Posts Tagged Chicago

Erica Enders charges to Pro Stock finals in Chicago, settles for second place

CHICAGO, IL — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders nearly recreated history Sunday at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals before coming up a fraction of a second short of her ultimate goal of winning another Wally trophy.

Enders was the first woman in history to win a Pro Stock race in 2012 when she reigned supreme at Route 66 Raceway. Although she couldn’t close the deal this time through, her third final-round showing of the season proves her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro will be a contender once the playoffs start.

“These are the days that are really exciting,” Enders said. “Dealing with live TV on FOX forced us to have 30-minute turnarounds between rounds so it really tested the mettle of the crews. As always, my guys answered the call and we had one heckuva outing.

“Chicago has a special meaning to us. We got our first win here back in 2012 and my first final-round appearance was at this track in 2005 so it’s been very good to me over the years. Would we like to have won today? Absolutely, but it was a good day all-in-all for the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team.”

For the third time ever, Enders faced good friend Drew Skillman in the final round. This time it was Skillman with the better car as he was able to quickly catch and pass a fast-leaving Enders to win with a 6.627 at 209.23 mph to Enders’ 6.655 at 207.37 mph. Skillman now has a slight 2-1 advantage over Enders when the trophy is on the line.

“When you look at the other ETs on paper, there’s no reason why we should have gotten past second round, let alone third, so getting to the final was a real bonus,” Enders said. “I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of the racing we did today. I’m definitely happy with our performance here.”

Enders improved her career record to 22 victories and 16 runner-up results. She has one win and two runner-up finishes this year.

This particular day wasn’t easy. After beating part-timer Chris McGaha in Round 1, 6.651 at 208.91 mph to McGaha’s 6.665 at 208.59 mph, she faced multi-time world champions and teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line in back-to-back rounds.

Against Anderson she used a massive .051-second reaction time advantage to steal the win with a 6.649 at 208.68 mph to Anderson’s quicker-but-losing 6.614 at 209.59 mph. She then narrowly edged Line by .006 seconds with a 6.649 at 208.46 mph to Line’s 6.654 at 208.88 mph. Enders left on all four of her Sunday opponents.

“The adrenaline was pumping all day and my Rick Jones Race Cars-built Camaro was so solid,” Enders said. “It was a fun race.”

The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before returning to action July 21-23 with the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.

“We are taking a team vacation to Grand Cayman, all 26 of us,” Enders said. “When we get back we are going to test in Tulsa before we head out on the Western Swing. We’re running better but we still have work to do on all four team cars. We’ll try to sort them out in Tulsa. I’m excited for the time off and excited to get back after it in Denver to see if we can’t carry this momentum.”

TWO-TIME PRO STOCK CHAMP ERICA ENDERS TRENDING THE RIGHT WAY AT ROUTE 66 RACEWAY

CHICAGO, IL — One of the most popular drivers in NHRA history, Erica Enders is used to “trending” on social media as she always seems to be at the forefront of fan’s online conversations. This weekend at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals, Enders is executing a different type of “trending,” this time involving her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Since the start of qualifying, Enders has managed to improve in each of the four sessions, finally settling on a respectable 6.600-second quarter-mile pass at 210.50 mph that pegged her ninth on the elimination grid.

“Yeah, not too bad,” Enders said. “We’re certainly not exactly where we want to be because we’ll most likely be starting race day in the first pair out and we definitely won’t have lane choice, but I’ll still bet on my Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports guys every time.

“We definitely used all four qualifying runs as test sessions, really on all four of our team cars, so we’ve acquired a lot of data and gotten better every run even if it’s just by a little bit, so we are directionally correct at the moment and I hope that trend continues tomorrow.”

Enders “directionally correct” performance shows her starting the weekend with a 6.652 at 208.62 mph, improving to a 6.631 at 208.42 mph in Round 2, and then a 6.624 at 210.37 mph in Round 3 before posting her run of record in the final session.

“The way the car ran in the last round, it leads us to be optimistic about tomorrow,” Enders said. “I think we can make some pretty significant improvements and win some rounds. I’m ready. I’m hungry for another win.”

A victor earlier this season in Epping, N.H., Enders opens race day against part-time competitor Chris McGaha, who qualified eighth with a 6.596 at 209.98 mph. Enders and McGaha have not raced one another this season.

Joining her teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the grandstands between professional sessions, Enders spent her downtime Saturday taking in as much of the JEGS Allstars event as possible. The JEGS Allstars pits the best 80 Sportsman racers from the last 12 months against one another for individual and team titles.

“The racing was so intense,” Enders said. “Having come up through the Sportsman ranks and still racing the Lucas Oil series when I can, it’s just awesome to see how great those Allstars are out there. That’s such a huge honor for those racers and they certainly put on a show for the fans today.”

The first round of Pro Stock eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air live coverage from 3-6 p.m., Sunday. Times are local and subject to change.

Erica Enders eager to take her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Pro Stocker to Chicago

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Norwalk 2017

CHICAGO, IL – Two-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has a wealth of quarter-mile excitement to draw from this weekend as she takes the controls of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals, just outside of Chicago.

“Chicago has a lot of meaning to me because we won our first Pro Stock race there in 2012 after seven long years of trying,” Enders said. “It was such a huge deal, a culmination of so many things. It felt wonderful. It was a big relief and also immediately made you want to do it again. I’m always excited to head back to Chicago.”

Enders, a 33-year-old native of Houston, and her team are also excited about getting additional primary sponsorship backing on the sides of her red racer from marketing partner Melling Performance this weekend as well as NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ events in Denver, Sonoma, Calif., Seattle, and Indianapolis.

“Having Melling Performance step up and take the doors for the rest of the summer is really big for our team,” Enders said. “We’re going to do everything we can to put our red Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle at least few times.”

Chicago holds many opportunities for Enders to celebrate at one of the NHRA’s historically quickest and fastest racetracks. Among those is the running of the JEGS Allstars event, a unique race-within-a-race Saturday for the “Best of the Best” from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

“I’ll definitely be up in the stands watching the JEGS Allstars race,” Enders said. “My Elite Motorsports teammate, Jeg (Coughlin) Jr., and his family put on the biggest and best race of the year for the top Sportsman drivers and the competition is intense. You know I’ll be rooting for Division 4!

“We’ve had significant success in Chicago over the years, not only in Pro Stock, but I always do well there in my Sportsman cars too. I’ve never won a Sportsman race there, but I always seem to go deep on race day. I have a good vibe with that racetrack, for sure.”

Last month Enders, one of the sport’s most popular drivers, won in Epping, N.H., marking the first win for the Houston native since the fall of 2015. However, the feisty resident of New Orleans and her team are not resting on their laurels after a taste of success and some overdue time off.

“The week off was definitely needed after racing four weekends in a row,” Enders said. “It gave all of us a chance for a quick rest and then get back to work on some things we need to do. We stayed to test after Norwalk in an effort to get the car a little more consistent for these summer races.

“We’re doing so much better this year, but we’re nowhere near satisfied yet. There’s a lot more on the horizon and our goal right now is to reach a strong level of consistency before the Countdown to the Championship (playoffs) starts.”

Pro Stock will hold qualifying sessions at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m., Friday, and 3:15 and 6 p.m., Saturday. First round of eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. NHRA TV on Fox FS1 includes live Chicago coverage 5-7 p.m., Saturday, and 3-6 p.m., Sunday. Times are local and subject to change.

Despite stellar driving effort, Erica Enders falls in Chicago first round

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CHICAGO, IL — Route 66 Raceway will always hold special memories for Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders.

The track is where Enders scored her first Pro Stock victory in 2012, helping elevate her to superstar status in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

The 2016 race, the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Sunday, won’t carry the same memories, but it could become a memorable event. Enders, the 2014-15 Pro Stock champion, has struggled this season as her team continues to develop their new Dodge Dart with fuel-injected engines.

Recent work, however, has helped Enders close the gap on the quickest teams.

“We definitely made some strides in the right direction this weekend,” Enders said after falling to Elite Chevy teammate Vincent Nobile. “It wasn’t evident today on the scoreboard because we were first out and we spun and the car went right and back left and just was not a happy race car. We did the best we could with what we had, and we will continue to work on it to get better.

“The better we get, the better we qualify, the farther back in the order we’ll get, and hopefully have a better outcome first round the further back we get.”

Higher-qualified racers get to choose when they’ll run in the first round, and they generally pick to be among the last to race. Enders qualified No. 9 and raced No. 8 Nobile, and they were the first pair down the track.

“The good news, just focusing on the positive, I had to race my teammate and at least Vincent went to the next round,” Enders said. “I sure would have liked to accumulate some points for this Mopar Dodge Dart to get back in the top 10. It wasn’t meant to be today.”

Enders flashed her driving prowess against Nobile, who had a .013-second reaction time but got off the starting line second because Enders was .005 on the Christmas Tree. Nobile, though, made a better pass, 6.643 seconds at 208.55 mph to 6.686 seconds at 208.36 mph, to get the win light.

“I set up to be .003 to .008 and I hit it right in the middle, so no regrets there,” Enders said. “I knew I had to be good on the Tree.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders: Progress ‘absolutely’ being made

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CHICAGO, IL — The smile is slowly creeping back onto the face of two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders.

Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Melling Performance Dodge team snared the No. 9 spot for the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Route 66 Raceway, inching closer to the top cars in the Pro Stock class.

“I absolutely feel like we’ve made progress this weekend,” Enders said. “After Norwalk, the guys went back to the shop and made some pretty significant changes. The scoreboard has showed it a little bit this weekend, so that is something that has definitely been positive and has boosted morale.

“On top of that, we’ve also closed the gap on the faster guys. We’re within five (-hundredths) now instead of 10, so we absolutely have made strides in the right direction. Do we still have a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But at least now we’re within striking distance.”

Enders made a pass of 6.623 seconds at 208.46 mph, which was less than five-hundredths of a second off Shane Gray’s pole-winning lap.

“I’m very proud of my team for their hard work, their never-quit attitude,” Enders said. “It’s extremely frustrating, especially coming off the last couple of years. Friday, when we ran that .62, to hear my guys’ voices across the radio and for them to hear the excitement in my voice was great.

“We had a team dinner Friday night, and it was like the old days with the atmosphere here. It was very exciting.”

Enders had gotten used to winning the last two seasons when she went to the winner’s circle 15 times and won back-to-back championships. Her Elite team switched to Mopar fuel-injected engines for 2016, and development has taken longer than expected, but Chicago was a step up in performance.

Enders started the final qualifying session in the No. 7 spot, with a possible first-round match against Dodge teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. looming. She was bumped down to No. 9 and will instead race Elite Chevy teammate Vincent Nobile. His best pass was 6.621 seconds at 208.62 mph for the No. 8 qualifying spot.

“We dodged a bullet by not having to race my Mopar teammate tomorrow, but we ended up with my other teammate, Vincent,” Enders said. “At least we know one of our Elite Performance engines will be going to the second round.”

Enders did turn on three win lights in Super Gas this weekend, racing the ORTEQ Energy Technologies roadster for owners Cody Ortowski and Buddy Wood. She made it to the final nine cars in that cutthroat Sportsman class.

“It was really fun to go some rounds again,” Enders said. “I joked with the Sportsman team that when you’re in the fourth round in Pro Stock, you’re racing for the trophy, but you’re barely on the home stretch in Super Gas.

“I need more seat time in that car to be a better bracket racer. That’s something I’ll dedicate some time to, and I’ll get better with time. To go four rounds here in Chicago — a racetrack that holds a special place in my heart — was definitely fun.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight ET, Saturday, and eliminations live beginning at 2 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders returns to site of first pro victory

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CHICAGO, IL — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders returns to where all of her professional success started, Route 66 Raceway, for the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals this weekend.

Four years ago, Enders was still fighting for her first victory, racing to six final rounds over her career but without sealing the deal. However, when Enders and her team got to Chicago, they felt really good about their chances.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” Enders said. “When we got to the track on Thursday — I don’t know why but it happens at a handful of racetracks — we had a good feeling when we walked through he gate. I was always hopeful that whatever track we were at would be the track where I got my first win, but that was definitely an awesome weekend.

“I’m sure when I get back there it will all come flooding back. That was one of the better days, for sure.”

Enders qualified third that weekend, but rain delayed the start of eliminations. Finally, she dispatched Kurt Johnson, Vincent Nobile, V. Gaines, and Greg Anderson to secure her first career victory.

“I remember there was a long rain delay, and we didn’t start first round until almost 4 o’clock, so it was a long drawn-out day,” Enders said. “It was really cool to come out on top. There are pictures proudly hanging in my office of the winner’s circle when my guys doused me with beer. It was awesome.”

Enders became the first woman to win in the Pro Stock class, and that victory launched a spectacular career. She won three more races in 2012 and two in 2013 before moving to Elite Motorsports for the 2014 season. Enders then won six times and the 2014 Pro Stock championship and had an even better season last year. She won nine races and the Pro Stock title one more time, and Enders was recently awarded an ESPY nomination for Best Driver for that accomplishment.

“I love Chicago and I always have, even when I raced Sportsman there in the early years of the track,” Enders said. “It definitely holds a lot of really special memories for me. It’s where we finally won our first Pro Stock race, and that was a night to remember.”

Of course, Enders would love to repeat her 2012 performance this season, her first with the Elite/Mopar Dodge. The team continues to develop the new Dart and new fuel-injected engines, but progress is being made.

“We’ve had some down times since the East Coast swing, but my guys have been working really hard in the engine shop,” Enders said. “Hopefully, the scoreboards will show some of the progress that we’ve made.”

In addition to racing her Pro Stock Dodge, she’s entered in Super Gas with the ORTEQ Energy Technologies roadster for owners Cody Ortowski and Buddy Wood.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5:15 and 7:45 p.m., Friday, and 3:15 and 6 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight ET, Saturday and eliminations live beginning at 2 p.m., Sunday.

Erica Enders heads to ESPYs with semifinal finish in Chicago

Erica Enders makes semi final appearance in Chicago 2015

CHICAGO, IL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders heads to the 2015 ESPYs with a semifinal finish at the Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.

Enders is nominated for the Best Driver award at the ceremony, which will be held Wednesday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Fans can still vote for Enders in the category that includes NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick, IndyCar’s Wil Power and Juan Pablo Montoya, and Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton here: http://espn.go.com/espys/2015/. Voting concludes at 8 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the start time for the live broadcast on ABC.

“It would’ve been nice to go there after a victory, but that didn’t happen,” Enders said. “We’re still excited about the nomination and the ceremony, and it’ll be a fun night, win or lose. It’s truly an honor to be in the Best Driver category, especially with such great drivers. I look forward to it.”

Enders won the 2014 Pro Stock championship to earn the ESPYs nomination, and her driving was showcased Sunday. In three rounds of racing, she had an average .024-second reaction time, but despite a stellar .017 light in the semifinals against Larry Morgan, she couldn’t get to her sixth final round of 2015. Morgan was .006 on the Christmas Tree, and his pass of 6.630 seconds at 209.88 mph held off her 6.625-second run at 209.36 mph.

“We just got beat,” Enders said. “Give Larry some credit; he’s a great driver and he got it done. That was a great race, but we came up a little short. I hate to lose and it stings when you get beat like that, but my Elite guys have my back. I appreciate that.”

With four victories, five final rounds, and four semifinal appearances, Enders remains second in the Pro Stock points standings. She was gunning for her second Chicago victory after an historic win in 2012 when she became the first woman to win a Pro Stock race.

“Chicago will always have a soft spot in my heart,” Enders said. “We have great success here, from my first final in 2005 and the win in 2012. We wish we could’ve gotten it done again today, but I still believe we have the best car and the best team. We’ll go after it in Denver.”

Enders started her day with a .024 light and a 6.593-second pass at 210.01 mph that dispatched V. Gaines, who slowed to a run of 18.683 seconds at 40.35 mph. Enders then left first on Rodger Brogdon with a .030 light, and she outran him with a pass of 6.608 seconds at 209.82 mph to beat his 6.624-second pass at 209.52 mph.

Erica Enders fired up about returning to scene of historic victory

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CHICAGO, IL – The memories of Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend’s Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals, are sweet for Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders.

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock world champion, raced to her first final round as a professional here in 2006, and she became the first woman to win a Pro Stock race when she beat Greg Anderson in the final in 2012.

“Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart,” Enders said. “It was the place where I had my first final-round appearance in 2006, and we finally went on to win there in 2012. I’m really excited to go back.”

Enders has since become one of the top racers in NHRA, winning 16 times and the 2014 Pro Stock championship, but she always has an extra bounce in her step when she pulls into Route 66 Raceway. Plus, crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones live two and a half hours away in Galesburg, Ill., making it a special event for her team, much like Enders’ love of the race in her hometown of Houston.

“It’s the home track for two of my crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones,” Enders said. “How I feel about Houston, they feel about Chicago. We’re going to do our best to get it done there.”

Enders, too, has motivation following a first-round loss in Norwalk, Ohio, last weekend. She qualified No. 1 for the fifth time this season, but her Chevrolet Camaro got sideways at the hit in the first round. Still, she sits second in the Pro Stock standings as the season reaches the midway point.

“We’ve got a lot to prove after Norwalk,” Enders said. “I know that we can do it. It’s times like these when we really thrive, and that’s when we have something to prove but it’s not to anybody but ourselves.

“I’m excited to have another shot this weekend. We go into Chicago with our heads held high because regardless of the results in Norwalk, we’ve still got the best car, the best team, and the best driver.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 4:15 and 7:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday.

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