Posts Tagged Indy

Two-time Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders remains bullish on her chances in Indy

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Indy 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Erica Enders has been to the top of the drag racing world twice, finishing as Pro Stock world champion in 2014 and 2015. She’s the most decorated female racer in class history and she even has a victory at the sport’s biggest race — the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals — in 2015.

Maybe that’s why she sounds so bullish on her chances of winning drag racing’s crown jewel for a second time Monday when eliminations begin at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indy.

“I say it every time but my money’s always on my guys because they’re the best in the business and we’ve proven that time after time,” Enders said. “When they give me a car that goes A-to-B, nine times out of 10 we’ll turn the win light on. I’m optimistic about tomorrow. We’ll do our best and see what happens.”

Enders qualified her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in the No. 11 position after posting a best pass of 6.604 seconds at 209.10 mph Friday night in the first of five time trials.

“I feel like we have definitely put in the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears to earn some round wins tomorrow,” Enders said. “We’ve collectively made 65 runs in the past five days between testing my car and Jeg’s (Coughlin Jr.) car plus all the runs the four Elite cars have made in qualifying.

“We still have some issues but we are chipping away at them. We feel like together we can accomplish anything. This is the good stuff about this team that keeps us always going in the right direction.”

It’s not just Enders who has a positive outlook about their chances against first-round opponent Chris McGaha, who qualified sixth with a 6.577 at 209.95 mph. Veteran crew chief Rick Jones, Enders’ tuner since she joined Elite Motorsports nearly four years ago, offered his opinion.

“We always have a chance with the way Erica drives,” Jones said. “We made two solid runs today, maybe a little conservative but we’ll get better tomorrow. Race day is always a different deal, especially at Indy. The track usually gets worse and we already know it’s going to be way hotter. The bottom line is Erica’s going to be leaving first and we’ll see if they can catch her.”

Pro Stock eliminations are slated to start at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air the first round of eliminations live from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday. The main FOX Network takes over from there, airing the remainder of eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Monday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

“Mark Melling and his son are here from Melling Performance and we are proud to have them on board with us for the rest of the year,” Enders said. “We also have Gallagher Insurance and a couple of their guys out here this weekend as well so we have a lot of exciting things working on the business side of this program. That’s the key to making it work on the race track.

“Everyone is working hard and nothing would be better for us than another U.S. Nationals win.”

Native Houstonian Erica Enders heads to U.S. Nationals with her heart firmly in Texas

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is drag racing’s biggest event, but native Houstonian Erica Enders admits it will be hard to focus on the task at hand when the weekend arrives considering the epic devastation in her hometown.

“My heart is broken,” Enders said. “It’s impossible to get your mind around this catastrophe. I watch the news and see so many areas I know and they are under 10 feet of water. Most of the people I grew up with around the Cypress area have gotten some level of flooding. It’s going to take months to recover.

“It’s kind of spooky because 12 years ago this week Richie (Stevens, husband) escaped to Indy after Katrina wiped out his hometown (New Orleans). Now here we are heading back to Indy and my hometown is wiped out. I feel so helpless but we are definitely going to do all we can to raise awareness to help the people of Houston.”

To that end, Enders and her sister Courtney Enders-Lambert are arranging a grassroots campaign to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. They hope to be collecting donations and dry goods at the U.S. Nationals.

Although under the circumstances, her racing endeavors seem secondary, Enders has a few reasons to be optimistic about her chances of success at this year’s “Big Go.” The Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team has tested extensively since the last NHRA tour stop in Brainerd, Minn., and she has a long history of success at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

“We went straight to Tulsa with my car and my teammate Jeg Coughlin’s car and tested for three straight days,” Enders said. “We made probably 40-50 passes, working 15-plus hours every day. Jeg is taking over now and the team will be in St. Louis testing some more with Vincent Nobile and Alex Laughlin. We will arrive at Indy with lots of new data for all four Elite cars.

“I remember going to Indy in 1994 when they had the inaugural Junior Dragster championships and we were runner-up. Then you take it all the way to 2015 when I won in Pro Stock. That catapulted us to three Countdown wins and we won our second championship going away. Indy’s an historic place and we love being a part of it all.”

Pro Stock drivers can make five qualifying runs, beginning at 7:15 p.m., Friday. There will be two more sessions at 2:30 and 6:15 p.m., Saturday, and another two at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations are slated to start at noon, Monday.

FOX Sports 1 will air live qualifying from 12-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m., Sunday, and the first round of eliminations live from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Monday. The main FOX Network takes over from there, airing the remainder of eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Monday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Erica Enders clinches playoffs spot, will battle for another Pro Stock championship

Erica Enders | Indy 2016 US Nationals

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team secured their chance to race for a third consecutive championship during the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Enders, who won the 2014 and 2015 NHRA Pro Stock titles, wrapped up a spot in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs when teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. lost in the first round. Coughlin got some good news in the second round when Alex Laughlin lost, landing Coughlin in the Countdown as well.

“This is pretty amazing,” said Enders. “We’ve had our fair share of challenges, but now to have both of our Elite Performance/Mopar Dodge Darts in the Countdown to the Championship is huge. I hate it for Alex because he’s one of the nicest guys out here, but I’m excited for Team Mopar. The championship is a tall order, but we’re prepared to dig deep.”

Enders, Coughlin, and Laughlin battled for the final two spots in the top 10 of the Pro Stock points standings, as only the top 10 are eligible for the championship when the Countdown begins in two weeks in Charlotte.

Enders had rallied from 11th in points after the race in Sonoma to ninth two races later. She won on holeshots in the first round in the last two races to help her cause, beating Laughlin in E1 in Seattle and Shane Gray in E1 in Brainerd, Minn.

Enders, the defending U.S. Nationals champion, displayed her driving skill again in the first round at Indy on Monday. Against the higher-qualified Gray, Enders left first with .014-second reaction time, but her pass of 6.680 seconds at 207.02 mph wasn’t enough to hold off Gray. He had a .029 light and then made a pass of 6.644 seconds at 208.14 mph to reach the second round.

“It’s no secret we’ve had some struggles this year, but I believe in my team,” Enders said. “They’ve proven time and again that when the pressure is on, they rise up and perform. I have no doubt that we’ll be able to do that again come Charlotte and beyond.”

The points will be reset heading into the Countdown, with Enders starting in ninth place, 100 points behind the leader.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders excited to defend her U.S. Nationals title

Erica Enders | Indy US Nationals 2016 | Pro Stock

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — A big part of two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders’ success is the ability to see the positive in everything and then make the most of that optimism.

Enders qualified her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge in the No. 14 qualifying spot for Monday eliminations at the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. That may be disheartening to some, but Enders is the defending U.S. Nationals champion and knows race day is a new day.

“This is our worst qualifying position in a long time but I’m OK with that,” Enders said. “I’m excited about tomorrow. I need to go to work because Shane (Gray’s) got a fast car, but I have the best guys in the whole world and I can drive. We’ll do our best.

“We’ve got to go to battle tomorrow, (teammate) Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) and I, to keep our positions. It’s definitely going to be interesting for sure because Alex (Laughlin) has the fastest race car he’s had all year.”

Enders, Coughlin, and Laughlin are battling for 10th place in the Pro Stock points standings. The top 10 will race in the Countdown to the Championship, which begins after the U.S. Nationals. Enders is in ninth, 13 points ahead of Coughlin and 45 ahead of Laughlin.

Elimination rounds are worth 30 points at the U.S. Nationals, instead of the usual 20, so a good day here will be crucial to making the points standings, but Enders has more than points on her mind.

“There are seven race days left, and it’s crazy to think that after the last two years, we’ve gone 17 events without a win,” Enders said. “But tomorrow’s a new day. It’s going to be hot with a tricky racetrack, and that’s where we have strived in the past.

“This year is completely different — different car, different motor, different everything — but one thing remains the same, and that’s my team and their determination and ability to perform under pressure.”

Enders raced two Dodge vehicles at the U.S. Nationals, taking a Challenger to the third round of Stock Eliminator.

“It was a fun opportunity to drive the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak in Stock Eliminator at the U.S. Nationals,” Enders said. “Every run it got progressively better. I’m excited about it. I think I found my comfort level in the car, and I was able to have some good reaction times in eliminations. That last run, a couple of my Pro Stock tuners came over and helped, and that really changed the attitude of the car. It left better and didn’t blow the tires off.

“It was definitely fun and a team effort. I’m proud to drive for (car owner) Joe Welch and have gotten to know him and his wife better. It’s been a fun weekend so far, and now I’m looking forward to getting in my Mopar Performance Dodge Dart and racing for the Pro Stock trophy tomorrow.”

Eliminations begin at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air the early part of Monday’s eliminations live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live TV coverage will then shift to the main FOX Network with action from 1 to 4 p.m. (All times listed in ET).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders fulfilled lifelong dream with 2015 U.S. Nationals title

ee-indy16-pre

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders was drained after the U.S. Nationals in 2015, and understandably so, because she put everything she had into the race. Having won it, fulfilling a lifelong dream, Enders was physically and mentally exhausted.

Enders, driver of the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge, returns as defending champion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, held this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

“That was probably, aside from the championship, the coolest racing accomplishment that I’ve ever had,” Enders said. “To try to accomplish something for 25 years and to finally get it done was one of those culmination moments.

“I think my crew chief, Rick Jones, put it in perspective. We have to be tough out here, especially being a girl, and it’s very crucial to show no emotion, but it was hard to be emotionless after that win. Rick summed it up best. He said that he had been trying to win that race for 40 years, so my 25 years looked pretty measly compared to that.”

Enders’ victory was one of many highlights of her 2015 season, one where she won nine races and repeated as Pro Stock champion. She beat V. Gaines, Larry Morgan, Greg Anderson, and Drew Skillman to win the U.S. Nationals for the first time.

That win came two years after Enders was the fastest racer on the property at Indy, but she slowed down in the final and lost.

“In 2013, I literally had one stolen from me, and I didn’t understand why at the time, but to be able to accomplish it with such a tremendous group of men (at Elite Motorsports), people that I love more than anything, that’s why God made us wait,” Enders said. “It was a huge accomplishment, and we are going to the U.S. Nationals this year with our heads held high because we are the defending champions, but it is also a very crucial race because it’s the final race before the Countdown is set.”

The 10-driver field for the Countdown to the Championship, which determines the 2016 champion, is set after Indianapolis. Enders moved into ninth place in Brainerd, Minn., but she has yet to clinch a spot.

Last year, Enders led the points standings heading into Indy and wrapped up the No. 1 spot heading into the Countdown with her semifinal win over Anderson.

“Things are a little different than they were last year,” Enders said. “I had to win the semifinals over Greg Anderson last year at Indy to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position, and now we’re fighting for a top-10 position, which is kind of ironic. We will do our best and see what happens.

“It’s a fun race, it’s a long race. It’s definitely a marathon race. We have five qualifying passes and race day on Monday, so I am looking forward to it. Indy is something that every racer wants to accomplish, so we will see if we can do it again.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 7:15 p.m., Friday; 2:45 and 6:45 p.m., Saturday; and 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations start at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from noon to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., Sunday. Eliminations will air live Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 and from 1 to 4 p.m. on FOX. (All TV times listed in ET).

Enders to race in Factory Stock Showdown at Indy

ee-mopar-indy-factory

Downtime will be rare for defending NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock champ Erica Enders at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. In addition to steering her Mopar Performance Dodge Dart Pro Stocker, Enders will also compete in a Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicle in the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown at Indy. She’ll take the wheel of a supercharged 354-cubic-inch Gen III Hemi engine-powered Mopar Dodge Drag Pak prepped by the Joe Welch Racing organization and outfitted in official Dodge and Mopar graphics.

“We are thrilled to have an NHRA champion like Erica Enders carry the Mopar and Dodge colors into competition not only in Pro Stock but also in the Factory Stock Showdown,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “The U.S. Nationals event provides a great opportunity to put Erica in the seat of a supercharged Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak and reach a wider audience of fans at one of the most prestigious events on the NHRA circuit.”

“Dodge already has the most powerful muscle cars on the street with the 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats, and now America’s performance brand brings even more muscle to the track with the supercharged Drag Pak,” said Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Cars – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler, and Fiat, FCA – North America. “The ‘Domestic. Not Domesticated.’ Dodge spirit will be at full throttle for racing fans to see at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.”

“I’m pretty excited,” said Enders. “It’s definitely a cool deal that Mopar and Dodge asked me to drive the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak at Indy. It will be something interesting. I have never competed in that before, and being that it’s at the U.S. Nationals, it’s obviously very prestigious, so we will go out there and see what happens.

“I already have a license in Stock, so it wasn’t a big deal. I’m licensed in almost every class except for Funny Car and Top Fuel, so that wasn’t an issue. I did, however, go up to Detroit and get fitted for the car, and we tested for one day. I was able to do some burnouts and take the Tree a couple of times. I haven’t foot-brake raced since Jr. Dragsters, so that’s 20-something years ago. To go up there and not have a Pro Tree and not leave with a clutch or a transbrake button, it’s definitely a different procedure. It was fun and exciting. It’s a blower car, so that will be cool.”

Pro Stock qualifying for Enders doesn’t begin until Friday night, but she’ll be in the lanes at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis starting on Wednesday, along with nearly 200 fellow Sportsman competitors hitting the strip.

Erica Enders adds U.S. Nationals title to growing résumé

Erica Enders wins 2015 U.S. Nationals at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Erica Enders can now add U.S. Nationals champion to her growling list of accomplishments in what is becoming a legendary career.

Enders won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway with a brilliant driving display, beating her final three opponents on holeshots, including Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the final round.

The victory cemented her No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock points standings for the Countdown to the Championship, which begins at zMax Dragway in Charlotte in two weeks, and it was her 18th career win, tying her for second all-time with the legendary Shirley Muldowney.

Enders may not be a legend yet, but she has accomplished a lot. She won the 2014 Pro Stock World Championship, becoming the first female to win the class title, and now she has won the biggest race of all, three years after a crushing defeat in the final round to a teammate.

“I’m struggling putting it into words because we’ve worked so hard for so long to get here,” Enders said. “There have been times in my career, particularly the final at Indy in 2012, where I really didn’t understand why things went down the way they did. It’s worth the wait. It’s worth the wait to do it with the right people and I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”

Her team is proud of her, too, especially after her driving Monday. After dispatching Vieri Gaines in the first round, Enders was actually outrun by Larry Morgan in the second round (6.613 seconds at 209.52 mph for Morgan to 6.617 at 209.01 mph for Enders), but her .036-second reaction time and .007-second head start was the difference.

Then came a big matchup in the semifinals against Greg Anderson, who was second in the points standings and the No. 1 qualifier here. But Enders drilled the Tree (.013 to .054) and overcame Anderson’s 6.591-second pass at 210.41 mph with her 6.618 at 209.39 mph.

“It was a challenge all day long, and our big round was against Greg Anderson,” Enders said. “Beating him allows us to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 seed. Those 30 points are going to be really, really crucial to us considering last year. Had we lost to Jason Line in the final (in Pomona, Calif., last year), we would have lost by a single point, so it’s huge. It’s huge for me, it’s huge for my team, and huge for any kid that ever had a dream. I came here as a little kid and I wanted to be here. Twenty-three years later we finally made it.”

In the final against Skillman, Enders had another .013 light to Skillman’s .025, and her run of 6.611 seconds at 209.75 mph was enough to hold off his 6.606-second run at 209.98 mph. The victory was her sixth of 2015, and her career total now matches Muldowney.

“Six wins in a single season is huge because I tied Shirley Muldowney,” Enders said. “I talk about Shirley an awful lot because she’s been a lifelong hero of mine because of what she had to endure driving back then. She still managed to do it with grace and class and come out on top. Over the years she became my mentor and my friend. I’m really lucky to have her in my corner. To put my name next to hers for a tie for all-time wins is incredible.

“I remember it like it was yesterday, wanting to get on the list, period, with just one win, and to say we have 18 is nuts.”

And it came at the race where she was named grand marshal. Enders got the call from Chevrolet before the race in Seattle, but she thought it was a joke.

“I kinda was like, ‘Are you joking?’ ” Enders said. “It’s a huge honor. I’m a Chevy girl through and through, and I’m very proud to drive a Camaro. It’s very neat, and it was a big honor to be up there today before the race. Jim Campbell has done a lot for our sport, as has everybody at Chevrolet. It’s just an honor. It feels surreal because I have to pinch myself to believe that we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for first U.S. Nationals victory

Erica Enders - 2015 U.S. Nationals qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders has already accomplished a lot in her career, from winning the 2014 Pro Stock World Championship to piling up 17 professional victories — one short of matching Shirley Muldowney for second among winningest female drivers — but she still has one big thing remaining on her bucket list: win the U.S. Nationals.

Enders has a good shot at it in 2015, as she has qualified No. 4 for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“It’d be pretty awesome to win,” said Enders, a runner-up at Indy in 2012. “It would rank right up there with the championship and winning in your hometown. It’s the biggest race of the year, and I would be ecstatic if we won it.”

There is plenty more on the line for Enders and her team. She is first in the Pro Stock points standings with one race remaining before the Countdown to the Championship, and the U.S. Nationals pays 1.5 times the normal amount of points.

“It’s very crucial for us because it’s worth a point and a half,” Enders said. “I’d really like to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position, so we’re going to fight tooth and nail for it Monday and see what happens.”

Enders’ best qualifying pass was 6.571 seconds at 210.54 mph, just .009-second off the No. 1 qualifier.

“The car is good,” Enders said. “We lost a session Friday because of the weather. Saturday morning, after 95 percent of my burnout, a coil wire came off, and we weren’t able to make that run, which put us first pair out for the third session.

“We had to be very conservative in Pro Stock, being first pair out on a racetrack like that,” Enders said. “We made a very good run and were No. 1 for a while before we ended up No. 4.”

Then on Sunday, Enders was third-quickest in each session. She’ll face No. 13 qualifier Vieri Gaines in the first round Monday after Gaines had a pass of 6.620 at 209.01 mph.

“Monday is definitely going to be tricky,” said Enders, the most recent winner on the Pro Stock tour in Brainerd, Minn. “It’s going to be hot, and that makes my crew chiefs’ jobs very interesting, but I’m fortunate to have three of the best the business has ever seen. I know they’ll give me a fast, consistent race car, and if I get up on the wheel, there’s no reason we can’t have a repeat of Brainerd.”

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