have a favorite golf course they like to play. Most times these favorite places are special to a person for a reason unique to them.

Bristol Dragway is one of those favorite places for two-time world champion NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders. This weekend as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competes in the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Enders will be at her favorite race track with high hopes of even more success at the picturesque quarter-mile.

In her back-to-back championship years of 2014 and 2015, the feisty 33-year-old driver of the Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro took home Wallys from the Thunder Valley Nationals. That stat in itself is enough to make a track near and dear to her heart, but she also has two runner-up finishes (2013 and 2011) and a No. 1 qualifying effort in 2015 at Bristol Dragway.

“Bristol is my favorite track on tour and I’m not saying that because we are going there this weekend, it just is,” Enders said. “I’ve had a lot of success there in the past and we are looking to carry our momentum from our win in Epping on through to Bristol and just do the best we can.”

Two weekends ago in Epping, N.H., the Houston native, broke through for her first win since the 2015 fall race in Las Vegas. Even though she and her team struggled to continue their ascension back to the top of the Pro Stock elite last weekend in Englishtown, N.J., the New Orleans resident sees their setback only as an anomaly.

“We continue to feel like we’re on the rise,” Enders said. “Throw E-town out the window because that track was in really bad shape. The starting line was completely bald and it was freshly ground when we showed up with the worst grind job we’ve ever seen. If you look at the Pro Stock field collectively, from 1-10 was one hundredth of a second apart so the starting line was a huge equalizer. You couldn’t be aggressive at all down low, you just had to kinda baby it through low gear to get it to go down the race track. Like I said, I don’t think our performance this past weekend is indicative of what we are capable of at all.”

It’s said of the atmospheric conditions in East Tennessee, “Don’t like the weather now, just wait five minutes.” With a moving target as far as the weather goes, Enders knows getting the right tune-up in her Elite Motorsports Camaro will be a thorny proposition.

“You know it will probably be hot and tricky there,” Enders said. “Bristol also has a few bumpy spots so it will definitely be a survival-of-the-fittest type weekend. It’s okay because like I always say, I’ll put my money on us every time.”

The Pro Stock racers hit the track Friday with two qualifying sessions at 5 and 7:30 p.m. They return for two more qualifying sessions Saturday at 1 and 3:30 p.m. First round of eliminations began Sunday at 1 p.m. NHRA TV coverage on Fox FS1 includes original Bristol programming on Friday at 8 p.m., on Saturday at 11 p.m., and on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (Times are local and subject to change.)

Epping winner Erica Enders racing for back-to-back victories in Pro Stock

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 10) — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders will begin her quest for back-to-back victories on the NHRA tour out of the No. 9 position in the elimination field of the 48th annual NHRA Summernationals. Enders coaxed a best of 6.598 at 210.54 mph out of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in the fourth and final qualifying session.

“We ran our best pass in the final round so we finally have this thing working right this weekend,” Enders said. “It’s crazy how you can go from one race to the next and the car reacts so differently but that’s the way it’s been for us. God bless my crew guys because they have worked extremely hard this weekend to get us straight.”

Because there are only 14 Pro Stock cars on the property, the usual 16-car elimination ladder has been modified, pitting Enders against her Elite Motorsports teammate, No. 6 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr., who had a best pass of 6.589 seconds at 210.64 mph.

“You never want to race your teammate unless it’s in the finals,” Enders said. “Jeggie has been good all year and we obviously know what that JEGS.com car can do, even in the heat here this weekend. Both of us are very close as far as our qualifying times go so it should be a driver’s race. We’ll see who gets bragging rights for the next few days.

“We’ve had a different kind of weekend so far. Q1 I had a really crazy burnout but I kept my foot in it because we didn’t want to lose the round. We ended up running a 6.63. In Q2 the thing shook really hard so I had to give up the run. Today it was hotter but we closed in on the tune-up with a 6.61 and then the 6.59. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Interestingly, despite Old Bridge Township Raceway Park being one of her favorite tracks, Enders has only raced as far as the semifinals on just one occasion here. She’ll try to remedy that stat Sunday.

“Yeah, I’m not sure why we’ve struggled here, even in my championship years,” Enders said. “It’s just been one of those tracks for us, but it doesn’t mean anything. We’ve had other tracks where we thought the same thing but then we go there and win so over time we know these things work themselves out.

“Right now we’re focused on improving what we did in qualifying and we think there is room to do that so we’re excited.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will feature live elimination coverage from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Sunday. There also will be an elimination show running from 6-7:30 p.m., Sunday evening. (Times are local and subject to change.)

NHRA’s most recent winner, two-time champ Erica Enders, hungry for more

Erica Enders | NHRA New England Nationals 2017

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. — Fresh off her impressive victory Sunday afternoon in New Hampshire, two-time world champion Erica Enders is anxious to keep the ball rolling and score another win at this weekend’s 48th annual NHRA Summernationals.

“We’re all really excited coming off of the win in Epping,” Enders said. “It certainly gives all of us on this Elite Motorsports team a boost of confidence and everyone knows momentum is important in this game so we’ll see if we can carry it into E-town. I’m so ready to race; I wish qualifying started today.”

Enders drove like a true pro in Epping, beating reigning series champ Jason Line and red-hot Bo Butner with back-to-back holeshots to reach the 37th professional final of her career. With the trophy on the line, Enders dropped the hammer on rookie Tanner Gray and won going away, taking the stripe by six feet.

“I’m so proud of the way my team performed on race day,” Enders said. “We had quick turnarounds because of TV and a lot of work had to get done every round. I had Kyle (Bates) and Casey (Gardner) from my teammate Jeg Coughlin’s team jump right in and help us on Sunday. It was a real team effort to get to the winner’s circle.

“I think it’s so awesome that we have three different jerseys at Elite Motorsports but it’s truly one team. It’s a unique atmosphere to work in, for sure. I’m so blessed to be one of the drivers. Tough times don’t last but tough people do. That’s what we have at Elite. We are Elite for a reason.”

Prior to the start of the race on Wednesday afternoon, Enders and her sister Courtney Lambert will be the featured athletes at special event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The fete is a celebration of 25 years of Junior Dragster racing. The Enders sisters started their careers in the Junior Dragster ranks and were so successful that Disney made a movie entitled “Right On Track” about their time in the class.

“I’ve told the story many times but I can still clearly remember being in the garage with my dad when he was working on his hot rod and I flipped through the National Dragster on the work bench and read a story about Junior Dragsters,” Enders said. “I was like, ‘look Dad, kids as young as 8 years old can race these things! Can I get one?’ My life was pretty much changed forever that day.

“It’s so cool to see how popular Junior Dragsters have become and I am always so proud of the kids that come over to meet me and show me pictures of their dragsters. I’ve watched so many of them grow up over the years and it’s cool to see them year after year in the various towns where we race. I am forever indebted to the Junior Dragster series.”

Four Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Sudden-death eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will feature live coverage of Saturday’s qualifying action from 2-4 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination coverage from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Sunday. There also will be an elimination show running from 6-7:30 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change.)

Erica Enders returns to her winning ways with impressive Epping victory

Erica Enders | 2017 New England Nationals - Epping, NH

EPPING, NH — Erica Enders raced to her first victory of the electronic fuel injection era Sunday at New England Dragway with an impressive run through a gauntlet of 2017 winners in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. It was the two-time champion’s first win since the 2015 fall race in Las Vegas, a span of 35 national events.

“People always ask which win means the most and right now I can’t imagine one meaning more than this,” Enders said. “What a huge relief. What a special moment for all of us on this Elite Motorsports team. Money can buy a lot of things but you can’t buy the drive to win this group has inside them.

“This is for my crew. This is for Rick Jones, the best crew chief in the sport. This is for Richard Freeman (team owner) for never giving up on us. Other wins have meant other things, but this one will always be very special.”

Flashing the same driving prowess that earned her historic back-to-back Mello Yello titles in 2014 and 2015, as well as 15 victories during the same two-year stretch, Enders beat reigning world champion and Pomona winner Jason Line, Houston and Atlanta victor Bo Butner, and Las Vegas and Topeka titlist Tanner Gray to pick up her 22nd national event Wally.

After an unopposed opening round, Enders didn’t have the advantage of lane choice in her final three races, but she overcame the deficit with raw driving skill. Her wins over Line and Butner came via holeshots, meaning she used a better reaction time at the starting line to win those races, even though she posted slower elapsed times. By the final, the Elite team had their car in perfect trim, and she beat Gray from end to end.

“I didn’t want to give up anything today,” Enders said. “In fact, I wanted to have my best day behind the wheel that I’ve ever had. I have always prided myself on what I can do in the driver’s seat and today I feel like I gave it all I have. Aside from Round 1, it was a really tough battle every round.”

The day started with Enders getting an unexpected free pass after Round 1 opponent Shane Tucker failed to make the call due to an expired motor. She went on to run a 6.551 at 212.90 mph.

Enders then got a .014-second jump on Line at the start of their quarterfinal tilt but unexpectedly gave up the lead around the 330-foot timer. She then drove back around the champ at 1,000 feet and took the win by a scant nine inches. The final numbers showed Enders winning with a 6.574 at 212.09 mph to Line’s 6.562 at 211.53 mph.

“That ended up being the closest race of the day,” Enders said. “But at the time, as pumped up as you are, you know you’re only halfway to your goal.”

Another great reaction time of .008 seconds against Butner, who had a sluggish .046 light, earned Enders a second holeshot win in the semifinals, with her 6.553 at 212.73 mph putting her six feet ahead of Butner’s 6.533 at 212.33 mph.

“Bo beat us in the Atlanta final so I guess we’re even now,” Enders said. “He’s been so good all year. That was another huge round win right there because that team has been so strong.”

Digging deep with the trophy up for grabs, Enders improved to 2-0 versus Gray by winning their head-to-head finale straight up, leaving the starting line first and arriving at the finish line with a 6.534 at 213.16 mph to Gray’s trailing 6.550 at 212.06 mph.

“The feeling of seeing the win light come on is something that’s impossible to describe,” Enders said. “Even in 2015 when we won nine times, I still felt extremely blessed for every win we earned. It’s always going to be that way because it’s so hard to do.

“The entire Elite team is ready to explode. I hope this opens the flood gates and we start winning a bunch more. I know Jeg (Coughlin) and Vincent (Nobile, teammates) are anxious to get theirs as well.”

Up next is the 48th annual NHRA Summernationals, beginning Friday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

Current Elite Motorsports Camaro reminds Erica Enders of her two championship cars

Erica Enders | NHRA New England Nationals 2017

EPPING, NH — Erica Enders matched her provisional No. 1 qualifying effort from Friday night in Saturday’s first session at New England Dragway, running an identical 6.513-second elapsed time at a slight faster 213.16 mph to end up second in the elimination field of the fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals.

The impressive run, followed by a 6.518 at 212.69 mph in the final session, proves Enders’ Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro is a very consistent racecar. In fact, she says the reliability of her Rick Jones-built chassis reminds her a lot of the two cars she and her Elite crew used to win 15 nationals events and back-to-back Pro Stock world titles in 2014 and 2015.

“We’ve definitely got a consistent racecar on our hands,” Enders said. “Being consistent, and obviously very quick, is exactly how we won our two championships, so we are absolutely buzzing over here right now.

“Three runs all in the 6.51-second range says a lot about the horsepower Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston have been making back at the shop, and I give a bunch of credit to the guys for putting it all together this weekend. We are having fun and it feels great to know we are running at the top of the charts again.”

With only 14 cars in attendance this weekend, the modified elimination ladder has Enders lining up against Australian racer Shane Tucker, a longtime friend. Tucker maxed out with a 6.712 at 202.52, which placed him 13th on the race day grid. The two have not raced one another since 2014.

“Looking at the data briefly after the last run and comparing it to the two .513s we ran, Rick (Jones, crew chief) thinks there is more in it so we may be able to step it up tomorrow,” Enders said. “It’s supposed to be slightly warmer than today, more like what we had Friday, so we’ll prepare for what we expect to see and adjust from there.

“This program has been moving in the right direction all season and it hasn’t felt this good in a while so we’re all extremely happy. Now it’s time to go out there and execute. We were in the final two races ago (in Atlanta) and Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) was in the final at the last race in Topeka and also in Houston, so we’re due for a breakthrough win any time now.”

Coughlin and fellow Elite Motorsports driver Vincent Nobile are slated to race one another in Round 1, assuring at least one Elite car will advance to the quarterfinals. Should Enders and either Coughlin or Nobile win their first two elimination races, there could be an all-Elite semifinal battle for a spot in the finals.

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air elimination action beginning at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change).

Erica Enders grabs provisional No. 1 qualifying position in New England

Erica Enders | NHRA New England Nationals 2017

EPPING, NH — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders put herself in position to score her 19th career No. 1 qualifier should her blazing-quick 6.513-second pass at 213.03 mph from Friday evening carry through Saturday’s final two time trials at the fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals.

“You never take anything for granted but I have to say that I kind of forgot how exciting this is,” Enders said. “I’m so happy for my guys. We had a down year in 2016 after winning back-to-back championships but no one quit, no one stopped working hard. They all just kept chasing it and a day like today is a tribute to their hard work.

“I have to give it to Richard Freeman (team owner). He’s kept the group together, kept them motivated through the hard times. When faced with adversity, this team always rises to the top. Not one single part of racing is easy, but I’ve never been more determined to win again. I’m so blessed to be the driver of this racecar.”

It was a worst-to-first scenario for the Houston native as her early-shutoff 7.063 at 151.09 mph had left her at the bottom of the timing sheets. But the rebound was convincing, with Enders posting her run-of-record early in the cooler evening session and then successfully fighting off all comers as the round progressed.

“We actually hurt the motor Round 1 so the guys did the scramble between rounds to swap it out,” Enders said. “We came up for Q2 and made a really nice pass. I knew it was decent but I honestly didn’t think it would hold up. I’m happy to be wrong on that one. Coming back to the pits with the No. 1 designation, even if it’s just for tonight, was very cool.”

The last time Enders was No. 1 qualifier was at the end of her second championship season in 2015 when she was took the pole at the second Las Vegas race.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Enders said. “The entire team has been on an upswing all year. Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) has been No. 1 qualifier and gone to a couple of final rounds, including two weeks ago in Topeka, and now we’re No. 1. I can’t wait to continue this race.”

Pro Stock qualifying will continue with two more rounds at 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. If Enders’ time holds, she’ll lead the class into eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air elimination action starting at 4:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change).

“It was pretty cool tonight,” Enders said. “I mean, I was happy to have my firesuit on riding up to the media room. And tomorrow’s two sessions are in the middle of the day so it could hold. But hey, if people are running quicker tomorrow, we may just improve ourselves.”

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