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Enders-Stevens bursts back on Pro Stock scene with No. 4 qualifying effort

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CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 14) – Husky Liners driver Erica Enders-Stevens hasn’t shown any rust in her return to Pro Stock racing, grabbing the No. 4 qualifying spot for the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals on Saturday at zMax Dragway.

Enders-Stevens missed six of the last eight races because her Cagnazzi Racing team was sidelined, but Husky Liners joined the team as a marketing partner for the Countdown to the Championship. Charlotte is the opening race to NHRA’s playoffs, and Enders-Stevens is right in the middle of the title hunt.

“The car’s running really well,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had a great run this morning and we were on a really good run this afternoon. That’s promising for tomorrow, especially since we’re getting off the starting line.”

Enders-Stevens, ninth in the points standings, had a top pass of 6.546 seconds at 211.83 mph in the third qualifying session. She was solid in her other runs, but the Q4 pass was aborted when her Camaro darted out of the groove.

“I’m pleased with how the car’s running,” Enders-Stevens said. “That gives me confidence going into tomorrow. The conditions will be similar to what they were today, and I think tomorrow is going to be a driver’s race. It’s a really tight field, and everybody seems to be running well. We’ll see how it goes and keep a positive attitude.

“We want to do well, not only because it’s the first race of the Countdown but for Husky Liners, too. We’re so blessed they stepped up, and we want to make them proud.”

Fans at zMax have been good to the popular driver, as crowds have gathered around her pit area all weekend to see her again.

“The fans have welcomed me back with open arms,” Enders-Stevens said. “A lot of them have said, ‘Welcome back. We’re glad you’re back.’ I haven’t stopped smiling all weekend. It’s been great.”

She wants it to continue into Sunday, when she’ll kick off eliminations against Rodger Brogdon, who qualified No. 13 with a lap of 6.594 seconds at 210.64 mph.

“Tomorrow’s going to be a tough day,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ll all have to be on our game, and I’m excited about our chances.”

Eliminations begin at noon EDT on Sunday. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 3:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday and the eliminations show at 8:30 p.m. later that night.

Enders-Stevens, Husky Liners ready to race for NHRA title

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 10) – Erica Enders-Stevens is certainly counting her blessings now that Husky Liners has given her an opportunity to return to her Cagnazzi Racing Pro Stock Camaro, but the five-time NHRA winner wants to do more than race: She wants to win the 2013 championship.

With new title sponsorship from Husky Liners, Enders-Stevens will compete in the Countdown to the Championship, which begins with this weekend’s sixth annual Carlyle Tools NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

“We’re excited and optimistic about the weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re so blessed to have Husky Liners on the side of the car.”

Enders-Stevens missed six of 18 regular season races because of sponsorship issues but had such a strong season that she still qualified for NHRA’s playoffs. She won a race and reached the final at three others during the regular season to earn the No. 9 seed in the Countdown.

“Everyone knows we’ve got a great team and a great car and really good horsepower,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and giving the guys a run for their money.”

Her Cagnazzi Racing team returns with Tommy Utt and Dave Connolly serving as crew chiefs. The Victor Cagnazzi-owned team is based in Mooresville, N.C., not far from zMax Dragway, though the team is still looking for its first win at its home track.

“Starting off the Countdown at our team’s home track in Charlotte is going to be important,” Enders-Stevens said. “We certainly have a lot of test runs there, and the last time through this spring we runner-upped. We’ve had a lot of success there, and we’ll see if we can finally get it done at zMax. It’s the only track left on the tour where Cagnazzi Racing hasn’t won.

“To be able to do that this weekend would be awesome, but we’re going to take it one day at a time, one run at a time, and see how it goes.”

Enders-Stevens was fourth in the Pro Stock standings before her team missed six of the last eight races. In the interim, she drove in two ADRL Pro Mod races for Keith Haney Racing to stay sharp.

“I missed out on a lot of seat time but it’s like riding a bike, and I’m hungry and going after it,” Enders-Stevens said. “I went from a few days ago thinking we were going to sit out the Countdown, to now where we’ve got a real shot to chase the championship.

“We’re the underdog. I’m in the ninth position and we’ve got our work cut out for us, but if anybody can do it, we can. My guys are awesome.”

Houston native Enders-Stevens in search of hometown victory

ee4Erica Enders-Stevens is easily the most successful woman in NHRA Pro Stock history. After a stellar 2012 season behind the wheel of her GK Motorsports Chevy that produced four wins in seven final rounds and a fourth-place points finish, there is one thing that would make her even more proud: to win a Wally in front of her hometown crowd at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway.

“It would be amazing to win at home,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were able to get it done in Super Gas at the national event in 2004. I’m hopeful that we can seal the deal in Pro Stock as well. Not only am I from Houston, but my sponsors are also. It would be twice as special.”

Enders-Stevens is hoping that the momentum her team produced from winning the NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix in late February will help push her to a second victory this season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.

Enders-Stevens practically grew up at Royal Purple Raceway, where she got her first taste of speed behind the wheel of an NHRA Jr. Dragster.

“I obviously love racing at home,” Enders-Stevens said. “I made my first pass at RPR back in 1992 in my Jr. Dragster, and prior to that, I grew up there watching my dad race. We had a lot of success in my JDRL and Sportsman days at RPR. That track and the Angel family [track owners] mean a lot to me.”

Enders-Stevens is already off to a great start this season with one win in three final-round appearances as well as a runner-up finish in the lucrative K&N Horsepower Challenge, a specialty bonus event that took place in Las Vegas. Currently sitting third in the points standings, she is looking forward to more positive results in Houston and throughout the 2013 season.

“I’m pleased with our efforts so far this season, but being the perfectionist and eternal optimist that I am, I know we can do better,” Enders-Stevens said. “We let a big double-up win in Vegas slip through our fingers. We have been testing nonstop since then, and I’m confident that we are bettering our new Chevy Camaro and ourselves. One thing is for certain: When we go up to the line, I know we have all given 150 percent.”

If the Pro Stock fan favorite is going to add a Royal Purple Raceway victory to her list of accomplishments, she’ll have to hold off a tough group of challengers, including two-time defending event winner Nobile, defending world champ Allen Johnson, series points leader Mike Edwards, and Summit Racing’s Jason Line and Greg Anderson, among others.

[Source: NHRA.com]
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