Posts Tagged Pomona

Erica Enders completes 2017 season in quarterfinals of 53rd annual NHRA Finals

Erica Enders | NHRA Finals 2017

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders ended her one-win 2017 campaign with a quarterfinal run at the season-ending 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Showing off her trademark killer instincts in the seat of her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, Enders trailered her best friend in the sport, the retiring Allen Johnson, before bowing to outgoing champ Jason Line when her car got out of shape in the suspect right-hand lane.

“It’s disappointing because we had a racecar that could have won this race and I feel like we lost it because that lane was subpar,” Enders said. “I mean, we had three cars in the quarterfinals and all three got out of shape in that lane and ended up losing. Is that a coincidence?

“Either way, it’s been a decent year for us after a disastrous 2016. We did get a win up in New Hampshire, which felt wonderful, and we fought our way back to respectability, especially down the stretch after kind of losing our way in the middle of the season.”

Enders’ victory over Johnson was emotional for both racers, but they handled it like true pros. After a slight headstart, Enders was able to drive away for the win with a 6.554 at 209.82 mph, while Johnson’s car got a bit squirrely and he had to shut it down early, crossing in 6.979 at 153.25 mph.

“We were both crying down there,” Enders said. “I felt bad but at the same time it’s kind of cool that his last pass was against us. I love him and (wife Pam) so much. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met and we will certainly continue to vacation with the Johnsons like we have for years. I wish him nothing but complete happiness.”

Against Line, Enders recorded a near-perfect .003-second reaction time, putting her .035 seconds ahead of her rival, but her car made a big move towards the centerline and she had to push in the clutch to avoid hitting one of the timing cones. Enders coasted to an 8.367 at 116.80 mph while Line sped to a 6.561 at 210.44 mph.

“I’m not sure what happened to the track,” Enders said. “You never want conditions to determine who wins or loses but it happens from time to time.

“I’m excited to get a break but I’m more excited about getting everything in order for another championship run in 2018. We’ll be back stronger than ever and it won’t be long before I’m going to get that itch to jump back in the seat. We’ve won two championships but I know our best days are ahead of us.”

Erica Enders emotional as race against retiring pro Allen Johnson looms

Erica Enders | Pomona 2017 NHRA Finals

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders found herself getting emotional as the race day ladder for the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals came together and she realized she’d be facing retiring pro and fellow champion Allen Johnson in the opening round of Sunday’s eliminations.

“Me and Allen, his wife Pam and (my husband) Richie took a photo right before that last qualifying session and it was definitely emotional,” Enders said. “He’s my best friend out here and after his final qualifying run I watched him do an interview at the top end and he was crying. It was very hard to watch because I love him and Pam so much.

“It will definitely be emotional to race him but, like we say every time we race each other, may the best man or woman win.

“We want to win this race, right here, right now, and we have got the car and the team to get it done. I’ll hate to load him first round but that’s just the way the ladder fell this week.”

Enders knows the way to Pomona’s promised land. She’s won 22 national events in her career, including the historic 2014 final right here at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. Her tally also includes a victory earlier this season in New Hampshire to go with three runner-up results this year.

Now her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro seems to have regained its early-season form with decent qualifying efforts in all six Countdown to the Championship races.

“We definitely did a better job of qualifying down the stretch,” Enders said. “This weekend we ran 6.56 every single qualifying pass we’ve made down the track. We definitely have a race car. It’s going A to B, it’s consistent, it’s under control and I’m driving well. I have a lot of optimism going into tomorrow. It’s the final race day of the year and even though it’s not been the best year, I’d really like to go out with a bang.

“The fact we’re racing Allen, yeah, it definitely wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for but A.J.’s a competitor and every time we put our helmets on we try to rip each other’s throats out. It doesn’t matter who’s in the other lane. Tomorrow the goal will definitely remain the same. We want to win.”

FOX Sports 1 will air elimination action live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (Time is local and subject to change.)

Erica Enders concludes 2017 season with renewed optimism for bigger things ahead

Erica Enders | Pomona 2017 Preview

POMONA, CA — Returning to the site of her biggest single triumph — the 2014 title-clinching, final-round victory against Jason Line — Erica Enders is prepped to finish the year at this weekend’s 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals with firm designs on a brighter future.

“For the second year in a row we didn’t quite have the season we wanted or expected,” said Enders, driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. “But this season we made so many strides in the right direction that we have huge expectations for our future.”

After winning back-to-back Pro Stock championships in 2014 and 2015, anything less than another brass ring was sure to be a bit of a letdown. Such is the welcomed curse of those who have reached the pinnacle of their sport.

However, unlike 2016 when her Elite Motorsports team didn’t reach a final round and finished ninth in the points, Enders and crew returned to the winner’s circle this year (in Epping, N.H.) and logged three runner-up results, proving they’ve gained a lot of ground during this year’s campaign. She’s likely to finish sixth overall.

“When you’ve been champions it’s definitely a bummer when you don’t do it again,” Enders said. “You get spoiled and addicted to the success. But the reality is it’s very hard to do what we do and to have great results year after year. There’s been a lot of changes since we won our second title.

“The key is having the right people around you to overcome and adapt. We’re on our way to another championship year, no doubt, and it very well could be next season. That’s the plan. I know I have the best team in the sport, from (owner) Richard Freeman, to our engine guys on to the crew chiefs and mechanics, we’re world class. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ for us.”

Aside from her 2014 win at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Enders has been top qualifier here twice, in 2011 and 2015.

“Pomona has been decent to us, especially when we won that winner-take-all race in 2014,” Enders said. “I mean, we had to win the race and beat our biggest rival that year, Jason Line, to earn the title and we did it. There’s a lot of history here and the races always symbolize either the start or the end of a season, so there is always a level of excitement. We’re ready to race and close out strong.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12 and 2:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first day qualifying action live from 3:30-4:30 p.m., Friday. The network also will air the second day of qualifying from 3-4 p.m., Saturday. Live eliminations will air from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Erica Enders fires plenty of warning shots during season-opening Winternationals

Erica Enders | NHRA Pomona 2017 | Elite Motorsports

POMONA, CA — Back in the comfy confines of her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, two-time world champion Erica Enders didn’t walk away with the trophy of this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, but she certainly reminded everyone of why she dominated the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

A year with a different manufacturer made the category’s most prolific female racer an afterthought to many, but as soon as she got back in her Chevy, she quickly re-established herself as a top contender.

“Not a bad first Sunday, especially after the year we had last year,” Enders said. “I’m extremely proud of my guys this weekend, as I always am. We are still a little bit behind the top cars but they can bet their butts we’re going to catch up and if anything they definitely know we’re here again.

“I’m extremely pleased with our outing and Phoenix will be even better.”

With a stunning race-day average reaction time of .011 seconds, Enders powered past Matt Hartford and teammate Vincent Nobile before squaring off with four-time champ Greg Anderson in the semifinals. There, despite yet another stellar reaction time which gave her a .02-second headstart, she was beaten by Anderson by half a car length, 6.574 at 211.10 mpg to her 6.599 at 210.18 mph.

” It feels good that my left leg still works,” Enders said, referring to her clutch foot. “I should have been there a little better against Greg. I was actually set up to be a little bit better than a .020 but there are a lot of variables that go into a reaction time and things were just a little bit different up there.

“I’m pleased with the weekend. I’m pleased with my driving. I’m ready to keep knocking the rust off. It’s always hard when you’re out of the car for three months. If you’re a pro golfer, you don’t go three months without picking up a club, but that’s what we all deal with every year. We’ll get back in the groove. I’m just excited to be going rounds again on Sunday.”

The second stop of the year, the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, take place Feb. 24-26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

“All three of the Elite Motorsports Elite Performance powered cars are running really well and I think you can expect to see a lot out of all three of us,” Enders said. “It’s going to be a long year, it’s going to be a great year. I chose to believe that we’ll be on top at the end.”

History abounds, awaits world champion Erica Enders in Pomona

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Qualifying | Pomona 2017

POMONA, CA — The first Junior Dragster Erica Enders ever drove to the winner’s circle is housed just across the compound from Auto Club Raceway in Wally Parks’ Drag Racing Museum. She also started her Sportsman career here and collected one of her record 21 Pro Stock race trophies at Pomona. Additionally, she clinched the first of her two world titles at this track in 2014.

Now the spunky Texan is back, hoping to add a few more memories to her So-Cal resume when this weekend’s season-opening 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals turn to Sunday’s eliminations.

“This place means a lot to me,” Enders admitted. “It has a lot of history for our sport in general and for me personally, from racing Junior Dragsters here to getting my Super Comp license and starting my big car career in the Lucas Oil series. Plus, I was able to wrap up my first Pro Stock championship here.

“There’s just a lot of fun memories here already and then to have my first Junior Dragster over in the museum is just surreal because I still feel like I’m just a normal kid. It’s really through a lot of hard work and the support of my family that we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of cool stuff, including at this track. It’s one of the things that makes you want to pinch yourself.”

After racing to back-to-back titles and 15 race wins in 2014-2015, Enders came up empty last season racing for a different manufacturer. But her Elite Motorsports team has returned to its reliable Chevrolet Camaros and the results in testing, where she was quickest overall, and here in Pomona show they made the right decision.

“We are really proud of how we performed in testing and the first couple of days of qualifying,” she said. “Jeg (Coughlin, teammate) and I are both really proud to be back in Chevrolets, back in competitive race cars where we have a shot to win every Sunday.

“I’m proud of all of the hard work my team put into making all of this possible. It wasn’t easy to switch over everything, to build a new car for Jeg and get my 2014 car ready for me but they never quit, they never stopped trucking, so my hat’s off to them for how incredibly hard they worked to make this possible for both me and Jeg.”

Enders has qualified sixth with a best pass of 6.553 at 210.90 mph in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Up first in eliminations is a first-round showdown with Matt Hartford, who qualified 11th with a best of 6.596 at 210.44 mph.

“Jeg and I can’t meet until the semis if we both win early in the day so that’s the first goal,” Enders said. “We’ll wake up tomorrow fresh and ready to roll. I know exactly what this team is capable of and what we can accomplish under pressure. It reminds me of 2014 and 2015 when we had the capability to win anytime we stepped foot on the property.

“Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve been through in the past 12 months and how strong it’s made us.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon PT, Sunday, with three hours of live coverage running from 4-7 p.m. ET, on FOX.

Two-time world champion Erica Enders readies for season of redemption

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Pro Stock Chevrolet

POMONA, CA — For two glorious seasons from 2014-2015, Erica Enders was on top of the drag racing world, winning back-to-back titles in arguably the toughest category in all motorsports, NHRA Pro Stock. An impressive 15 victories during the stretch was punctuated by her incredible driving prowess. She was, quite simply, peerless.

Last season the proud Texan returned to earth after a switch to another manufacturer, going winless en route to a sagging ninth-place finish overall.

Now, with a new season set to begin with this weekend’s 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Enders is back in the same Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro that carried her to glory in the past with firm designs on returning to her winning ways.

“We are so anxious to get back on track, to be at the races with a car and combination we know can put us in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “It’s really all you ever want as a driver and as a race team; the chance to win. We have that again and we’re super excited to get started.”

To Enders, last season was a true blessing in disguise, as she found out the true mettle of her group, headed by team owner Richard Freeman.

“It was a challenging year but what we went through made us stronger,” Enders said. “What we went through would have torn a lot of teams apart but it didn’t hurt us at all. Yeah, we were upset we weren’t performing well but we still joked around, still had fun, and we smiled through it all.

“It was a character-building year, and it showed me there is zero ego on this team. It’s easy to be all happy when you’re winning but the true measure of people comes when times are tough. We’re tough.

“This year is gonna be great because I already know what we’re capable of and so does everyone else. At the same time, I learned we don’t need win lights and trophies to be fulfilled. Being a family, having each other’s backs no matter what, being together through it all, that’s what matters.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. PT, Friday and Saturday, with eliminations starting at noon PT, Sunday.

Live coverage of the 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals begins with a qualifying show from 1-2 p.m. ET, Saturday, on FOX Sports 1, followed by three hours of eliminations from 4-7 p.m. ET, Sunday, on FOX.

Erica Enders closes out her championship tenure with a broad smile on her face

POMONA, CA — After winning two championships in a row and pushing her career win total to 21 national events, Erica Enders came into 2016 hoping to add to her legacy in a brand-new Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart. But things don’t always go as planned, and Enders instead went an entire year without reaching the final round.

Now, after equaling the best outing of the year by racing to the semifinals of the season-ending 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Enders can finally turn the page on a forgettable year and begin in earnest her comeback story.

“We always have high hopes every race and to get to the semifinals today is something we have only done twice previous to this race this year so it’s definitely a good weekend for us,” Enders said.

Flashing the driving prowess that made her a two-time champ, Enders fought hard Sunday, beating fellow Texan and good friend Alex Laughlin with a massive .049-second holeshot advantage, .023 to .072, which gave her a comfortable win at the other end, with a 6.623 at 209.33 mph beating his 6.596 at 209.82 mph.

In Round 2 it was teammate Vincent Nobile in the other lane and once again Enders had the better reaction time, .032 to .051, to get an early lead. That was really all it took because Nobile’s car got squirrely and he had to abort the run, giving Enders the win with a 6.649 at 208.91 mph to his coasting 15.635 at 47.85 mph.

With the championship on the line, Jason Line was Enders’ semifinal foe, and with memories of 2014 dancing through both driver’s heads, the race was on. This time, instead of Enders pulling off the victory, it was Line getting it done, sealing his third title.

“Of course, when you get that close you get that Wally in your sights and if we could have gotten the car to go from A to B I think we could have won that round,” Enders said. “Either way, I am really proud for Jason Line. He’s a tough competitor and an even better guy so I am super happy that if we weren’t able to win the championship or one of my teammates win the championship, that Jason was able to get it done.

“My guys did a great job this weekend. They gave me a good racecar and I used my left foot as best I could today. I definitely wanted to close out 2016 with a win. It will be the first year to not get a win in awhile but there are bigger and better things to come in 2017 and we are ending on a high note. Me and my guys went down fighting.”

Switching manufacturers and a slew of significant rule changes to the Pro Stock class combined to wreak havoc with the Elite team, but finding a silver lining in it all, Enders said she’s learned a lot about herself and her team along the way.

“The struggles were endured are a testament to what my team is made of. It’s not always about the trophies. Yeah, we want to win races, that’s what we get paid to do, but it’s more about the chemistry and the camaraderie we share. It’s something money can’t buy, that’s why it’s so coveted, and it’s a big reason why people are envious of us. I so proud to be this team’s driver. I am so blessed. Richard Freeman could have chosen anyone, and he chose me and our puzzle is complete.”

Erica Enders enjoying twilight hours of her back-to-back championship run

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POMONA, CA — Back-to-back and reigning world champion Erica Enders has one more day to race her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart with the No. 1 sticker on the door and she plans on making the most of the occasion as the 2016 season draws to a close.

“We’re having fun,” Enders said. “I think all of us are relieved to a large extent and I know the feeling in the pit is that it’s nice to wrap up the final qualifying session of what has been an extremely long and challenging year.

“I’d say we made a couple of okay runs in qualifying, and I think there are some things we can improve on for tomorrow. That’s a glimmer of hope I suppose. All we can do is try our best like we have all year.”

Enders is no stranger to the victory circle at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, having visited it as recently as 2014 after her dramatic final-round win over Jason Line that clinched her first championship. It was history in the making as she became the first female to win a Pro Stock title and just the third woman ever to win a championship in any major form of motorsports.

“This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the tour,” Enders said. “It holds a lot of great memories and the fans have been wonderful in reminding me about 2014. They all remember every moment, just like I do. It’s great to relive those times.

“We’ll go into race day like we always go into race day, that’s with confidence and a consistent race car. I’ll do my best to drive through a couple of win lights tomorrow.”

This weekend, Enders is qualified 12th on the grid after running a best of 6.608 at 210.05 mph during qualifying. She’ll open sudden-death eliminations Sunday opposite fellow Texan Alex Laughlin, who topped out at 6.570 at 210.97 mph during time trials.

“Alex is a good friend and he’s really had a strong car, especially down the stretch this year,” Enders said. “I’ll get up on the wheel and try to steal one away and we’ll go from there.

“I’m excited for the off season and the things we have in store for 2017. We definitely want the No. 1 designation back and to start winning races again. We have a great plan in place and I’m already wishing it was time for the Winternationals. Well, it maybe nice to have a little break to catch up on sleep first.”

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