Posts Tagged Charlotte

Melling Performance pro Erica Enders excited about eliminations in Charlotte

Erica Enders | Charlotte 2017 NHRA Pro Stock

CONCORD, N.C. — Throughout her record-setting career, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders always has done her best work in pressure-packed situations. When others wilt, she blossoms, which is one of the many reasons she’s excited about the first of six race days left in the 2017 season.

“The playoffs are definitely a different animal,” Enders said. “We’ve lived it, we’ve fought down to the last round of the season, we’ve felt the most pressure you can feel in this sport and we’ve come out on top. If that gives us an edge this year, we’ll take it.

“Of course, the guys that are going to make the biggest challenges are all veteran teams and most have them have won it all in the past. Either way, whoever wins this year’s championship will have earned it, no doubt.”

Enders’ first test will come Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. Enders will start the day as the No. 9 qualifier after posting a best pass of 6.602 seconds at 209.75 mph in time trials.

“We’ve been testing the tires off these cars the last few months and we are really optimistic about our latest changes,” Enders said. “We can already see some big gains in Jeg (Coughlin’s) car and my guys are going over that data to make my car better. I know for sure I already feel a lot more confidence in our direction.

“The playoffs are a fight from start to finish. The pressure you feel is because every round feels like a final round with a million dollars on the line. You just know you’ve got to find a way to win every matchup. There’s no holding back.”

For her qualifying efforts, Enders will be matched up against part-time teammate and close friend Alex Laughlin in the first round of sudden-death eliminations. Laughlin qualified eighth with a 6.600 at 209.17 mph. The two racers have only squared off once this year and it was during the four-wide race in Charlotte last spring. On that day, Laughlin was one of the two racers to advance out of their quad of racers.

“This team has been in the championship wars and come out on top two different times so we know what it takes,” Enders said. “We’ll fight this fight until we have nothing left. No matter what, I love these guys and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

“We have a lot of support here this weekend also, which is always great. Our friends from Arthur J. Gallagher, Transportation Impact and Melling Performance are with us. We’re having a good time and everyone is excited about the possibilities.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. Live action will air on FOX Sports 1 from 2:30-5:30 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change.)

Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders says ‘Don’t bet against us’

Erica Enders

CONCORD, NC — Erica Enders’ two Pro Stock championships both came in the 10-year-old playoff era so she has intimate knowledge of how the six-race Countdown to the Championship works. With the first playoff race taking place this weekend at zMax Dragway, Enders and her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports crew know it’s time to put up or shut up.

“The regular season is all about securing a spot in the top 10 so you’ve got a ticket to the playoffs,” Enders said. “We’ve done that part. Now it’s time to get to work and see what we can do about winning another championship. We’re only a year removed from our last title but it seems like forever and we’d love to get it back.

“I’ve said time and again, in the glory times and when we’ve been down, that Elite Motorsports is the best team in professional drag racing and I tell people, ‘Don’t bet against us,’ because I know what this group is capable of doing. We’ve won this year, we’ve had three runner-up finishes, we’ve had the quickest and fastest car in plenty of sessions, now we just need to put it all together and keep it moving through the Countdown.”

Enders enters this year’s playoffs in sixth place, placing her 60 points or three rounds of elimination racing behind leader Bo Butner. Her most recent final-round appearance came just three races ago in Seattle.

“We ran well in Seattle but we’ve done so much work since then the car is totally different,” Enders said. “I personally made 40 passes in my car and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate’s) car before Indy and after Indy we went and tested for three more days. We invited some friends along on this most recent test to give us a fresh perspective on how the cars were set up and what we have been doing with the engines and the changes they suggested look really promising.

“This team doesn’t have ego issues. They are happy to bring in people to help us when we’re struggling with something. That’s why Richard Freeman (team owner) has been so successful; he knows winning championships takes extreme effort. He knows there is nothing simple or routine in this sport.”

Charlotte has been good to Enders in the past. She raced to runner-up results in 2012 and 2013 and was top qualifier at the facility in 2014.

“If you can put together a string first race in the Countdown it really makes a difference moving forward,” Enders said. “We’re going to give it all we have and see what happens. There will certainly be no lack of effort put in for the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:15 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first day of qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. Live eliminations will air on FOX Sports 1 from 2:30-5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Erica Enders starts chase for third championship after Indy

Erica Enders | NHRA Indy 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Two-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has been to the winner’s circle at the sport’s biggest race — the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals — in 2015, but she could not return to the hallowed ground at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis this year as the fan-favorite racer bowed out in the opening stanza of eliminations.

Enders, a Houston native and the most acclaimed female racer in the history of Pro Stock, qualified her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in the No. 11 position (6.604 seconds, 209.10 mph). In round one, Enders’ bright red racer had an untimely performance lapse and she was defeated by Chris McGaha, 6.703, 206.99 to 6.660, 206.42.

“We slowed way up,” Enders said. “Until we sort out our issue, we are on a hope and a prayer every time. It’s really an unfortunate situation to be in, especially at Indy.”

Before the 63rd running of the U.S. Nationals, the NHRA mandated a new Goodyear rear tire for Pro Stock competition. The change in how the race car maintains its valuable traction affected some of the factory hot rod teams more than others.

“It’s just more changes and it’s throwing us for a loop, and we have to work on it,” Enders said. “Pro Stock has a had a lot of significant changes in the last three years, but we just have to keep working at it and do our best to just roll with the changes. Rick and Ricky (Jones, crew chiefs) will get it figured out – They always do.”

Despite a disappointing showing in Indy, Enders locked in the No. 6 position in the NHRA playoffs, the Countdown to the Championship, which begins at the next event in Charlotte and continues through five more events concluding in Pomona, Calif. in November.

“After we get back from Indy, we are going testing again,” Enders said. “You know, at some point after all of this hard work and money spent we are bound to figure something out. Our Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team is resilient and certainly knows how to win championships. We’ll get things straightened out.”

Erica Enders gets timed out in first round of NHRA Four-Wide Nationals

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA 4 Wide | Pro Stock

CONCORD, N.C. — Erica Enders never got a chance to flex the horsepower of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Sunday at zMax Dragway because she was timed-out at the starting line after taking too long to stage. It’s one of the hazards of the annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and every year someone seems to get bit.

“For Jeg and I to qualify 1-2 on the ladder, run the kind of numbers we have run here, I would have bet the house that we’d be fighting for the trophy at the end of the day. At the very least we should have won our opening-round races.

“It just goes to show that even the best in the world have off days and today, Jeg and I did not rise to the occasion. He’s a six-time world champ and I’ve won two championships. Both of us are known for being sharp at the Tree. We just didn’t show it today.”

Coughlin also lost in the opening round due to some further confusion at the starting line caused by the driver in the adjacent lane rolling all the way through both staging beams.

“I just want to focus on the performance gains we had this week,” Enders said. “Unfortunately for Elite Motorsports, Transportation Impact, Mark Stockseth and JEGS.com, we didn’t get to impress them today.

“It’s one of those deals, you know, we win as a team and we lose as a team and days like today are ones that hurt. What was cool was when we got back to the pits our guys never question us. We all know there’s nothing we can do about it now, other than move on to Atlanta.”

Up next, Enders and team head to Atlanta Dragway for next weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga.

Qualifying a season-best second on the grid excites Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock 2017 | Charlotte 4-Wide

CONCORD, N.C. — After qualifying her Lupe Tortilla-backed Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro a season-best No. 2 on the elimination ladder of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, two-time world champ Erica Enders admitted it’s going to be hard to wipe the smile off her face.

“We definitely took another big step in the right direction this weekend,” Enders said. “I know this entire Elite Motorsports team is very excited to be back on top of the sheets. Granted, it’s just qualifying, but to be 1-2 with my teammate Jeg Coughlin for the first time since we’ve been racing together again is very cool.”

Enders used Friday night’s 6.583-second pass at 210.08 mph to secure the second slot on the grid, just behind Coughlin’s 6.578 at 210.24 mph. Like most in the class, Enders and Coughlin made their best runs during that lone evening session when the track temperatures were more agreeable for maximum traction.

Even so, running well in Saturday’s heat was important because Enders knows track conditions will be pretty similar when sudden-death eliminations start around 12:40 p.m. EDT, Sunday, at zMax Dragway.

“Today was hot and sticky so we worked on a race day set up,” Enders said. “We are just looking for a consistence race car for Sunday and hopefully we can drive our way to the winner’s circle.

“It’s nice to see the scoreboards show the hard work going on behind the scenes. My guys spend a lot of time away from their families for this team and it’s finally coming around. I’m excited for all of us. Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin, our other two teammates, are running better also and we are continue to work towards getting a better handle on their cars as well.”

Under the four-wide format, No. 2 qualifier Enders will race in a foursome of drivers that includes teammate and No. 10 qualifier Laughlin (6.617 at 208.68 mph), No. 15 qualifier Shane Tucker (6.758 at 204.14 mph) and No. 7 qualifier Tanner Gray (6.595 at 209.49 mph).

In each quad of drivers, the top two cars advance to the next round. In the final quad of the day, the first one to the finish line wins the race.

Television coverage of the eighth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT, Sunday, on FOX Sports 1.

Two-time champ Erica Enders says Four-Wide drag racing levels playing field

CONCORD, N.C. — Eight years into the return of Four-Wide competition at Bruton Smith’s “Bellagio of Drag Strips,” two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders says the unique format and the style of racing it requires makes for some of the best drag racing on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello schedule.

“Going four-wide totally levels the playing field,” Enders said. “Even now after many of us have had multiple races here, there are still a lot of drivers that tend to struggle. Pro Stock already is a really tight and competitive class so it will definitely be interesting to get there and see what happens this time through.

“You drag race for years in the regular two-car format and then once a year you have to reprogram your brain and add in the fact there are two other cars running out there. On race day you have to make darn sure you’re one of the two quickest cars each round in order to advance. There are so many things going on you have to pay really close attention. It sounds easy, but it’s not.”

Enders arrives at zMax Dragway with a lot of excitement surrounding her Lupe Tortilla/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro race crew and her three teammates, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin.

“We are coming off of a really good performance weekend in Houston for our entire Elite Motorsports/Elite Performance group so heading into Charlotte we are going to hopefully carry all this momentum we’ve built,” Enders said. “Jeg was No. 1 qualifier and went to the final round in Houston and the rest of us all had strong cars capable of going rounds on Sunday. Things are really starting to click.

“We’ll probably get in some more testing this week. These Rick Jones-built Chevy Camaros are such great racecars and by sharing data between all the teams, we’re becoming a really strong unit. I’m excited to head to Charlotte and continue to do better there.”

A 21-time national event winner, good enough for second on NHRA’s all-time list of female racers, Enders will have two chances to score this weekend. Aside from Pro Stock, she’ll be racing Terry Peterson’s Omaha Track COPO Camaro in the Factory Stock Showdown.

“This will be the second Factory Stock Showdown out of the five they’re running so we really want to make our mark this time for the Patterson Elite gang,” Enders said. “I’m totally looking forward to driving Terry’s car again. It’s a great hot rod.

“I just want a big weekend for all of our teams. We’re ready to go.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12:40 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with a live qualifying show at 7 p.m., Friday, followed by elimination action at 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Back-to-back world champ Erica Enders fails to qualify for first playoff race

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders began her march to a second straight world title last year with a convincing victory at the NHRA Carolina Nationals. This year, she hit a season low, failing to qualify for the first time since the second Pomona (Calif.) race in 2010.

“That’s all the way back to when I drove for the late Jim Cunningham,” Enders said. “It’s no secret, this year has been a struggle for us. Someone just asked me how you bounce back from something like this and I said it’s with the best guys in the world, and that’s what I’ve got with (team owner) Richard Freeman and everyone at Elite Motorsports.

“You look at our crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, Brian Self, the engine guys Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, and everyone else in this pit and you just see champions. You find out what you’re really made of during the tough times and we’ve had plenty this year, but there’s no quit in this pit and we’ll carry on from here.”

Enders and company swapped manufacturers this year in debuting her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart and have struggled with the newly mandated Pro Stock rules calling for electronic fuel injection, shorter wheelie bars, and rpm limitations.

“It’s just growing pains,” Enders said. “We’ll get this thing figured out and we’ll be back on top.

“I’m proud of the sponsors that have stuck with us. We’ve got Mopar, Melling, Mark Stockseth, United Mechanical, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, CFE, and everyone from Transportation Impact, many of which made the drive up from Emerald Island (N.C.) for this race. I feel bad for them because we didn’t do better, but now we’ll be able to spend more time with all the employees while we root for our teammates.

“Adversity only makes you stronger. We’ll be alright.”

Enders won’t have long to wait for redemption as the fourth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals takes place Sept. 23-25 at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis.

Defending event champion Erica Enders returns to Charlotte in a vastly different role

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CHARLOTTE, NC — One year ago, Pro Stock racer Erica Enders arrived at the first race of NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs as the No. 1 seed, having won six regular-season national events, including the previous two stops in Brainerd, Minn., and Indianapolis.

This year, as Enders brings her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart back to zMax Dragway for the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, things are much different. Her dominating run to back-to-back championships hangs in the balance as she finds herself a distant ninth in the rankings with no victories on her 2016 scorecard.

“It’s been a challenging year, no doubt,” Enders said. “Very different from the last two years. Switching manufacturers and making this commitment with Mopar to put them on top, we kind of knew it would take a little time and it has. Then we had the biggest rule changes in class history. It all kind of added up.

“We started a little behind and it feels like we have been in catch-up mode all year. But we have made progress, and having another week at the shop to try more things should help us in Charlotte. There are reasons to be encouraged.”

Ever the optimist, Enders has found a way to put a positive spin on her lackluster regular season as her Elite Motorsports team has struggled to get the newly mandated fuel-injection systems to match their powerful Hemi motors.

“The word that keeps popping into my head is loyalty,” Enders said. “When we were crushing everyone, there was a line out the door of people wanting to talk to us. This year, we’ve found out who our real friends are, and it’s made me so grateful to the companies and individuals that are there for us through thick and thin.

“Mopar has been awesome. They want this as much as we do. Transportation Impact has been great, and they have more than 100 employees coming up from Emerald Island, N.C., this weekend to cheer us on. Mark Stockseth is a rock. Stan and Sheila Holt of Lupe Tortilla have been with me since I raced Jr. Dragsters; I love them. Kim and Steve Bruno with United Mechanical, everyone at Melling, Carl Foltz and his group at CFE, these are the people who are true supporters, and we love them all.

“Motivation for me is never a problem, but putting this select group back on top, that’s what drives us all. And like I say every weekend, I wouldn’t trade my guys for anyone. There’s no quit in this pit. I really am a lucky girl.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m. to noon, Sunday. Eliminations will air live from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

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