Posts Tagged 2016

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders pumped after successful first test with new Dodge

Erica Enders tests her new Dodge Dart | Competition Plus
Photo: Chris Graves / CompetitionPlus.com

DENTON, TX — Two-time defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders completed a successful first test with her new Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart on Saturday at North Star Dragway.

The Pro Stock class will switch to fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm limit, and wheelie bars will be shorter. Plus, Enders and her team have a new manufacturer with Mopar and Dodge, which meant a new RJ Race Cars Dart built in the shops of crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

The first full day of testing, though, could not have gone any better.

“I was really impressed,” Enders said. “It was a pretty awesome experience. I feel like my expectations were a little tainted by what other people had reported about EFI and I didn’t know what to expect, but then to experience it first-hand with my guys, I’m very optimistic. Things went well, and I’m excited about the season.

“We accomplished a lot in one day, and we did that because of the preparation and hard work of all my Elite guys.”

Enders drove her new Dodge through a full day of testing, learning many of the differences between the former Pro Stock configuration and the new one.

“The drivability is absolutely different,” Enders said. “It’s definitely challenging, but change always is. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience with it. We had a great track to test on, and with a brand-new race car and all the new EFI stuff, we went out and went right down the racetrack — no blips, no hiccups, nothing. It was great.”

Enders didn’t notice much of a change with the removal of the hood scoop on the new car, made necessary because of the elimination of carburetors.

“I’ve never raced with an open windshield like that,” Enders said. “I’ve always had a hood scoop or a blower or something, so it was definitely different to have a wide-open view. That was a big change, but I ignored that aspect of it because I was so focused on doing my best in the race car. That wasn’t even a thought.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team continue preparation for the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., starting next Sunday.

Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders ready to blaze another new path

Erica Enders wins 2015 U.S. Nationals at Indy

HOUSTON, TX — No NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver had a better run over the last two years than Houston native Erica Enders. Not Antron Brown, not Tony Schumacher, not Matt Hagan, not even the legendary John Force.

Enders, who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow racer Richie Stevens, won back-to-back Pro Stock World Championships, winning 15 times in the last two seasons, including a dominant nine-victory 2015. Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew were the team to beat nearly every week, as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll were able to tune their hand-crafted Elite Performance horsepower to perfection.

In 24 races in 2015, Enders qualified No. 1 six times and started from the top half of the field 22 times, thanks to powerful engines built by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

Enders herself was on top of her game, too, setting an NHRA record by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots. No one in 64 years of organized drag racing had done that.

But that combination is gone.

“We were pretty good at what we were doing before: My guys tuning on the carburetors and me driving it,” Enders said. “But now it’s all different and all new, so we start over.”

They start over because of new NHRA-mandated changes to the Pro Stock class. Trying to catch up with the times, the sanctioning body eliminated carburetors for the cars in lieu of fuel injection.

Plus, those new engine combinations have a limit of 10,500 rpm, much lower than before, and in another big change, shorter wheelie bars are mandated, changing the dynamics of the launch from the starting line.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” Enders said. “Everybody is starting with a clean slate. None of us have run fuel injection before, and there’s only been a few teams so far that have done any on-track testing.”

Enders and her team plan to test this weekend in Denton, Texas, and again in Phoenix the week before the season opener in Pomona, Calif., in mid-February. Elite is a team that doesn’t test as often as others, but that hasn’t seem to hurt them, especially the last couple of seasons.

And there’s another ingredient to an already busy off-season: Elite Motorsports is switching to Mopar for 2016, running a two-car team with Enders and five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. Needless to say, things have been humming between the Elite shop in Wynnewood, Okla., and RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., where the Jones’ have been building the new Dodge Darts.

“The guys at RJ Race Cars — Rick and Rickie Jones and all their people — have been working really hard on getting mine and Jeg’s new Mopar Dodge Darts done for the 2016 season,” Enders said. “My car just got back from paint, and everything is on schedule.

“Rick and I are going to get together on when they’re going to be done assembling it. We built a chassis, sent it to powdercoat, put the body on it, and sent it to paint. There’s a process of assembling it, and once everything is put together in the cockpit, I’m going to fly up there (to RJ Race Cars). They built the inside just like my championship car, so everything should be the same for me, but I’m going to go up there and fine-tune everything.”

Enders said her new Dart is a masterpiece.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said. “They both have said these two cars (for her and Coughlin) are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

The team is also building new engines, basing their Dodge motors off their tried-and-true Chevrolet engines they will now put in teammates Drew Skillman and Vincent Nobile’s Camaros.

“We’ve had our dyno converted, and my guys have been working non-stop on trying to figure that out,” Enders said. “Their dynoing all our GM stuff now, and everything should translate to our Mopar stuff. We don’t have all the parts for mine and Jeg’s stuff, but they’re working on that.

“The plan is to test for a week or so in Phoenix before Pomona. We won’t be on-track until right before the season starts, but that’s the same schedule we have every year.”

Still, Enders remains confident in her team, which has proven itself with back-to-back championships. No title is earned without perseverance and hard work, and that continues with the switch to Dodge and the new rules.

“I always put my money on us,” Enders said. “My confidence in my team is as strong as ever, and I know there’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. There will be some bumps, I’m sure, and it comes with a learning curve.

“We’ll get through it. We’ve gotten through everything we’ve had thrown at us. We had fun doing it, we did it with class, and we were able to come out on top. My money is on us.”

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First look: Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ new ’16 Dodge Dart

Erica Enders' new 2016 Dodge Dart

WYNNEWOOD, OK — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ striking new ’16 Dodge Dart was unveiled Wednesday, a month before she begins her pursuit of a third consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title.

Like her championship-winning cars from 2014 and 2015, Enders’ car was built by RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., the famed shop led by Enders’ crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones.

Enders’ Elite Motorsports team is beginning a partnership with Mopar this season and will field Dodge Darts. The car is built to new NHRA Pro Stock specifications, including several new rules for 2016 and beyond: fuel-injected engines with a 10,500 rpm limit, plus the removal of hood scoops and shortened wheelie bars.

RJ Race Cars is also building a new Dodge for Enders’ teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said. “They both have said these two cars are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team are expected to test the new Dodge in Phoenix the week before the season-opening event, Feb. 12-14, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Following successful test run, Transportation Impact continues support for Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports

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EMERALD ISLE, NC — After enjoying the fruits of increased recognition accompanying its six-race, title-winning test run with Elite Motorsports and superstar driver Erica Enders last year, the logistics experts at Transportation Impact have announced a new major associate deal with the back-to-back world champions for 2016.

“Erica and the Elite Motorsports team have been an asset to our business from day one,” Transportation Impact Co-founder Keith Byrd said. “More important than the team’s success on the track is its commitment to our partnership. We work hard to deliver for our customers, and Erica and Elite Motorsports have worked hard to deliver for us. We also understand how important it is to build trust and loyalty with our customers, partners, affiliates, and staff. Our teams see eye-to-eye on all those fronts, so we felt it made sense to take our relationship to the next level. We are thrilled to be along for the ride.”

Transportation Impact, an Inc. 5000 company based in North Carolina that was founded eight years ago by Byrd and Travis Burt, first signed on with Elite Motorsports in 2015 at the second Charlotte race, the start of the Countdown to the Championship. With the privately held logistics company’s logo emblazoned across her hood, Enders raced to three victories in four final-round appearances and clinched her second title with a race to spare.

“We are so honored to have Transportation Impact back and to continue this great relationship,” Enders said. “They were obviously good luck for our team last year, and the NHRA family in turn showed them a lot of love back by taking their business to TI. It was a win-win situation and we all feel like we’re just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

Byrd, Burt, and their staff at Transportation Impact specialize in helping some of the largest companies in the world drastically reduce their shipping costs through small package, less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) negotiation, parcel audit, freight audit, and freight pay services. TI also boasts one of the most sophisticated and cost-effective transportation management systems (TMS) in the supply chain industry.

“Everyone in our world, from Sportsman racers on up to the pros, should check these guys out and use their services, not just with their racing business but whatever they do back home,” Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman said. “We had a chance to meet a lot of their customers, and everyone raved about how professional and positive Transportation Impact is and also how much money and time they saved using their services. They are the best in the business.”

Moving forward into a new era of Pro Stock, Transportation Impact will maintain its position on the hood of Enders’ new Mopar Dodge Dart.

In 2016, Enders will try to join Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey as three-time champions of the sport. The three women are the only female pro champions in the sport’s 64-year history. Last season, Enders ran her national event win total to 21, passing Muldowney’s mark of 18. Enders now only trails Sampey’s all-time mark of 41 wins.