Posts Tagged Las Vegas

Reigning champ Erica Enders uses The Strip at LVMS as her personal ATM

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LAS VEGAS, NV — In winning back-to-back world championships, Pro Stock superstar Erica Enders has used The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as her personal ATM, winning more than $250,000 at Bruton Smith’s masterpiece just north of Las Vegas.

It’s a trend she’d love to continue this weekend at the NHRA season’s penultimate race, the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.

“Las Vegas has been an awesome place for us, no doubt,” Enders said. “Most people blow all their money whenever they go to Vegas but we’ve managed to walk away with some nice checks, and for that we’re really grateful.”

It all adds up. Enders won four consecutive NHRA national events at The Strip, taking both the spring and fall titles in each of the last two seasons. Each of those wins were worth $25,000. She also won back-to-back K&N Horsepower Challenge trophies in 2014 and ’15, worth $50,000 each. By “doubling up” and winning both the K&N race and the national event in the same weekend, Enders received another $25,000 bonus from NHRA. That totals $250,000, plus contingency payouts that pushed her payout even higher.

“Including reaching the semis this spring, we ended up winning 24 elimination rounds in a row, which is hard to comprehend but really cool to have accomplished,” Enders said. “I’d have to ask (NHRA statistician) Lewis Bloom how many times that’s happened in the history of the sport to see where that streak stands all-time, but I can tell you it was a fight every step of the way. I’m proud of my team for having pulled it off.

“It makes this the best track, for sure, and the last two fall race wins were super special because I took over the points lead in 2014 by winning there and then last year we clinched the title outright by winning so there’s nothing but great memories for this track.”

This time through, Enders is a distant 10th in the world rankings and still in search of her first victory of the season.

“Reaching the semifinals in the spring tied for my best outing of the year so even in a down season Vegas has still been good to me,” Enders said. “We’re already working on new stuff for next year and there are big plans for returning to the top. I can’t wait for 2017 to start, to be honest, but we still have a chance to help Vincent (Nobile, teammate) win this year’s title so we’ll do all we can for him.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m., Friday, and 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action live from 6-7 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 4-7 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in ET).

Erica Enders storms to Las Vegas semifinal with Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge

Erica Enders | Las Vegas 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV — That’s more like it.

After three untimely first-round exits in the first three races of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders stormed to the semifinals of the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“You find out what real champions are made of when you have to go through a little bit of adversity,” Enders said. “It makes you dig deeper and want it more. I don’t know we could possibly want it more than we already do, but my guys are amazing.

“It was really nice to go rounds. It felt like it was back to normal. We’re used to going deep into the race on Sunday, and we’re going to get back there. We just need a little bit more time. We certainly made strides in the right direction with our engine-development program. We have work to do, but a semifinal appearance here in Las Vegas was definitely awesome.”

Enders’ brilliant driving helped lead her to world championships in 2014 and 2015, and it was on display again in Las Vegas, where she ripped off a .009-second reaction time in the first round, then won on a holeshot in the second round with a .006 light before a .021 light in the semi’s
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“I knew today was going to be a left-foot day,” Enders said, referring to her clutch foot. “That was the only way we were going to go some rounds. Unfortunately, I missed it a little bit against Jason (Line in the semifinals); I knew that when I un-clutched it.”

Enders, winner of four consecutive races in Las Vegas, clearly had her best weekend since her Elite Motorsports team switched to Dodge in the off-season. She qualified a season-high fifth, and when she turned on the win light in the first round against Aaron Strong, it ended a tough start to the season.

Strong red-lit, but Enders would have been tough to beat with a .009 light and a pass of 6.767 seconds at 204.42 mph.

The second round didn’t go off without a hitch, as the engine cut off before Enders staged. Still, Enders restarted it and then had a .006-second reaction time that helped her beat Elite teammate Drew Skillman. He had the quicker elapsed time, 6.807 seconds at 204.01 mph, but Enders’ lead on the starting line was enough for her 6.845-second pass at 204.70 mph to get the win.

“The car shut off,” Enders said. “That’s the same thing that happened a couple of weeks ago. This time, thankfully, we were able to remain a little bit calm because we knew exactly what was going on. The car re-fired right away.”

Enders and her team were able to laugh it off later in the day.

“We had a little bit of a fireball come out of the right header and burn all the leg hair off one of my guys,” Enders said. “We replayed it in slo-mo about 37 times for all our team, and we got a good laugh out of it.”

Race winner Line was nearly untouchable Sunday, as his run of 6.737 seconds at 205.22 mph took out Enders’ 6.801-second pass at 204.82 mph. Still, Enders was encouraged by the performance of her team.

“We did a lot better than we expected to today,” said Enders, who owns an 18-1 round-win record in national events in Las Vegas with Elite. “It was a good day, a good points day. We’ve got to get back to the shop, fix these awesome Hemis, and go to Charlotte renewed, refreshed, and ready to win a race.”

Impressive Las Vegas winning streak comes to an end for Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | Las Vegas 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV — The streak is over. Long live the streak?

Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders extended her consecutive round-win streak at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to 23 on Saturday before falling to Jason Line in the second round of the K&N Horsepower Challenge, snapping a winning spree that lasted more than two years.

Enders looks to start a new streak on Sunday when she races in the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the regular national event here at The Strip.

“I didn’t want it to end but there was a plan that was different than mine,” Enders said. “You know it’s disappointing on one hand, but, wow, what an accomplishment on the other. We’ve got to keep positive and focus on tomorrow.”

Enders did make her best qualifying effort of the season in her new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge, as she’ll start eliminations from the No. 5 spot. Enders ‘ best pass was 6.711 seconds at 204.63 mph as she starts from the top half of the field for the first time in 2016.

“We definitely made some strides in the right direction,” Enders said. “It’s definitely nice to be a little more solid in the top half. We obviously still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, but fifth isn’t a bad position to start, especially considering the people who are ahead of me: The three KB (Racing) cars that have just lit the world on fire this year and then my Elite Motorsports teammate, Drew Skillman. It’s cool that it’s three KB cars and then three Elite Motorsports cars.”

Enders has won the last four national events in Las Vegas and the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races here. She ran her streak to 23 round-wins in a row by beating Allen Johnson in the first round of the K&N Challenge with a pass of 6.755 seconds at 204.60. She got off the line first with a .016-second reaction time and outran Johnson, whose pass was 6.789 seconds at 204.73 mph.

She then faced KB Racing’s Line in the second round, and though she left first with a .021 light, Line’s pass of 6.720 seconds at 205.94 mph beat her run of 6.810 seconds at 204.39 mph.

“Being first out without lane choice is pretty hard,” Enders said. “Having said that, I think that we can go back to our setup where we made our good run and have a consistent race car that’s within striking distance.”

Enders will look to start a new winning streak in the first round Sunday when she faces No. 12 qualifier Aaron Strong (6.750 at 204.6 mph).

“We’re not at the top of the pack, but we’ll keep making strides in the right direction and we’ll get better,” Enders said. “It’s just a matter of time until we’re back to our winning ways.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders’ Las Vegas hot streak is unlike any other

Erica Enders | Gainesville 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV — The winning streak Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is on at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is likely some sort of Las Vegas record.

Heading into the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals this weekend, Enders has won four national events, two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, and 22 rounds — all consecutively — in Las Vegas. The last time she didn’t win there was in October 2013.

Only Greg Anderson has won as many national events in a row in Las Vegas, but the K&N Challenge wasn’t contested in Vegas at the time.

“It’s awesome to have that kind of run, and it’s pretty unheard of,” Enders said. “We’ve had an incredible two years there, and we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us to do well this weekend. Twenty-two consecutive round-wins in a row is huge, so Vegas has obviously been good to me. I’m hoping Lady Luck will get on our side this weekend. We certainly haven’t had the best start to the year.”

As her Elite Motorsports team has dealt with rules changes that mandate a switch to fuel-injected engines as well as a move to a new manufacturer in Dodge, the 2016 season hasn’t started as well as she would have liked, so Enders and her team would love nothing more than to continue their Vegas hot streak.

“It’s definitely on our mind,” Enders said. “We’re going to continue to do our best. It’s a tall order, but we’ve accomplished things with way more working against us than we have now. Anything is possible, and we’ll go in there with the right mindset and hope for the best.

“It would be really awesome to win this weekend for Mark (Lyle). He’s a huge asset to our sport, and we’re deeply saddened by his loss.”

Lyle, the NHRA chief starter, died earlier this week. He was the starter for all of Enders’ Vegas wins, including the two special K&N Horsepower Challenge races.

The K&N Challenge is a special race for Pro Stock racers based on qualifying points since the 2015 event. Enders is the No. 2 seed and will race Allen Johnson in the first round Saturday, which coincides with the weekend’s third qualifying session.

The winner of the Challenge will earn $50,000 and a custom K&N Horsepower trophy. The runner-up will earn $10,000, the two semifinalists $3,000 each, and the four first-round finishers $2,500 apiece.

“Everything has to go right for you to have a great day,” Enders said. “To be able to have two great race days in the spring for the K&N Challenge and then the national event and then one in the fall is pretty amazing. You think of all the hard work and preparation that goes into getting the car to perform the way it does, and having everything go right that many times in a row is just insane.”

No driver has won three K&N Horsepower Challenge races in a row since the event started in 1985.

With championship in reach, Erica Enders snares No. 1 spot in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — First things first.

Erica Enders, the 2014 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and current points leader, grabbed the No. 1 qualifying spot for the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, she can clinch her second consecutive championship.

Enders increased her points lead to 162 over the Pro Stock field by being quickest in all four rounds in Las Vegas. She needs to finish the race with a 151-point lead to wrap up the title.

“Tomorrow is going to take consistency,” Enders said. “I say it all the time: A to B, focus one round at a time. Every round is tough. There are no gimmes in Pro Stock. I know better than anybody that you can go from hero to zero really quickly.

“Las Vegas has been really great for me in the past, so I’m looking forward to continuing that trend tomorrow. We’re going to just do our best and see what happens. My goal is to not think about the championship, even though everyone keeps asking me about it. I want to win the race, and that is my first goal. Tomorrow is one round at a time.”

Drivers receive 20 points for each round victory, so Enders needs to match or exceed the performance of her closest competitors in the points race, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha, Drew Skillman, Allen Johnson, etc.

Otherwise, Enders would take a sizable lead to the final race of the season, the Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 13-15 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Pomona, Calif.

But after earning her sixth No. 1 of the season and 18th of her career, Enders is focused on winning the race, too. She has won three national events in a row in Las Vegas, and counting the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge races, Enders has won 18 rounds in a row here.

That prowess continued into this weekend, as her track-record pass of 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph earned her the No. 1 spot. That run was Friday, but she was also quick in the two qualifying sessions Saturday.

“We did have some great runs today,” Enders said. “Today’s conditions were a little bit different than yesterday’s. It was obviously warmer, so the track was warmer. We made two really nice, consistent passes just getting ready for tomorrow. It is going to be the warmest of the three but not much warmer than today.

“I’m excited that we were able to make those four consistent passes and fine-tune some things. I am confident going into tomorrow, and we’ll see what happens.”

Erica Enders smashes Las Vegas track records to earn provisional pole

Erica Enders Las Vegas 2015 Countdown

LAS VEGAS, NV — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team aren’t trying to cruise to their second straight title, but they threw down a monster pass in the second qualifying session of the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Saturday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.

The run, 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph, set track records for elapsed time and speed and it was the fastest corrected run in Pro Stock history — taking into account altitude and other factors — at 6.381 seconds at 216.65 mph.

“I’m glad we were able to accomplish it,” Enders said. “Having said that, we’ve got two more important runs tomorrow. We need to scoop up all the qualifying bonus points we possibly can and try to stay on the pole. We need to go into Sunday with our heads down and get to work. We’ve got a lot to accomplish still, and I want to win the race. I want to make it four in a row. I couldn’t be more proud to be their driver; they’re an awesome group of men.”

Enders needs to leave Las Vegas with a 151-point lead to clinch the championship. She came into the race 154 points ahead, padding that by three based on qualifying points from the first two sessions.

Plus, she has been dominant in Las Vegas over the past two years, sweeping both national events in 2014 and winning here in April. To go along with those two victories, Enders has won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge here the last two years.

“I think we have 18 consecutive round-wins here, and the goal is to get to 22,” Enders said. “Having said that, we go back to taking things one at a time. My guys performed really well here, and my crew chiefs seem to have a good handle on this track and the dry air.

“Our race car is working. We stumbled onto some stuff in Dallas that we had been working really hard to figure out. As most people watched, they could see our performance change a little bit on Sunday. We certainly translated that to here. I’m excited and cautiously optimistic to be in the position we’re in.”

Enders has been quickest in both qualifying sessions this weekend, but her Q2 pass was the most impressive.

“We made a good run in the first session,” Enders said. “The weather (for Q2) was actually not as good as it was for the first session, so we really just stepped on it. I could not be more proud of my team. Our Elite Performance horsepower is really showing through right when we need it most. Pair that with our excellent teamwork, and my driving has been pretty decent lately. The sky is the limit for us.

“That run was pretty hateful. Of course, my guys got back to the computers in the trailer and were nit-picking, trying to be perfectionists about it. That’s what makes them as great as they are.”

Vegas is ‘just another race’ for championship front-runner Erica Enders

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders can clinch her second consecutive championship at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. After all, she has a massive 154-point lead on her nearest rival in the standings and is riding an otherworldly winning streak of 18 straight rounds of competition at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning five successive races at the facility.

Yet the record-setting driver from Texas says this weekend’s race is no different than the first 22 this year, of which she has won eight, an all-time, high-water mark for female drivers.

“I’m treating this race like all the other ones; I want to do my very best to put this Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “We have an awesome team with the best mechanics, engine builders, and crew chiefs in the world and we have a lot of confidence. To change the way we’ve been racing at this point would be crazy.”

Crazy indeed. Enders’ eight victories (Las Vegas 1, Houston, Topeka, Bristol, Brainerd, Indianapolis, Charlotte 2, and Dallas) lead all professional drivers, regardless of category. Her 52-14 race day record also blows away the entire professional field.

As for her good fortune at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, has won three national events and two K&N Horsepower Pro Stock Challenges in her last three trips to the high desert.

“It’s no secret Las Vegas has been very, very good to us,” Enders said. “I love the track, and the fans that come to those races are already in a party mood being in Vegas, so the atmosphere is always very upbeat.

“Coming off a win in Dallas (Oct. 18), that also raises our level of confidence. We are carrying a lot of momentum at the right time. Last year was do-or-die every round when we came to Vegas. This time we have a little cushion in the points, but we know we’re not done racing. There is work to be done, and these guys are super hungry to get another championship.

“God has a plan for us and it takes a lot of stress off my shoulders knowing that my destiny has already been set. I just need to do what I can behind the wheel and then let God handle the rest.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.

Erica Enders-Stevens completes historic sweep in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens turned in another brilliant driving performance to continue her run of success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Sunday to secure a second consecutive double-up at The Strip.

Enders-Stevens also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday, completing the Challenge/national-event sweep for the second year in a row. The sweep earned Elite Motorsports a $25,000 bonus to go with the $50,000 earned from winning the Challenge.

“I guess we can start saying Vegas is our lucky track,” Enders-Stevens said. “Winning is very challenging, and to be able to do it at both Vegas races last year and then come back here and do it again shows what we’re capable of. But it’s also very surreal. There are so many tough competitors out there, and the bar has really been raised. I’m just proud of my team.

“It’s certainly a high-pressure situation, but my guys thrive on it. They perform very well under it, and I’m so proud of them.”

The Las Vegas winning streak has reached 18 round-wins, including last fall’s national event. She last lost a round here in October 2013 when she was with another team. She also became the first driver to sweep the Challenge and national event in consecutive years since Bob Glidden did it in 1987-88.

“I’m just really proud for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “My guys have worked so hard and continue to give me a great race car, which has been a struggle at the start of this year. I think we’ve got our hot rod back.”

The victory was Enders-Stevens’ 13th of her career and first of the season. A test session following the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte two weeks ago went a long way in her Elite team overcoming troubles with a new tire and new fuel for 2015.

Sunday, though, Enders-Stevens had to undergo her own troubles. Flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and fever, left her dehydrated before the race, and she took intravenous fluids before the first round. She took another IV later in the day.

“I just really had to focus on the mental side of it,” Enders-Stevens said. “Anybody can relate to feeling so bad you don’t even want to get out of bed. To have to get in a race car on a 130-degree racetrack in a 15-layer firesuit certainly tests you. I just had to be positive.

“I asked my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones) to do their best to pump me up on the radio, so we had some fun out there. I give them the credit today. They gave me a consistent race car. Granted, we did win on a couple of holeshots, but that’s my job as a driver. You don’t get sick days here.”

Enders-Stevens responded with holeshot wins in the semifinals and final. She had a bye in the first round after Matt Hartford failed to make the call, and she then beat Jimmy Alund with a pass of 6.661 seconds at 207.27 mph to Alund’s 6.697 at 206.70 mph.

She then ripped off a .001-second reaction time in the semi’s to overcome Greg Anderson’s quicker 6.671 at 208.71 mph with her run of 6.673 seconds at 207.53. The difference was on the Christmas Tree, where Anderson’s light was .055.

In the final Enders-Stevens and Vincent Nobile — opponents in the K&N Horsepower Challenge final on Saturday — made identical 6.674-second passes. Enders-Stevens, though, had a .024 light, a tick quicker than Nobile’s .040.

“I don’t want to dwell on being sick,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not that big a deal. Everybody gets sick. They took care of me, and we were able to get it done today and that’s all that matters.”

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