Posts Tagged Atlanta

Elite Motorsports pro Erica Enders has first chance at NHRA trophy in 32 races

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Atlanta 2017

COMMERCE, GA — It may be too early to say Erica Enders is completely back to the championship form that carried her to back-to-back world titles in 2014 and 2015, but she certainly seems to be trending in the right direction. That seems to be the general sentiment after her impressive runner-up finish Sunday at the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, which was highlighted by a pair of Enders’ trademark holeshot wins.

“It should have been three holeshot wins today but yes, this race was definitely a confidence booster,” Enders said. “I wish we were holding the Wally right now but there are a lot races left this year and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for us. The coolest part is everyone knows we’re back and we’re back to being a force to be reckoned with again.”

Enders scored her first big holeshot victory in the quarterfinals when she dusted three-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line at the starting line with a humongous .048 seconds headstart. That early advantage translated to an easy 6.578-second, 210.77-mph win in front of Line’s quicker-but-losing 6.563 at 210.93 mph.

It was more of the same in the semifinals against rookie Tanner Gray with Enders leaving the line with a near-perfect .002-second light to Gray’s decent .020-second reaction time. Just as it was against Line, Enders slower lap of 6.611 at 210.77 mph was enough to earn a holeshot win over Gray and his 6.600 at 210.83 mph.

The second most prolific female winner in NHRA history tried to pull off the trifecta in the finale, leaving .010 seconds ahead of Bo Butner, but on this day he simply had too much muscle under the hood, driving by Enders and taking the win by. 014 seconds, his 6.569 at 211.26 mph in front of her 6.593 at 210.97 mph.

“I’m proud of my team and the performance we’ve found lately,” Enders said. “Jake Harrison and Nick Ferri, who build our motors, along with all of the guys back at Elite Performance, have been working around the clock and the scoreboards are finally indicating the hard work that goes on to make us look good. I’m proud of them.

“I’m really glad I did my job, especially after red-lighting in Houston and getting timed out in Charlotte — two moments I would like to forget. I’m a better driver than what I’ve shown the last two weeks. Getting a little bit of redemption here, even if it was just for myself, is what I needed.”

Enders racked up 15 of her 21 career victories during her championship run but remarkably this was her first chance at a “Wally” trophy since the fall race in Las Vegas at the end of 2015, a span of 32 national events.

“We nearly didn’t get a chance at the trophy,” Enders said. “I went to fire up this morning and just hitting the starter button I could tell something was wrong. We ended up having to pull that engine out and replace it and we hurried up for first round. Thankfully Alan Prusiensky went red against me because we hurt that motor as well and I barely limped it to the finish line.

“We had to make another engine swap for Round 2, which was a huge round against Jason Line, and we were able to get the win there. And then go on to beat one of our rivals Tanner Gray in the semifinals, that was definitely an exciting couple of rounds for everyone here at Elite Motorsports and Transportation Impact. I’m proud, I’m excited and I cannot wait for Topeka.

“Lastly, happy birthday to Sheila Holt from my oldest sponsor, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants back in Texas. Also, get better soon!”

Enders and her Elite Motorsports crew will enjoy a week off for Mother’s Day before resuming action May 19-21 with the 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka.

Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders wants Atlanta trophy for her collection

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock 2017 Atlanta

COMMERCE, GA — Two-time world champion Erica Enders’ 21 national event trophies places her second on the all-time list of female professional drag racers, but the Houston, Texas, native has yet to score one at Atlanta Dragway, something she’d love to change Sunday at the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

“Atlanta is one on the to-do list for sure,” Enders said. “We’ll get there. Our performances across the board have been trending up all year and if we’d been able to make four runs here instead of two we’d have shown a little better. No matter what, we’re in the top half of the field and we’re ready to battle.

“We’ve had a lot of different winners in the class this year and that shows the parity we deal with every week. Anyone that qualifies is capable of winning and if you’re not 100-percent on your game, you can get beat in a hurry. After getting timed out last week in Charlotte, I will definitely plan to get some redemption tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the Pro Stock class was shortened to Saturday’s two runs, with Friday’s rainstorms wiping out the first two sessions on the schedule. Even so, Enders was a picture of consistency, opening with a 6.614 at 209.10 mph before dipping to a 6.603 at 210.21 mph in her powerful Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

The run was good enough for sixth place on the race day grid and sets up a first-round race with Alan Prusiensky, who topped out at 6.647 at 207.98 mph in qualifying 11th overall.

“We have a good car, although one that we changed quite a lot on between last weekend and now,” Enders said. “Like I said, we really wanted all four qualifying runs to make sure the changes we made are showing up in the data. So far so good with the two runs we did get to make, but having two more runs would have given us a chance to move even higher on the qualifying ladder.

“Last week me and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate) qualified 1-2 on the ladder, which really got everyone’s attention. When we lost Friday, we played it a little safer today to make absolutely sure we got down the track both runs. I think everyone was cautious. Throw that out the window for tomorrow, though, we want to win.”

Pro Stock with eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports airs at 6 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Victory in Atlanta would be special for two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders - NHRA Pro Stock 2017

COMMERCE, GA — Erica Enders has two NHRA titles, 21 individual race victories, 14 runner-ups and 18 top qualifying efforts to her credit. One of the big things missing is a win at Atlanta Dragway, the home track for longtime series sponsor Coca-Cola. It’s something Enders hopes to remedy at this weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals.

“The Coca-Cola Company has been a huge part of drag racing for 16 years now,” Enders said. “They’ve been around as long as I’ve been racing as a professional. To me they are professional drag racing. I’ve been so lucky to have had the success I’ve had so far during the Coca-Cola era, but I still haven’t won Atlanta and I really want to get that done.

“Coca-Cola has a big party for past champions before the race, which is so cool. Then a lot of the top-level executives we meet that night come to the track over the weekend with their families. I really want to win one so they can all come down to the winner’s circle and celebrate with us.”

The “big party” Enders is referencing is the annual Night of Champions at Coca-Cola World Headquarters in Atlanta. Every champion from the four professional classes — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle — that earned their world titles in the last 16 years are invited to the exclusive affair.

“This particular race weekend definitely starts out special,” Enders said. “That night is a really big treat for all of us and I’ll get to go with my team owner, Richard Freeman, and my teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. so I’ll be feeling special. It’s a night to celebrate with so many past champions. It’s a huge honor to be a part of that. There’s a lot of racers and teams that have done this for 30, 40, 50 years that don’t have this opportunity so I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Enders will have more than good vibes from a special night to rely on when racing starts Friday. She qualified No. 2 last weekend in Charlotte, just a fraction behind Coughlin. It’s the first time the two have qualified 1-2 since Coughlin joined Elite Motorsports a year and a half ago.

“I think there will be no lack of motivation for either of us, especially after the weekend we had in Charlotte,” Enders said. “We had the two best cars on the property but neither one of us put together a race day performance like we were expecting so we’re focused on looking onward and upward. We’ll get our act together a little better this weekend and try to win Atlanta.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with qualifying show at 8 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 6 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Erica Enders’ best pass of the weekend negated by dodgy Atlanta track

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ATLANTA, GA — Reigning back-to-back Pro Stock champion Erica Enders knew she left on first-round opponent Chris McGaha, and as she went through the gears of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart a big smile started to cross her face.

Then, in an instant, it was gone, as a big bump in her lane upset her race car enough that it shot towards the centerline. Although the 21-time national event winner didn’t give up on the run, the tire spin she encountered out of the racing groove allowed McGaha to slip past her and take the win by .008-second.

“That was the best run we made all weekend with this car,” Enders said. “My driving was on and the guys gave me a great tune-up. We should’ve won that race. It really upsets me we lost a race because of something out of our control. There’s a huge bump out there. Just look at how many cars have gotten out of shape. It is a huge safety issue for our class.”

Enders left the starting line with a tremendous .021-second reaction time, which when compared with McGaha’s .033 launch was more than enough to give her the victory, but she slowed to a 6.644 at 207.91 mph after hitting the bump, which allowed McGaha to squeak by with his 6.624 at 208.33 mph.

“We know we’re not where we want to be with our tune-up, and that’s why we’re testing every chance we get and running the engine dyno non-stop,” Enders said. “And we also know if we had qualified better we would’ve had lane choice in that round. It still doesn’t make up for losing a race we should’ve won.

“I know I have the best team out here — we’ve proven that the last two years — and no one is complaining. I just want to give my guys something to smile about and that was a golden opportunity right there.

“I guess the best news out of this weekend is we’ve made a bunch more progress and also we only have a few days to wait until we race again so we can get this bad taste out of our mouths.”

The 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals runs May 20-22 at Heartland Park Topeka.

Today’s race will air from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET. on FOX Sports 1.

Two-time champ Erica Enders carries momentum into Atlanta race day

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ATLANTA, GA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders heads into race day for the 36th annual NHRA Southern Nationals on Sunday at Atlanta Dragway fresh off her best run of the weekend.

Enders, the No. 10 qualifier, made a pass of 6.701 seconds at 206.16 mph in the final qualifying session, giving her and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team some momentum heading into final eliminations.

“It is nice that we made our best run in the last session of qualifying,” Enders said. “The conditions during that session are going to be very similar to what they are tomorrow.”

That Q4 pass was eighth-best for the session, and it was quicker than her E1 opponent, Chris McGaha. McGaha qualified No. 5 with a top pass of 6.648 seconds at 208.39 mph. Normally, the No. 10 qualifier races the No. 7 qualifier in the first, but only 14 cars were entered in Atlanta, so the eliminations ladder needed some alternations.

Still, Enders is fired up about racing Sunday, especially since it gives her a chance to avenge a first-round loss — on a holeshot — to McGaha at the previous NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in Houston.

“I’ll go into race day tomorrow with the mindset that I’ve always had in the past,” Enders said. “We’ll be confident in what we have. I have a first-round matchup that I’d really like to have go the opposite way than it went the last time. We’ll go up there, do our best, and see what happens.”

Enders, who won nine races in 2015, has struggled so far this season as her team continues to develop the new Dodge Dart with fuel-injected engines. No driver in NHRA had a better two-year run than Enders over the 2014-15 seasons, so she knows her Elite team will bounce back.

“We’re riding the struggle bus,” Enders said. “It’s challenging, it’s frustrating, and it’s disheartening because my guys work so incredibly hard. I know that we’re eventually going to be OK, and we’ve got to keep our eye on the prize and remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint.”

FOX Sports 1 will air Saturday qualifying from 10 to 11 p.m. ET and Sunday’s elimination action from 4:40 to 7:30 p.m. ET.

Champ Erica Enders lauds Elite Motorsports Dodge crew as Atlanta race nears

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ATLANTA, GA — Reigning back-to-back world champion Erica Enders beams with pride whenever she talks about her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Pro Stock race team, and with the 36th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway just days away, the 21-time national event winner says her next trophy celebration is coming soon.

“I am feeling really good about things,” Enders said. “We had some great days testing in Denton (Texas) and Tulsa (Okla.) and the cars are getting better and better. The engines look good on the dyno. All the things we want to see are happening and that has me very excited.

“We got used to winning a lot the last two years, and it’s easy to get frustrated when you go six races into a season without a win, but when I take a minute and think about this race team, I know I’m the luckiest girl on the planet. We didn’t win 15 races and two titles in the last two years by mistake.”

Enders’ best result to date was her semifinal finish in Las Vegas. She also reached the second round of the four-wide event in Charlotte. At the last race in Houston, she had her second-best qualifying result of the year.

“Rick and Rickie (Jones, co-crew chiefs), our team owner Richard Freeman, Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston (engine builders), Royce Lee (Freeman, crewman), and the rest of the guys — there’s no better group in the sport,” Enders said. “They always have my back and I have theirs, in good times and bad.

“Switching manufacturers is a huge deal and we didn’t get started until late in the off-season. We’re catching up fast and we’re going to be right back in the mix real soon. You can really look at it negatively or positively; I choose the positive route because I know first-hand what this group can do. I’ve lived it.”

While Enders hasn’t visited Atlanta Dragway’s Victory Lane, she has had her moments in the sun at the historic track. In 2014, en route to her first world title, she was the top qualifier at the event.

“Atlanta Dragway, although it looks very different than my home track in Houston, can be a lot like Houston this time of the year because of the heat and humidity of the early summer months,” Enders said. “We sweat it out in Houston last weekend and we’ll most likely be sweating it out there, but I’m used to it because I grew up in southeast Texas.

“More than anything, I want to reward the guys for all of their tireless work. They’ve been amazing this year and I love ’em for it.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air Friday qualifying from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday qualifying from 10 to 11 p.m., and Sunday’s elimination action from 4:40 to 7:30 p.m.

Winning streak ends at 10 rounds for Pro Stock champion Erica Enders

Erica Enders-Stevens | Atlanta 2015

ATLANTA, GA — Erica Enders’ bid to win three NHRA national events in a row fell a little short Sunday when she lost in the semifinal round of the 35th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, but not before she pushed her streak of elimination round-wins to 10 in a row, the longest such streak of the season in any pro category.

“It’s hard to be disappointed with a semifinal round showing, but I kind of feel that way because I know we have the car that can win,” said Enders, driver of the Elite Motorsports Camaro. “You can’t win them all, but it sure is addictive when you get on a roll. You feel so much confidence that it’s really weird when you come up a little short.”

In a class where races are routinely decided by thousandths of a second, this day was no different as Enders was quicker than everyone at the track except Greg Anderson. She posted a 6.543 at 211.49 mph in beating first-round opponent John Gaydosh and used a 6.561 at 210.97 mph opposite Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. But Anderson was fractionally better each time, running a 6.541 in Round 1 and a 6.560 in Round 2.

“That thousandth of a second he got us by in Round 2 was enough to give them lane choice in the semi’s, and when a track is as hot and tricky as this one you need every little edge you can get,” Enders said. “I think that right lane was just a touch better and our race pretty much proved that. I could have been better on the Tree, but it may not have mattered because he had a .015-second light.

“This is a Summit race and I know those guys put a premium on winning their title sponsor’s races. We spun a lot and the car moved around and we ended up with a 6.582 to his 6.562. Game over. I’m still really proud of this team, and winning 10 rounds in a row is special. We’ll have to just start another streak.”

It won’t be long until Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, and the Elite Performance team are back on track as the NHRA tour quickly turns to next weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals in Topeka, Kan.

“I love Topeka,” Enders said. “The first ever national event was in Kansas and there is some question whether we’ll race there again after this year, so it would be extra special to get another Wally there.

“We’ll stop by the shop in Oklahoma and freshen everything up. We did switch to our new Rick Jones car this weekend and it was perfect every time down. It’s like driving a Cadillac the thing is so smooth. We’re just getting to know each other but so far, so good. We’ll definitely be ready for Topeka.”

After back-to-back wins, Erica Enders switches race cars and improves

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ATLANTA, GA — After winning the last two races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team made the surprising decision to switch race cars, and somehow the reigning Pro Stock world champion managed to improve.

“I understand the sentiment, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but we had so much confidence in this new Rick Jones race car that we knew it would be better,” Enders said. “And like my team owner Richard Freeman says, ‘We didn’t build it to sit at the shop,’ so the guys put it back into service and our results speak for themselves.”

Enders tied the quickest elapsed time of the weekend with a 6.546-second blast but qualified second due to Jason Line’s slightly better top speed. Line, who also posted a 6.546, topped out at 211.23 mph to Enders’ 210.28 mph.

“It takes a lot of self confidence to make a car change after winning two races in a row, but the guys felt comfortable enough to give it a try. We worked out a few bugs yesterday and then they really tuned it up today and we lost out on the pole by mph, so we are super happy.

“We actually started the year with this car, but the new fuel and tires they have us running put us a touch behind, so we brought out last year’s championship car and started gathering data. I have such a special place in my heart for that car, and I know how she runs and how she reacts to every little thing, so we were able to use her to figure out the fuel and the tire and apply that to this new car.

“This new one is absolutely the smoothest, most drive-able car I’ve ever driven. It’s the next generation, and I know it’s going to take us to a new level.”

As the No. 2 qualifier, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, will open elimination action at the 35th Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals against John Gaydosh, who posted a best pass of 6.699 at 207.66 mph.

“I was already extremely confident in my team, and switching to a new car without missing a beat makes me that much more convinced that we have the best team in the sport,” Enders said. “We have definitely started summer. The heat and humidity have been beating on us here, but we’re hanging tough and improving every time out there, so our spirits are high.

“It’s also very exciting and cool to be in Coca-Cola’s backyard. They’re such a huge part of what we do in this sport, and they had us over to headquarters for the Champions Dinner the other night, which was so special. I would love to win another race and have all the Mello Yello folks join us in the winner’s circle.”

Eliminations start at noon on Sunday and will be shown on ESPN2.

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