Posts Tagged Denver

Strong semifinal finish in Denver for two-time world champ Erica Enders

DENVER, CO — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders kept her hot streak alive with a strong semifinal finish at this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at beautiful Bandimere Speedway.

Enders now has one victory, one runner-up result and two semifinal finishes since the first week of June, a steady streak of performances that has her climbing up the championship points rankings.

“We’re pleased with the weekend, for sure,” Enders said. “You always set out to win the race and after qualifying No. 2 on the ladder, we had high hopes of bringing home the Wally (trophy) today. You know in this sport there’s only one happy camper at the end of the race but we’re optimistic about the way we’re running lately and we’re anxious to get to California next weekend and do it all over again.”

The day started with a first-round dismissal of Alan Prusiensky, with Enders powering her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.983 at 198.06 mph over Prusiensky’s 7.041 at 195.68 mph.

Rival Chris McGaha was next and he gave up the win at the starting line with a -.002 second red-light start. It was a fortuitous moment for Enders as McGaha had a better elapsed time, running a 6.969 at 197.05 mph to Enders’ slower but winning 6.978 at 198.29 mph.

“The first two rounds all three of our team cars were struggling at the hit,” Enders said. “Jeg (Coughlin) shook in Round 1 and had to give up his run. Vincent (Nobile) had two really good passes but his crew chief Lump (Brian Self) told us they were right on the edge. And my runs all were touchy. It’s part of racing up here.”

Looking to make a statement, Enders wanted a quick start against semifinal opponent Bo Butner, but her anxiousness ultimately cost her the race as she fouled at the start by -.007 seconds. It may not have mattered anyway as she soon chattered the tires and was forced to shut off and drift to the finish. Butner won with a 6.948 at 198.47 mph.

“When I put the car on the chip it was pulling me forward,” Enders said. “I still didn’t expect to red light but it happens. As a driver, you never want to red light but I’m not going to beat myself up over this one. There were other factors involved.

“Bottom line, the Melling Performance/Elite Chevy is running great and we’re going to keep our chins up and move on to the second race of the Western Swing in Sonoma. I’m going straight there to visit with some sponsor friends and maybe tour a winery or two. We should be rested and ready for Friday.”

The NHRA tour quickly moves to California’s wine country for next weekend’s 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

A Bandimere prayer comforted, inspired two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

DENVER, CO — In the anxious moments just before Erica Enders clinched her first Pro Stock championship in Pomona, Calif., John Bandimere stopped in the staging lanes to wish her luck. Being a spiritual man, Bandimere, longtime owner of Bandimere Speedway in Denver, site of this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, said a quick prayer with Enders, an impactful moment that has stuck with the 22-time national event winner.

“Mr. Bandimere has a real presence about him and it really calmed me down and reminded me who is really in charge,” Enders said. “We always put ourselves in God’s hands and that upcoming round was easily the biggest of my life, but Mr. Bandimere put it all in prospective for me with that prayer. I’ll never forget it.”

Soon after her moment with Bandimere, Enders beat Jason Line to win the race trophy and secure the 2014 championship, all in one 6.480-second pass.

“It was really neat because my relationship with the Bandimeres goes back to the very beginning of my driving career,” Enders said. “Not just my pro career, I’m talking about my Junior Dragster career when I was 8 years old. We used to run in the Western Finals at Bandimere every year so I’ve been around their family and this racetrack for more than 20 years now.”

Surprisingly, Enders has never won on Thunder Mountain, but it seems this year’s trip may be the perfect time to break her Denver duck. She’s coming off a strong runner-up result at the NHRA tour’s last stop in Chicago and is just four races removed from a big victory in Epping, N.H.

“This year has been such a huge improvement from last year, not just for my group but for all four of our team cars,” Enders said. “Richard Freeman (team owner) made the commitment to put our program back on top and we’re all working very hard towards that goal. It’s really cool to see it coming together and hopefully by the time we get to the Countdown, we’ll be rolling.

“Denver has been a pretty good place for us, even though we haven’t won here, we always do pretty well. Last year our best race of the season came at Bandimere so despite the fact it’s hard to tune here because it’s unlike any other place we go, my guys know how to make all the right adjustments. We’ll be ready to race come Friday.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, and 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first two rounds of qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. The FOX Network will carry eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

“I hope to see Mr. Bandimere and maybe we can have another little prayer together,” Enders said. “Who knows, we started the Eastern Swing with a win. Maybe we can do the same thing to start the Western Swing.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders holds head high after performance gains in Denver

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DENVER, CO — No one in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series hates losing more than two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, but she can smile after the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway knowing her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team made strides toward the top of the Pro Stock charts.

Enders lost in the second round after an unfortunate parts failure slowed her pass, but she knows her Dodge Dart is now a contender.

“We’re certainly pleased with our performance gains this weekend,” Enders said. “It shows that our hard work is paying off. Having said that, we still have a long way to go.”

Enders qualified No. 2 in Denver, the best qualifying effort of the year for her and her team, which switched to Mopar for the 2016 season.

She beat Alan Prusiensky with one of the best passes in the first round, 6.970 seconds at 197.42 mph. That gave her lane choice against Allen Johnson for the second round, but Johnson’s good fortune in Denver continued.

The two friends and rivals got off the line almost identically, but Johnson sped to the win with a pass of 7.000 seconds at 196.53 mph while Enders lost elapsed time from her first pass and ended up with a run of 7.026 seconds at 195.62 mph.

“We had a parts failure that round,” Enders said. “We should have been able to go out there and run a .98 absolutely no problem because we took where the failure in the run happened and did a run completer from there. We were actually on a better run than Greg (Anderson) in that round and he went a .99.

“I think we would have been a solid to low .98. Should have, would have, could have, but it would definitely have been enough to beat AJ. This is just his lucky track.”

Johnson ended up racing to his 10th consecutive final round here, beating Vincent Nobile in the final.

Enders, meanwhile, looks forward to continuing the Western Swing next weekend in Sonoma, Calif.

“We’ll load up and go to Sonoma definitely with our heads held high because of the gains made here,” Enders said. “I’m looking forward to racing at sea level again, or closer to sea level, and kicking ass in Sonoma.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders reaches new heights with No. 2 spot in Denver

Erica Enders NHRA Mile High Nationals 2016

DENVER, CO — Pro Stock champion Erica Enders would have loved to have held on to the No. 1 spot for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Saturday at Bandimere Speedway, but though she fell .007-second short of that lofty perch, Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team can hold their heads up high after qualifying No. 2.

“It would have been cool to get a green hat,” Enders said, referring to the special hats given to No. 1 qualifiers. “And tomorrow would have been a little cooler than normal because we would have a bye in the first round (because there are only 15 cars in the field).

“But I was talking to my guys about it on the radio before we even made the run — the benefit of running last is that you get to see what everybody does — after we knew that a handful of people had run 6.93s. I told my guys, ‘Either way, stay on the pole or not, get it back or not, what an awesome turnaround we have had this weekend, and we will out-tune and outdrive them tomorrow.’ And we will.”

Enders held the No. 1 spot through three qualifying sessions, but after a rain delay helped cool conditions in the Denver altitude, five cars went quicker in Q4 before Enders and Alex Laughlin made their runs.

Enders made a terrific pass of 6.933 seconds at 198.03 mph, though Laughlin was a tick quicker. However, her run wasn’t the best by her Dodge.

“Considering what happened in that run, to be able to throw up an e.t. like that is pretty cool,” Enders said. “I mean, I was way over by the wall and it was loose, so there was definitely some e.t. there, but either way it’s such an awesome step in the right direction, and it goes to show that hard work really pays off.

“This is where we get to really, really dig deep and see if we can battle back into the Countdown.”

Enders sits 11th in the Pro Stock points standings, with only the top 10 advancing to the Countdown to the Championship. Five races remain before the Countdown starts, and Enders is only nine points out of 10th.

She’ll battle Alan Prusiensky in the first round Sunday after he qualified No. 15 with a pass of 7.477 seconds at 159.91 mph.

“I’m super proud of our showing thus far, and we’ve got our day cut out for us tomorrow, but I wouldn’t want to go to battle with anyone else,” Enders said. “I’m proud to have performed so well in our Mopar Dodge Dart at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, and we will see if can bring home a Wally to Detroit.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday, and will be broadcast live on FOX from 1 to 4 p.m. (All times listed in MDT).

Erica Enders returns to the top, snaring provisional No. 1 in Denver

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Denver 2016

DENVER, CO — She’s back!

Two-time champion Erica Enders returned to the top of the Pro Stock charts, grabbing the provisional No. 1 spot for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Friday at Bandimere Speedway.

Enders dominated the class the past two seasons, winning 15 races and the championship in 2014 and 2015, but a change in rules and a switch to Mopar precipitated a small step back this season as her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team worked to develop a new Dodge Dart and new fuel-injected engines.

“What better race to have a turnaround weekend than at our sponsor’s event, the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals,” Enders said. “It might come as a shock to a lot of people because we’ve been running toward the back of the pack all year, but it just goes to show that hard work and determination pay off.

“Week in and week, we’ve come out here and qualified in the bottom half of the field, but my guys never got discouraged. They went home and went to work. That’s what I attribute that to.”

Enders’ best qualifying spot this season has been fifth, in Las Vegas. After winning nine races and 58 rounds in 2015, she has only five round-wins this year and sits outside the top 10 in the Pro Stock points standings, but her Elite Performance team continues to work on its engines, making big gains recently.

“We came here knowing what we found on the dyno this week was pretty significant,” Enders said. “We wanted the scoreboards to dictate what we found.”

They did in the second qualifying session. After she was No. 10 in Q1, Enders saw Elite/Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. make a terrific pass in Q2. She then went to the top with a run of 6.963 seconds at 197.71 mph.

“First run, we had to do some fine-tuning with the fuel,” Enders said. “We were able to make a really great run in the second session, and there’s definitely room for improvement on the graphs. That’s also encouraging. I’m just so proud of the hard work they’ve put in.”

Should it hold up, Enders would have the 19th No. 1 qualifier of her career.

“I’m not one to really get excited until the fat lady sings,” Enders said. “It was really nice to hear us stay on top after the really quick guys finished running. Tomorrow, you never know. Tonight was a really late run, and if the weather looks good tomorrow, hopefully we run on schedule and won’t have such great conditions tomorrow evening and we’ll be able stay on top.

“But our goal tomorrow is to get our race-day setup ready to go, stay consistent, and keep repeating.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 9 to 10 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in MDT).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to show what her Mopar can do in Denver

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DENVER, CO — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has come to Bandimere Speedway for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals for many years, always knowing how difficult it is racing in the thinner Colorado air, but this year Enders is driving a Hemi-powered Dart, and she relishes the chance to race on even terms with her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge.

“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity,” Enders said. “The Hemis have run well on the mountain for years and years and years. Hopefully, this can be a turnaround weekend for us.”

Plus, this Denver race marks a special occasion. Ten years ago, she raced as a teammate to Richie Stevens, Shaun Carlson, and Gene Wilson.

“This race also marks the 10-year anniversary of my first race with Mopar back in 2006,” Enders said. “Pretty cool deal.”

This Denver race is pretty cool for another reason, too: It will be the first race in NHRA history to be televised live on a national broadcast channel (FOX).

“That will definitely be awesome,” Enders said. “It’s my sponsor’s race, and hopefully we’ll get some additional coverage. It’ll be great for our class and our sport.”

The FOX broadcast team will show an event unlike any other in the sport. Since Denver has a mile-high altitude, engines in Pro Stock are robbed of air and horsepower. That completely changes the dynamic of Pro Stock drivers from the moment they drop the clutch to when they cross the finish line.

“It’s very different as a driver,” Enders said. “Pro Stock being a naturally aspirated class, we’re the ones who are most affected by the thin air. We’re the ones who probably run the slowest, according to class. From a driver’s standpoint, the clutch feels completely different, your shift points come at a completely different time, and the way the motor accelerates is very different. Driving with your ear is completely out of the question.

“I’ve raced up on the mountain for the last 12, 13 years, so hopefully my experience comes into play. It will certainly take us a couple of qualifying passes to be able to get a handle on things as far as car setup and driving, but I’m optimistic and looking forward to the challenge.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m., Friday, and 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 6 to 7 p.m., Friday, and 9 to 10 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in MDT).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders kicks off Western Swing with semifinal finish in Denver

Erica Enders posts semifinal finish in Denver 2015

DENVER, CO — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders came within an eyelash of reaching the final round of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway, but she dropped a close race to eventual event winner Larry Morgan in the semifinals, her 10th semi in 14 races during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

“We definitely had the car to do it,” Enders said. “We were running really fast and I have been driving really well. I believed that today was our day, and you have to believe that as a driver. If you don’t think and believe that you’re the best and that you’re going to win you might as well leave your car on the jacks at your pit.”

After losing to Morgan on a holeshot in Chicago, Enders ripped off a .015-second reaction time this time, getting a quick jump on Morgan, but Morgan ran her down with a pass of 6.914 seconds at 199.32 mph to Enders’ 6.920 at 199.26 mph.

“I was surprised to lose,” Enders said. “I knew Larry Morgan was going to be tough because he has a consistent race car and he always seems to get up on the wheel against me, which is a compliment. This time I left on him and paid him back a little for Chicago when my win light didn’t come on.”

Enders has four victories in five final-round appearances in 2015 as she tries to defend her Pro Stock world championship. Denver’s semifinal was the fourth time in the last five races she has raced to at least the semi’s.

And she got to the semifinals with an impressive win over current Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson. Enders got the best of Anderson on the Christmas Tree (.018 to .051) and on the racetrack (6.900 at 199.91 mph to 6.904 at 199.73 mph).

“It was definitely cool to turn the win light on today against Greg,” Enders said. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a tough road to hoe because we had Greg second round, Larry third round, and most likely A.J. in the finals.

“To be able to knock Greg off was awesome. We have just been making better runs here than they have. I feel like it’s going to be a battle between he and I the rest of the year. Not counting any other drivers out but Greg’s going to be tough, and we are going to make it just as tough for him.”

Enders inched to within two rounds — 37 points — of the Pro Stock points lead by kicking off the three-race Western Swing with a semifinal finish.

“I feel good about the rest of the Swing,” Enders said. “I’m thankful that we get to run Sonoma and Seattle this year. We will take a fast, consistent hotrod to California.”

Quick Q4 pass has Erica Enders stoked for race day in Denver

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DENVER, CO — As far as Erica Enders is concerned, there is no one better to end Allen Johnson’s winning streak at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway than her and the Elite Motorsports team.

Johnson has won the last three races in Denver and six of the last eight, but it was Enders who was quickest in the final qualifying session Saturday, giving her momentum heading into Sunday. She qualified No. 3 with a pass of 6.882 seconds at 200.65 mph as she guns for her fifth victory of 2015.

“Tomorrow is going to be challenging,” Enders said. “A.J. has dominated up here for a lot of years and our single goal is to win this race tomorrow, so we will do our best and let God do the rest and see what happens. It’s pretty cool to have a fast Chevy up here.”

Enders’ run of 6.888 seconds at 199.97 mph topped the Pro Stock field in the final qualifying session, and it backed up a solid 6.922-second pass at 199.85 mph run earlier Saturday in the heat of the day.

“Today was more comparable to what tomorrow is going to be than having two night sessions,” Enders said. “We were able to get our race-day setup ready, and I’m feeling confident. I went up there and tried to cut a good light, and my guys just gave me a really awesome race car. I knew that when I uncluched it that it wanted to go somewhere. It’s definitely nice to go to sleep on a Saturday night with a run like that under your belt.”

Saturday’s two good passes came after a somewhat difficult Friday as Enders and her team adjusted to the Denver altitude.

“Friday wasn’t as great as we would have liked it to be but we are learning,” Enders said. “Having said that, we are still the third-quickest from the session last night, so it’s encouraging for tomorrow.”

Enders will race No. 14 qualifier Matt Hartford in the first round Sunday. Hartford’s best lap was 7.084 seconds at 197.25 mph.

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