Posts Tagged Mile High Nationals

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.

After attending ESPYs, Erica Enders ready to kick off Western Swing

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DENVER, CO — Fresh off her appearance at the ESPYs, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is ready to kick off the Western Swing at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this weekend at Bandimere Speedway.

Enders was nominated in the Best Driver category, with NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick winning the ESPY. Still, attending the ceremony at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and rubbing elbows with some of the best athletes in the world was a thrill.

“It was definitely a neat experience,” said Enders, who earned the nomination based on winning the 2014 Pro Stock world championship. “I’ve watched on TV in years past, so to be a part of it was pretty cool. I got to see and meet a lot of pretty famous athletes, so that was great. Of course, we wanted to win, but the NASCAR guy is hard to beat.”

Enders was able to meet NFL player Devin Still, who accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award in honor of his daughter Leah. Still gave a stirring acceptance speech that was one of the highlights of the night.

Enders now turns her attention to the three-race Western Swing, which also includes races in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle. She’ll race the swing for the first time since 2012, as her Elite team skipped Sonoma and Seattle last year and she missed several races in 2013.

“It’ll be fun,” Enders said. “Sonoma is one of my favorite places to race at, and we’ve got a history at Seattle. Of course, the Mopars are always dominant in Denver, so we’re looking forward to trying to knock them off their rocker.”

Racing the Western Swing also means Enders and her Richard Freeman-owned team plan to compete in all 24 Pro Stock races this season, but they still are searching for sponsorship despite making the commitment to finish the season.

“Our goal is to always race all of the races,” Enders said. “It worked out OK last year, but it was definitely a nail-biter. I’m glad that we can race them all. It’s going to be a cutthroat year, for sure. Richard is going to run 15 events a year, and we do our best to fund the remaining nine. We’re not there yet, but we’re betting on it.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 5 and 7:30 p.m. MDT, Friday, and 4 and 6:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 9 p.m. to midnight, Sunday.

Points Leader Enders-Stevens Drops Second-Round Race by .0003-Second

Erica Enders-Stevens 2014 Mile High Nationals

DENVER, CO — Moments after announcing she would be skipping the next two NHRA national events, Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens fell in the quarterfinal round of eliminations at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals by the infinitesimally small margin of three-ten-thousandths of a second, or less than one inch.

Racing her former crew chief Dave Connolly, whom she beat two weeks ago in the final round of the Norwalk, Ohio, event, Enders-Stevens posted a quicker elapsed time of 6.962 seconds during a 198.06-mph pass against Connolly’s 6.992 at 196.70 mph. The difference came at the starting line when Connolly reacted with a cosmic .007-second to Enders-Stevens’ .037-second launch.

“I’m pretty sure that was the closest race of my professional career,” Enders-Stevens said. “A couple more coats of paint on my Elite Motorsports Camaro and we might have had that one. Holeshot losses hurt the most because it’s all on the driver. My guys worked hard in very challenging conditions and gave me a great car. I just needed to be a thousandth of a second better behind the wheel. That’s drag racing.”

Enders-Stevens can take solace in the fact she became the first driver in any pro category to lock up a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that determines the titlists in each class.

“We’ve had a dream season so far, no doubt,” said Enders-Stevens, a Houston native who now resides in New Orleans. “We’ve got four wins, we’ve been No. 1 qualifier a few times, we have the biggest points lead in any pro class … it’s just been awesome from the start.

“Our first goal was to earn a spot in the Countdown and give ourselves a chance to contend for the championship. Now we’ve done that and at the same time we’ve earned ourselves a reputation as one of the top cars in the sport. We are on such a high and all the credit goes to this group of guys. Everyone at the shop and everyone that comes on the road is so focused.”

By skipping races in Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle, Enders-Stevens said her team will be better prepared for the final two regular-season races before the Countdown and the six-race sprint to the finish.

“We’ve done the math and we’re actually pretty optimistic we’ll stay No. 1 in the points,” Enders-Stevens said. “Either that or we’ll be in position to get it back in Brainerd (Minn.) or Indy before the Countdown starts. We don’t have a title sponsor, so there are no firm commitments to run every race. The sponsors we do have are totally OK with us going home and getting all of our motors in perfect condition for the Countdown. It’s time to focus on the top goal: winning the Mello Yello championship.

“The only thing I’m bummed about is not visiting with all our friends and fans in California and Washington, but hopefully people understand our game plan and cheer us through the Countdown.”

Can Enders-Stevens go 3-for-3 from the No 3 spot?

Erica Enders-Stevens Mile High Nationals

DENVER, CO — Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens hopes to go 3-for-3 from the No. 3 qualifying spot when final eliminations for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals begin on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway.

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 3 in Las Vegas … and won the race. She qualified No. 3 in Bristol … and won the race. Both times she started off eliminations by beating Larry Morgan in the first round.

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 3 here on Thunder Mountain and will race Morgan in the first round.

“I sure hope history repeats itself,” Enders-Stevens said.

Enders-Stevens has more than history on her side. She is the runaway points leader in the ultra-competitive class, with four victories this season, including at NHRA’s most recent race in Norwalk, Ohio.

“It would be cool to get another win here,” Enders-Stevens said.

Enders-Stevens made four good passes in qualifying, with her top lap of 6.934 seconds at 198.29 mph putting her in the No. 3 spot. But she was also in the top three in the three other qualifying sessions.

“We haven’t killed it here yet though,” Enders-Stevens said. “My crew chiefs are perfectionists and they haven’t been extremely pleased, but you have to be pleased with what’s going on this weekend. I just try to remind them what a good job they are doing and that we will be just fine.

“We have a consistent race car. We didn’t come up here to test and I haven’t raced here in a couple years, so it’s just different racing at altitude. All things considered it’s been a really great weekend so far.”

Morgan’s best pass was 7.019 seconds at 196.16 mph.

“The consistency will pay off tomorrow, going A to B on a hot track and crazy air conditions,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m optimistic. We need to have a good race day tomorrow.”

Final eliminations at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all elimination action, including live coverage of the final two rounds.

Plan of Attack Stays the Same for Enders-Stevens, Elite Motorsports

Erica Enders-Stevens Norwalk burnout

DENVER, CO — Allen Johnson may be the king of the mountain, but the queen of Pro Stock is ready to knock him off his perch.

Johnson has been to the final round seven years in a row at Bandimere Speedway — winning five times — but Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team are looking to end his two-year winning streak at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals this weekend.

“I’m going to do everything I can to stop him,” Enders-Stevens said.

Enders-Stevens and her husband Richie are good friends with Johnson and his wife Pam, but friendships are put aside when helmet visors are closed.

“They’ve been the king of the mountain for a lot of years, and the Mopars always run really well at altitude, Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) and V. Gaines included,” Enders-Stevens said. “But our job is to do our best every weekend and make a run for the trophy. That plan won’t change for this weekend.”

Enders-Stevens leads the Pro Stock standings by 241 points over Johnson and is coming off her class-leading fourth victory of the season in Norwalk, Ohio, on July 6.

Bandimere Speedway is a different animal than every other track because its mile-high altitude affects horsepower and the tune-up, but Enders-Stevens and her team are ready for anything.

“It’s a challenge racing at altitude from a tuning standpoint and from a driving standpoint,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’ll be a very interesting weekend. We need to stay focused on the task at hand, and that’s to be consistent and go rounds. Going rounds gets more points, obviously, and that’s very important.”

Denver is one of Enders-Stevens’ favorite stops on the NHRA schedule, as she has raced there for years, dating back to her Sportsman days.

“We’ve been friends with the Bandimere family a long time,” Enders-Stevens said. “What they’ve done for our sport has been awesome, and the hospitality they offer is second to none.

“It’s going to be a hot weekend, but their cooling system in the track will help keep track temps at a manageable level. I’m appreciative to the Bandimere family for always providing us with a great facility, and we look forward to coming to Denver every year.”

Enders-Stevens will also participate in the Go Red For Women Track Walk at 10 a.m. local time on Saturday morning in support of the American Heart Association.

“It raises awareness for heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women,” Enders-Stevens said. “Everybody is invited and be sure to wear red!”

Qualifying for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is held at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. MDT, Friday, and at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all qualifying and elimination action, including live coverage of the final two rounds.