Posts Tagged NHRA

With Enders-Stevens Behind the Wheel, Elite Motorsports is Primed to Defend Pomona Pro Stock Win

Erica Enders-Stevens in new Sparco Elite Motorsports fire suit

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders-Stevens and the Elite Motorsports team are set to defend last fall’s Pro Stock victory at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway when they kick off the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing season at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals.

Erica joins Elite Motorsports, operated by Richard Freeman, along with the father-son crew chief duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, to usher in a new era for a young team that has experienced rising success in the hyper-competitive Pro Stock class.

“We spent the first half of the week testing alongside the other Pro Stock teams in Phoenix,” said Erica. “Everything has really settled in well, and it was great to spend that time as a team, learning from each other and going through the process of setting up the car and making passes. We’re confident about how things are shaping up heading into the season together.”

Elite Motorsports marks its return to Pomona after finishing last season with a trip to the winner’s circle during the NHRA Auto Club Finals. It was the first national event win for the team and it’s blazing red Camaro, including the first Pro Stock win for its driver, Rickie Jones.

It also made it back-to-back wins for Elite Motorsports’ engine program, led by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston, having powered Shane Gray’s Camaro to victory in Las Vegas just two weeks earlier.

“Closing out the season like that was a huge boost for us. A lot of hard work and late hours went into getting us there,” said Richard Freeman. “It has definitely given us confidence we’re moving in the right direction, and if we keep putting in the work, we’ll do even better in 2014.”

“I’m blessed to have this opportunity with Richard and to be surrounded by a great group of guys,” said Erica. “I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and what we’ll be able to accomplish as a team.”

Qualifying sessions for the Circle K NHRA Winternationals takes place Friday and Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 pm each day, with ESPN2’s qualifying broadcast airing from 8-10:00 pm Pacific Time Saturday night.

Sunday’s final eliminations begins at 11:00 am, with broadcast coverage on ESPN at 5-8:00 pm Pacific Time.

Enders-Stevens accepts deal to drive for Elite Motorsports

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HOUSTON (Nov. 21) – Popular drag racer Erica Enders-Stevens, the most prolific female driver in Pro Stock history, has joined Elite Motorsports for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Enders-Stevens will drive the team’s new Camaro, which will be tuned by the father/son duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, with in-house horsepower crafted by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.

“I’m really excited to start this next chapter of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s hard to believe that 2014 will be my 10th year in Pro Stock but it’s true. We want to make it our best year yet, and we’re all going to be working very hard towards that goal.

“The last three years we’ve been in contention for the championship very late in the season, and we expect to be there again with Elite Motorsports. Rickie just won the NHRA Finals, so it’s obvious they have all the pieces in place to be successful.

“I’m sad to leave Victor Cagnazzi. We have worked together for the majority of my Pro Stock career, and I will always be appreciative of Victor and his wife Brita. I certainly value our relationship. The deal Richard (Freeman, team owner of Elite Motorsports) offered assures me a full-time ride in his top car, so at this point in my career I thought it was the best move for me to make.”

Enders-Stevens has fought hard to earn her place in the drag racing world during her nine seasons in the factory hot rod class. Despite running partial schedules at times, she has successfully qualified for 102 national events, won six Wallys in 17 final-round appearances, and been the No. 1 qualifier on six occasions. All of those marks represent records for female competitors in the category.

Following a successful Jr. Dragster and Sportsman career, Enders-Stevens made an immediate impact in the Pro ranks due in large part to her immense popularity, which was a result of the Disney Channel movie Right on Track, chronicling her and her sister Courtney’s time racing in Jr. Dragster. For the first time ever, young girls were dragging their fathers into the Pro Stock pits to meet their on-screen hero in person.

And Enders-Stevens didn’t disappoint on the track, racing to the final round in Chicago during her rookie campaign with Victor Cagnazzi Racing. She later collaborated with her father Gregg Enders, purchasing a turnkey race operation from Don Schumacher Racing before moving to Jim Cunningham Motorsports, where she attempted to resurrect the Ford brand in Pro Stock. She returned to Cagnazzi in 2011.

Her next three seasons were filled with career highlights, including her first victory, her first foray into the playoffs, and her first top-10 ranking. She has now finished in the top 10 in three consecutive seasons with a best of fourth place in 2012.

“I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far,” said Enders-Stevens, who finished sixth in 2013. “For many years I got to race with my dad, which was something we always dreamed about when I was younger and something I’d love to do again some day. I’ve also raced on my own and, although it hasn’t always been easy, I love this sport so much that I’ve fought to stay out here. The support I’ve received from my dad and the rest of my family, my longtime friends, and all of the wonderful fans out there have made it all worthwhile.

“This new start with Richard and Elite Motorsports is exciting for me. I hope I can repay their faith in me by being competitive and chasing after another championship.”

The team plans to test extensively in Florida prior to the season-opening NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Enders-Stevens hopes to close season in Pomona’s victory lane

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POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6) – The best way for Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens to close out the 2013 Pro Stock season would be to win the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway.

Enders-Stevens has two victories in 2013, including one during the Countdown to the Championship. She won’t win the Pro Stock title this season, but she and her Cagnazzi Racing team made a good run in NHRA’s playoffs.

“That would be the best way to close this chapter of 2013,” Enders-Stevens said of a Pomona win. “I’m excited that the Husky Liners guys will be there, and I’m so appreciative of them stepping up to the plate to allow us to compete for the championship. I’m hopeful we can end the year on a really great note. We’ll do our best and let God do the rest.”

Enders-Stevens is sixth in the Pro Stock standings and can finish as high as second. She has raced to five final rounds and has one No. 1 qualifier. So far in the Countdown, she has won at least one round in all five races and scored a victory in St. Louis.

“The year has really flown by,” Enders-Stevens said. “Every time we come back to Pomona in November, it’s incredible how fast the year has passed.

“I’m excited to go back. We’ve always qualified well in Pomona and hopefully that trend continues. The guys have been working hard at the new engine shop, and we’ll see what SoCal has in store for us.”

Enders-Stevens would love to add a Pomona victory to her resume, as she appreciates the history of Auto Club Raceway.

“I do love racing in Pomona,” Enders-Stevens said. “And every time I’m back there, I remember the first time I pulled around the corner from the staging lanes in a Pro Stock car. I think of that and it’s very humbling and surreal and exciting.”

Plus, Enders-Stevens always makes a visit to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum next door to the racetrack.

“It’s where my first Jr. Dragster is,” Enders-Stevens said, “so I’ll go by the museum and tell her hello.”

Enders-Stevens is scheduled to make an appearance on KTLA 5 Morning News with Allie Mac Kay on Friday morning and will also be part of the Night of Champions at the museum on Friday night.

Qualifying for the Auto Club NHRA Finals gets under way at 1:45 p.m. PDT on Thursday from Auto Club Raceway and continues at 1:45 p.m. on Friday and 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. Eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 2:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 7 p.m.

Husky Liners driver Enders-Stevens runs out of luck in second round

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 27) – Erica Enders-Stevens and her Husky Liners Pro Stock team didn’t have the best of luck in the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, falling in the second round to points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr., but of the drivers in front of her coming into the race, only Coughlin got past the second round, and he lost in the semifinals.

“If there’s a positive to it, at least the rest of the guys in front of me are out, too, so they can’t spread the gap,” Enders-Stevens said. “We can go to Pomona (Calif.) and finish as high as second. We just have to do a good job. It’s not over until it’s over.”

Enders-Stevens exits Las Vegas sixth in the points standings, but she’ll be 68 points out of second place with one race remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

She started Sunday with a rematch from the first round in Reading, but Enders-Stevens and her Cagnazzi Racing team were again up to the challenge against Buddy Perkinson. Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.650 seconds at 207.53 mph to take out Perkinson’s 6.664 at 208.04 mph.

Enders-Stevens’ pass matched the second-quickest run of the round, but she still didn’t have lane choice against Coughlin. He then went low in Round 2 with a run of 6.659 seconds at 207.15 mph to outrun Enders-Stevens’ 6.670 at 206.35 mph.

“I knew we’d be within a hundredth of him as far as performance goes,” Enders-Stevens said. “He was .060 on the Tree first round, and I knew he’d get up on the wheel for the second round. We talked about it, and I knew I needed to get up on the wheel but I just missed it.

“I don’t miss it often and neither does he. He missed first round, and I missed second round. It stinks it wasn’t reversed.”

Enders-Stevens had a .028-second reaction time in Round 1 and a .053 against Coughlin. He was nearly reverse with a .060 in the first round and .026 in the second.

“That was a huge round,” Enders-Stevens said. “If we had beaten Jeg there, things would have fallen a lot differently the rest of the day here and then in Pomona (Calif.). Everybody in front of us went out, and had I beat Jeg we would’ve been able to close the gap. It’s just one of those deals.”

Still Enders-Stevens is all smiles about her performance in the Countdown with one race remaining in the season. She has one victory and one No. 1 qualifier to go with a semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal showings in five races.

Enders-Stevens was in the top half in Vegas, qualifying No. 6, and had one of the cars to beat.

“My team did a good job,” Enders-Stevens said. “We got down the track every time. We’re doing the best we can, and we’ll just have to pick up and go to Pomona and race our guts out. I knew I could do it and they can, too. Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend in Pomona and finish second in the points.”

Cagnazzi Racing was competing for the first time since the announcement of a merger between Cagnazzi and Gray Motorsports for the 2014 season and beyond. Under the Gray Motorsports umbrella, engine development for both the Pro Stock and Cagnazzi’s successful COPO Camaro Stock Eliminator programs will take place at the Gray Motorsports facility in Denver, N.C., and chassis development for both will take place in Victor Cagnazzi’s facility in nearby Mooresville.

The new Gray Motorsports team is currently seeking support for a three-car team to include drivers Shane Gray, Enders-Stevens, and Dave Connolly.

Gray won the Las Vegas race by beating Vieri Gaines in the final round.

The team’s next event will be the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals Nov. 7-10 in Pomona.

Enders-Stevens hopes consistency pays off in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 26) – If consistency is key to Pro Stock, Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens could be in for a long day at the NHRA Toyota Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Thanks to her Cagnazzi Racing team, Enders-Stevens made four qualifying passes within .016-second of her top lap of 6.650 at 207.34 mph. She will line up for eliminations from the No. 6 position as she guns for her third victory of 2013.

“It’s been a good weekend so far,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have a very consistent race car, and sometimes on Sunday that’s what you need.”

Enders-Stevens’ first two passes Friday were within .001-second, and then she picked up in Q3 with her best run of the weekend. She was off only .01-second in Q4 but was still sixth-quickest for the session.

“We’ve made four consistent, solid runs,” Enders-Stevens said. “We weren’t the best but we’ll be right there with everyone tomorrow. It’s going to be a really tough day. It’s come down to the last two races, and everybody out there has the attitude that they need to win. We’ve got to stay on our game, keep a positive attitude, and see where the chips fall.”

Enders-Stevens will face Buddy Perkinson in the first round of eliminations after Perkinson qualified No. 11 with a pass of 6.660 seconds at 208.01 mph. Their race is a rematch of the first round in Reading, where she won on a holeshot after a stellar reaction time.

“One round at a time, and hopefully there are four of them tomorrow,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve got to focus on the task at hand as it happens. First round is going to be tough. I had Buddy in Reading first round, and it was a race that we won by the skin of our teeth. We need to go up there and be ready. I need to get up on the wheel, and my guys need to give me a good race car. I’ve got the confidence in my guys and I’m ready.”

Enders-Stevens has enjoyed the company of Husky Liners President Bob Tyler and other Husky employees this weekend. Plus Enders-Stevens and the Husky team have been joined by Kerri Hutchison, winner of the Husky Liners Las Vegas Race Experience. Hutchison and her husband enjoyed a free trip to Las Vegas, including behind-the-scenes access to Enders-Stevens and the race team.

“It’s been great having her out here,” Enders-Stevens said. “This is a really neat experience for them. Vegas is a great town with a lot of fun things to do. We appreciate their support for Husky and our team. Hopefully we can add to their cool trip by winning the race.”

Eliminations for the NHRA Toyota Nationals get under way at 11 a.m. PDT on Sunday from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. ESPN2 will broadcast the eliminations show at 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

Enders-Stevens looks for exciting weekend in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS (Oct. 22) – One more round-win.

That’s all Husky Liners Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens wants during the NHRA Toyota Nationals this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens advanced to the final round during the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip in April and in the K&N Horsepower Challenge at the track the same weekend, but she fell just short of winning both races, giving her and her Cagnazzi Racing team some extra incentive for this weekend’s race.

“I’m looking forward to going into the final two races of the Countdown to the Championship,” Enders-Stevens said. “Vegas was good to us in the spring. I’m hoping to go back there and do equally as well, if not better. Maybe one round better.”

A victory would enhance her chances of winning the 2013 Pro Stock championship because she’s fifth in the standings, 114 points out of the lead. With eight more rounds of racing, every point will be crucial to Enders-Stevens as she tries to race up the standings.

“We’re still thinking championship,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re mathematically still capable. The fine print is a lot of crazy things still have to happen, but we’re going to go into it with a positive attitude and do the best we can do and let the points fall where they may.

“It’s certainly still within reach, and we’re going to go after it. We’ve got a great team, and it would be a great weekend to do well with all the guys out here who have made it possible to even contend for this championship.”

Enders-Stevens is referring to the numerous Husky Liners employees who will be in attendance this weekend supporting her and her team.

Also present will be Kerri Hutchison, the winner of the Husky Liners Vegas Race Experience with Erica Enders-Stevens. Hutchison and a guest will receive an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas, including airfare and hotel, VIP access to the Cagnazzi Racing pit area and the starting line, and a meet and greet with Enders-Stevens.

“This weekend will be extra exciting because we’ll have a lot of Husky Liners employees out at the racetrack,” Enders-Stevens said. “And we’ll have our contest winner, too, so it’ll be an exciting weekend. We’ll have an opportunity to showcase our Pro Stock team, what we’re all about, and our capabilities. It should be a fun weekend in Vegas.”

Qualifying for the NHRA Toyota Nationals gets under way at 1:15 p.m. PDT on Friday from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and continues at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. Eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 2:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 8 p.m.

Reading victory would be icing on Enders-Stevens’ birthday cake

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) – Husky Liners Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens celebrates her 30th birthday on Tuesday, and she’d love to have a Wally trophy from the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway next to her birthday cake.

Enders-Stevens won last weekend’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park, helping celebrate the birthdays of husband Richie Stevens and father Gregg Enders. She’d like a Maple Grove trophy for herself and her Cagnazzi Racing team.

“I got Richie and my dad a Wally for their birthdays,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’d like to get one for myself.”

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 7 with a best pass of 6.587 seconds at 209.98 mph, and her Husky Liners Camaro has been consistent.

Her runs were all within .034-second of each other, and she was in the top five in three of the four qualifying sessions.

Enders-Stevens could use a deep run at Maple Grove to continue her march up the Pro Stock points standings. She started the Countdown to the Championship in ninth place but her victory last weekend vaulted her to ninth.

Maple Grove marks the fourth event of the six-race Countdown, and she entered race weekend 60 points out of the lead.

“Tomorrow’s really important,” Enders-Stevens said. “There was some shuffling going on in that (final) round (of qualifying), and it changed the ladder a bit. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us, but we’ve got a consistent race car and I’m driving well. I’ll put my faith on the big man upstairs and see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens faces No. 10 qualifier Buddy Perkinson in round one Sunday. Perkinson garnered that spot with a pass of 6.591 seconds at 210.21 mph.

A fun twist to Enders-Stevens’ weekend was lining up against her husband Richie Stevens in Q3. Husband and wife had never faced each other in Pro Stock, and Enders-Stevens got the better of her husband on the Christmas Tree.

Enders-Stevens left with a .005-second reaction time to his .074 light, and they ran identical elapsed times, 6.587. Stevens’ speed was better, giving him the higher qualifying spot, but Enders-Stevens was bragging about the win light.

“That was pretty cool,” Enders-Stevens said. “Apparently no husband and wife had ever run each other in Pro Stock, so that was a lot of fun. Our crews both had some side bets going. He outran us because of mile an hour, so he got ahead of us on the qualifying sheet, but I cracked him on the starting line and we got the win light. I guess that’s all that matters, but it was fun and I’m glad he’s out here running.”

Eliminations at the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals get under way at 11 a.m. EDT on Sunday from Maple Grove Raceway. ESPN2 will broadcast the racing on Sunday night starting at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

Enders-Stevens confident her team can contend for Pro Stock title

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 3) – After winning at Gateway Motorsports Park last weekend, Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens said the Pro Stock field would have to take the championship away from her and her Cagnazzi Racing team.

Enders-Stevens moved up to fourth in the Countdown to the Championship standings with the victory – her second of the season – as she clearly has the title in her sights heading into the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway.

“That’s the attitude we need to have,” Enders-Stevens said. “If we don’t have that attitude, then we shouldn’t be out there. You have to believe in what you’re doing.”

Enders-Stevens has blossomed in the six-race Countdown, rising from ninth place in the points with a victory, a semifinal appearance, and a No. 1 qualifier in the first three races.

She is 60 points out of first place, a deficit that can be made up in one race because 20 points are awarded for each round victory. But there are also qualifying points given for the three quickest drivers in each of four qualifying sessions, making every pass vital.

“Every round is important, but qualifying is also important,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were able to gain five baby points from qualifying last weekend, and all of those little points add up. It’s not just round by round.”

Enders-Stevens knows continuing to move forward in the points standings won’t be easy, given the stiff competition in the Pro Stock class.

“Reading is going to be tough,” Enders-Stevens said. “There are 10 great cars out here in Pro Stock week in and week out, and you just fight for those few top spots.”

Maple Grove is one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA tour, even with warmer-than-usual weather predicted for this weekend.

“The lanes are pretty even in Reading, so lane choice isn’t an issue,” Enders-Stevens said. “It should be interesting. Weather looks great as far as temperatures go. It’s going to be really fast.”

Qualifying for the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals gets under way at 1:15 p.m. EDT from Maple Grove Raceway and resumes at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday. Eliminations start at 11 a.m. on Sunday. ESPN News will air the qualifying show at 11:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday and ESPN2 will broadcast the eliminations show at 8 p.m. on Sunday.

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