Posts Tagged Gainesville

After super-fast start, two-time series champ Erica Enders exits Gatornat’ls in Round 2

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Gainesville 2017

GAINESVILLE, FL — Erica Enders flashed the form that made her a two-time Pro Stock champion this weekend at the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, qualifying a lofty third in the field and zooming to a convincing first-round win Sunday morning. But the fun stopped there as her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro over-powered the racetrack in Round 2, sending her packing.

“You never want to lose a single round,” she said. “That’s just how racers are wired. But I think when we take a step back and look at the progress we’ve made in the first three races of the year, especially compared to last season, we’ll see we are miles ahead.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. They are so consistent and good and give me such an awesome racecar every round. We just missed the tune-up a hair in Round 2 and over-estimated what the track would hold. It rattled the tires right off the launch pad and that was all she wrote.”

Race day had started extremely well for the Texan as she posted an impressive 6.493 at 213.87 mph in dismissing Alan Prusiensky, who was slower at the start (.033 to .073 seconds) and the top end, running a 6.566 at 211.13 mph in the defeat.

The run gave her lane choice by a massive margin over second-round opponent Shane Gray, who went 6.526 at 211.73 mph in the opening session, but the advantage didn’t pan out for the 21-time national event winner, even though she had a .016-second reaction time to Gray’s .032-second start.

“Our teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. rattled his tires in the left lane, which we thought was slightly worse than the right side, so the guys were comfortable in keeping my car set the way it was for my race,” Enders said. “I felt it shaking as soon as I dropped the clutch but kept my foot in it and pulled a gear to see if we could power through the shake. It just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to crash the car so I just pushed in the clutch.”

Gray went on to post a respectable, but certainly beatable 6.518 at 213.13 mph.

“We’ll get out of here and go test some more before the next race,” Enders said. “We want to win races with regularity once again, just like we did during our two championship seasons. I believe we’re very close to that goal.”

The next national event is the 18th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, which takes place March 31-April 2 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Two-time champ Erica Enders presses towards top of Pro Stock category

Erica Enders | Gainesville NHRA Pro Stock 2017

GAINESVILLE, FL — Perhaps in a last-minute bid to impress voters in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders ripped off her first 6.4-second pass of NHRA’s fuel-injected era to qualify a lofty third on the elimination ladder of the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

Enders’ 6.490 at 214.01 mph was more than enough to lock up her best qualifying effort since last year’s Denver race, a span of 13 national events. It also makes her one of the favorites to win the prestigious and historic Gatornationals, one of the stops on tour she has yet to conquer.

“I’m really pleased with our performance here in Gainesville and if fans recognize we’re a true contender again and vote us into the K&N Challenge based on this weekend, that would be a real blessing,” Enders said. “It’s funny but it’s always the weekends where you don’t start off on the right foot where you tend to do better. We had to abort Q1 but we’ve been awesome ever since.

“Tomorrow is going to be a warm day, just like today. The race track is very tricky, very marginal so I think tomorrow it’s going to be a driver’s race, which I love. My guys give me a consistent car that goes A to B. That’s how we won both of our championships and I’m going to do my best to drive to the winner’s circle.

“Having run what we just ran in the heat of the day knowing there was more left in the car and being second quickest of the session gives us a lot of confidence going into race day. I’m really excited. One win I lack that is really prestigious is the Gatornationals so we are going to put our heads down and go to work tomorrow.”

The jump in performance wasn’t a surprise to Enders, who reported team owner Richard Freeman had her and the rest of his Elite Motorsports group test Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro following the last national event in Phoenix.

“Hard work always pays off,” Enders said. “Before Pheonix, I tested Jeg’s car. I think I made 25 runs in his car and I asked Richard if we could test my car when we got done with Pheonix. We had some issues to sort out with it and we all want to win more than anything so we’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

“Testing a few days in Oklahoma and just being behind the wheel of a race car every day for the last two weeks straight kept me sharp for this race and allowed me to have a lot of fun. I’m blessed to be in the position I am, to have such a great team that stands behind me, all because of Richard. We’re excited about tomorrow and we’ll see what we can do.”

As the No. 3 qualifier, Enders will enjoy lane choice in her first-round race against Alan Prusiensky when Sunday’s eliminations begin at noon. Enders has her opponent covered by a tenth of a second — a stunning gap in the factory hot rod class — with Prusiensky topping out at 6.590 seconds and 211.69 mph in qualifying 14th on the grid.

FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying highlights at 11 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination action beginning at 1 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Two-time drag racing champ Erica Enders looking to add ‘Gator’ skin to her wall

Erica Enders 2017 NHRA Pro Stock

GAINESVILLE, FL — One of only three women in history to capture a world championship in any of the top forms of motorsports, Erica Enders has amassed 21 national event victories in her illustrious career. However, that impressive number of wins doesn’t include one from the prestigious Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, a fact Enders would like to change at the 48th running of the event this weekend.

“I’ve always looked at the Gatornationals as one of the big-time, heritage races on the schedule so certainly we’d love to win it,” Enders said. “There’s a real party atmosphere with Spring Break and St. Patrick’s Day going on, plus all the people escaping the snow up north come down for the weekend. It’s always a lot of fun.

“We’ve been super busy since Phoenix, testing the Pro Stock car, running our Omaha Track COPO Camaro in Stock at a divisional event, and even racing in an NMCA event. I’ve been driving some sort of racecar for 12 days straight. It’s been a blast.”

Enders certainly knows how to win as her Richard Freeman-led race team collected 15 Pro Stock victories in their two-year championship run, six in 2014 and nine more in 2015. She says the recipe and ingredients used to cook up those successes haven’t change a bit.

“Richard is really good at creating a family environment and keeping everyone happy and motivated at the same time,” Enders said. “We have three Pro Stock teams under the Elite umbrella this year and all of us have worked together for a long time now so we know how to get the best out of the entire group. There is no ego on this team. We’re all working together for the best of the team.

“All three cars have started well and we’re all in the top 10 in the Mello Yello points so we’re happy. Most of all, we’re still having the best time, hanging out and racing with each other. I wouldn’t trade this group for anything.”

Gainesville will offer Enders two chances to win as aside from her Pro Stock car, she’ll be racing Terry Peterson’s Omaha Track COPO Camaro in the first of five Factory Stock Showdown scheduled this season. The car features Patterson-Elite horsepower.

“It’s a great racecar, very fast and super smooth,” she said. “I do know we’ll be up against the best Stock racers in the country and everyone wants to win this deal so it’ll be cutthroat, but I pretty much have raced under that pressure my whole career. We’ll be ready.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions for the 48th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals are scheduled for 12:45 and 4:15 p.m., Friday, and 12 and 2:30 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins with two qualifying shows, one at 12 a.m., Friday, and the other at 11 p.m., Saturday, followed by live elimination action beginning at 1 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in EDT).

Reigning champ Erica Enders nipped by .01-second in Gainesville

Erica Enders Gainseville 2016 Sunday

GAINESVILLE, FL — Back-to-back and reigning world Pro Stock champion Erica Enders went door-handle-to-door-handle with Allen Johnson in the opening round of eliminations at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, ultimately losing by a hundredth of a second, her third straight first-round loss.

“We’re getting so close to where we want to be, and we knew making the switch to Mopar would take some adjustments, but it’s still frustrating when you lose a drag race,” Enders said, “especially when you consider all of the success we’ve had the last two seasons.

“I know we’ll be alright and the guys are upbeat and telling me not to get down, but I suppose I’ve gotten a little spoiled. At the same time, I know we have the best team, the best crew guys, the best tuners, the best engine builders in the world under this awning, so there’s no doubt we’ll be back to our winning ways very soon. We just have to be patient.”

Johnson left with a miniscule .006-second head start but was able to hold off Enders’ Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart as the two streaked down Gainesville Raceway. The margin of victory at top speed was estimated to be about four feet.

“I could see ‘Brutus’ (Johnson) out of the corner of my eye the whole way down,” Enders said. “That’s one big advantage we have without the hood scoop any more — you can see everything. I just did my thing and tried to be perfect going through the gears, but we came up a fender short.

“I keep saying it but we’ve only had these Hemi motors for a month, so it’s new to all of us, but when Jake Hairston and Nick Ferri tell me there are big things to come, I believe them. The more and more runs we make and the more dyno time those two have, the better it will be. Like I said, we have to be patient.”

The next stop on the NHRA tour is the 17th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, April 1-3, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, although Enders thinks she’ll be in the seat before that race begins.

“I’d imagine the guys will want to test some more,” Enders said. “It’s easy for us to go to Keith Haney’s track in Tulsa (Okla.) because it’s close to the race shop and that track is so good it’s just like anything we see on the national tour. We’ll probably hit it hard when the truck gets back to Oklahoma.

“Thanks to the fans here in Gainesville. They’ve been awesome. I wish we could have done more for them, but their support hasn’t wavered one bit. I’ll tell them all the same thing: Be patient with us.”

Today’s race will be televised from 1 to 4 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

Reigning world champion Erica Enders progressing nicely with her new Mopar hot rod

Erica Enders | Gainesville 2016 Qualifying

GAINESVILLE, FL — Two and a half races into her newest era of racing, back-to-back and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is pleased with the progress of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. Through four rounds of qualifying at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Enders qualified 10th with a steady pass of 6.636 seconds at 208.33 mph.

“It’s no secret that we’ve struggled a bit the first two races with an extremely new program, but it’s just a matter of having more time to make more runs with this Dodge Dart and the Hemi powerplant,” Enders said. “We’re going to get better every race; I believe that wholeheartedly. My guys are so smart. They want it more than anything. We just have to be patient.

“Our test in Tulsa (Okla.) this week was certainly encouraging. We’ve improved so much since we got our first motor in February, for sure. Knowing what we found in Tulsa and applying it here to all four of the cars on this team was our first goal and we all came out okay. I think our four cars ended up fifth, sixth, ninth, and 10th, so that’s pretty good.”

Enders’ 6.636 pits her against good friend Allen Johnson when elimination action begins at noon ET on Sunday. Johnson’s best pass was a seventh-place 6.628 at 207.91 mph.

“I don’t think that where we qualified is indicative of what happened on the track because on our run of record I had something go wrong and it certainly cost us a few hundredths of a second,” Enders said. “We could have at least run a 6.62, so that’s extremely encouraging.

“We certainly weren’t looking for a bottom-half qualifying effort, but we will get our act together before tomorrow, and Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate) has proved over and over that you can win from any position on the qualifying sheet, so we’ll treat tomorrow like a brand-new day. I feel really confident.

“We’ve all got a little extra pep in our step after today. I know things are for sure headed in the right direction.”

Race day eliminations will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX Sports 1.

Pro Stock champion Erica Enders chases first Gatornationals victory

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GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders has already amassed an impressive résumé in her illustrious career, from winning back-to-back Pro Stock championships in 2014-15 to going to victory lane 21 times, including at the prestigious U.S. Nationals last season.

A win at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals has eluded her so far, but she gets another chance at victory this weekend at Gainesville Raceway.

“It would be really cool to get a Wally at the Gators,” Enders said. “I’ve been to the finals twice and haven’t won yet, but I really want to win there. It’s a tall order right now, but we’ll certainly go in with a positive attitude and a winning mentality. You never know what could happen.”

Enders raced to the final round in Gainesville early in her Pro Stock career, losing to Tom Martino in 2006. She also reached the Gatornationals final in 2014, her first season with Elite, before falling to Allen Johnson.

Her tenure at Elite has netted two championships and 15 victories, including nine last year (a single-season record for women).

A switch to Dodge, compounded by NHRA-mandated changes to fuel-injected engines, has put Enders and her Elite team in development mode early in 2016, but improvements are coming.

“All of the new changes are a huge challenge,” Enders said. “We haven’t quite gotten a handle on it yet, but our test session was very productive. We feel like we learned a bunch and we have it pointed in the right direction now. Time will tell, but it definitely was encouraging.”

Enders tested this week at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park — not far from Elite’s headquarters in Wynnewood, Okla. — as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones continue to fine-tune the new Dodge Dart.

“We’ll keep working on our race car, we’ll keep getting better,” Enders said. “It would be awesome to have a Gatornationals trophy. It’s one of the most prestigious races on the tour, and there’s a lot of history there. It’s one of my favorite races. We’ll go do our best and let God do the rest.”

Friday night qualifying will air from 9 to 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, with a second qualifying show from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday. Race day eliminations will air live from 1 to 4 p.m. ET Sunday, also on FOX Sports 1.

History is on Enders-Stevens’ side as she tries to bounce back from Gainesville exit

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GAINESVILLE, FL — NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens hopes history repeats itself after an uncharacteristic first-round exit at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway.

The last time Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team exited in the first round, they turned it around and went on to win the 2014 championship.

“It’s not how many times you fall down,” Enders-Stevens said, “it’s how many times you get up.”

Enders-Stevens last lost in the first round in Brainerd, Minn., last year. She and her team used that as motivation for the Countdown to the Championship, when she won two races, went to the semifinals twice, and reached the second round twice.

“We ran poorly in Brainerd that day, but we bounced back and did well in the Countdown,” Enders-Stevens said. “I have a world of confidence in my team, and I trust that we will bounce back and be just fine.

“My team owner Richard Freeman, my crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll, and my entire team are the best in the business and we’ll be ready for Charlotte.”

Enders-Stevens drove a new Chevrolet Camaro in Gainesville, and while there is tons of potential, developing a new car often takes time. She qualified No. 7 — her lowest since the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in 2013 when she was with another team — and lost in the first round to Jimmy Alund.

Both cars struggled off the line, with Enders-Stevens getting sideways before she had to push in the clutch. Alund’s pass was 7.032 seconds at 209.59 mph, while she coasted across with a 13.824-second run at 62.06 mph.

“To come back and see all my fans at the trailer after a run like that takes the sting out, for sure, especially the little kids,” Enders-Stevens said. “They’re just full of joy, and it definitely puts a smile on my face.”

Enders-Stevens, Elite Motorsports exploring potential on new Camaro in Gainesville

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GAINESVILLE, FL — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens will start the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway from an unusual position: Outside the top three.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion had swept both No. 1 qualifiers before Gainesville and had started third or better in 21 of her last 24 races, including sixth or better in every race since 2013.

But as her Elite Motorsports team tunes a new Chevrolet Camaro, Enders-Stevens will begin Gainesville eliminations from the No. 7 spot.

“It’s an unusual position to start Sunday from, but it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish,” Enders-Stevens said. “If anyone can do it, I know we can.”

Enders-Stevens last qualified outside the top six at the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in November 2013 when she was with another team.

Enders-Stevens won six races and the 2014 championship in her first season with Elite Motorsports. Crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones built a new Camaro for Gainesville and beyond, and the team knows the new car will be better in the long run.

Getting there isn’t a simple process, of course, because new race cars always take some development.

“There’s a lot of potential,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have not shown what we’re made of or what we’re capable of this weekend, but that’s part of the growing pains of trying to make strides in the right direction. We’re working the bugs out of this thing, and we’re figuring out the potential.”

Enders-Stevens’ best qualifying pass in Gainesville was 6.551 seconds at 211.79 mph. She’ll square off against No. 9 qualifier Jonathan Gray in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations. Gray’s best run was 6.555 seconds at 211.76 mph.

“I know exactly what we’re capable of,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got to get in the car and be up on the wheel tomorrow. I know my guys will give me the best they have.”

Eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday, with both qualifying and elimination action broadcast on ESPN2 on tape-delay basis.

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