Posts Tagged Pomona

Outgoing champ Erica Enders relieved to close out 2016 drag racing season

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POMONA, CA — Two-time world champion drag racer Erica Enders has a long and storied connection with Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, the site of this weekend’s 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. It’s a bond that dates back two decades, and one that’s immortalized with her own display at the heralded Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum across the fairgrounds from fabled Pomona Dragway.

“Some of the biggest moments in my drag racing career have happened at Pomona, going all the way back to my Junior Dragster days when we hauled our little dragster all the way from Houston just to race here,” Enders said. “Now that dragster is on display at the Wally Parks Museum, and I always go and visit her when we’re in town. It’s a great chance to reflect for a minute on how far we’ve come.

“I remember as teenager coming here and enrolling in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School and earning my Super Comp license on this strip. That was a huge deal for me; kind of signaling my transition to ‘big’ cars.

“Of course, we came in here and won this race in 2014 with that crazy finish to the season. We needed every round, every point to get it done and we did it with so much pressure on us. That clinched our first championship and remains the biggest moment of my life. So yeah, this place is as special as it gets for me.”

Enders, 33, hopes to stir up a little more magic this time through as her 2016 season draws to a close with an unsightly zero in the ins column. After winning six races in 2014 and a whopping nine more in 2015, coming up empty was not what her Elite Motorsports team was expecting, even with big rule changes and a shift to Dodge Darts.

“It’s no secret we’ve had a tough year but in many ways it’s picked me up because I’ve seen a level of fight in this group of guys that is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve always said this team is exceptional and through all the struggles we’ve endured this year that feeling has only grown.

“It would be very cool to have a big weekend for the guys, to give them some sort of reward for the effort they’ve all put in this year. I will darn sure try my best to make something happen and do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Although the car hasn’t been up to snuff, Enders herself remains one of the top drivers in the class, routinely leaving first on her opponents, a trait that helped her tremendously during her two championship charges.

Her expert ability to drive a Pro Stock should work well next season when the team launches a new campaign to reestablish themselves as title contenders.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will run at 12 and 3 p.m., on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast qualifying action from 8:30-9:30 p.m., Friday. Eliminations will air live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Start of Pro Stock title defense doesn’t go as Erica Enders planned

Erica Enders burnout at Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — Two-time Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders hates losing, so it’s fair to say she won’t love this Valentine’s Day.

Enders lost in the first round of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener, shaking the tires at the hit and almost immediately getting out of the throttle of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge Dart.

She could only watch as Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. sailed to the victory, but Enders is far from distraught. After massive changes in the off-season — a manufacturer switch to Dodge and an NHRA-mandated change to fuel-injected engines limited to 10,500 rpm — Enders knows better times are ahead.

“We’ve got to keep a positive attitude and keep the mindset that this is only a beginning for us,” Enders said. “We just finished putting our motors together on Wednesday in Phoenix. We can only go up from here, and I know that with all my heart. It is a very tough pill to swallow. I hate losing, I hate losing first round. If there’s any consolation to it, at least it was to my teammate.”

Enders qualified No. 9 in Pomona, the first time since the Sonoma, Calif., event last August that she qualified outside of the top half of the field.

“We’ve got to do some work with these race cars,” Enders said. “That run marks run No. 15 under our belts, and that’s nothing, considering I had over 300 runs on my other car. We’ll learn it, we’ll get it, and we’ll be back to the top — you bet your butt.”

Enders had tempered her expectations for Pomona, knowing the new Dart and Mopar engine is early in its development by Elite Performance, but she didn’t expect such tire shake against Coughlin.

“The track was way different today than it was the whole weekend,” Enders said. “We run behind the fuel cars, and they did zero track prep, which is pretty detrimental to our class. Of course, being first out doesn’t help, but that was our own fault.

“All things considered, coming here we figured we’d be a middle-of-the-pack car, and that’s exactly what we were. We’re going to go home and go to work on this stuff. We’ve got a couple weeks until Phoenix, and in between Phoenix and Gainesville there’s another couple of weeks. I fully expect by the Gatornationals to be a lot more competitive. We’ll keep moving in the right direction.”

Two-time champion Erica Enders shows continued improvement in Pomona

Erica Enders qualifying Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — In the ever-evolving new world of Pro Stock, improvement is the No. 1 goal.

Two-time champion Erica Enders nailed that goal every time at the season-opening NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race, the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

Enders improved in every qualifying session with her Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart, ending up No. 9 for Sunday’s eliminations.

“I think we have a lot to be optimistic about,” Enders said. “We have slowly picked away at it through these four qualifying sessions. We made a pretty big change for that last run just to see how the car would take it. It adapted well, so that gives us a little confidence going into tomorrow.”

Enders started off the new era in Pro Stock — one that includes fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm rev limit — with a pass of 6.676 seconds at 208.62 mph, but in the subsequent three qualifying sessions, her elapsed time dropped: 6.669, 6.652, and finally 6.651 seconds at 207.62 mph, which was her best pass.

“When we put this whole program together we knew it would take a little time to get acclimated as far as building the horsepower is concerned and tuning the EFI, and drive-ability is a huge change for me,” Enders said. “We’re all learning and this is just the beginning.”

Enders won the 2014 and 2015 championships with a powerful combination of superb horsepower, excellent tuning, and terrific driving. A switch to Dodge for 2016 may force her team to do a little catch-up, but Enders is the same driver who set an NHRA record last year by winning three consecutive final rounds on holeshots.

“We certainly have a lot of work to do, and Pro Stock is really interesting in that aspect,” Enders said. “You don’t always need to have the fastest car to win; we’ve proven that many times before. My job remains the same tomorrow, and that’s to do my best behind the wheel and cut some good lights and hit my shift points and hopefully drive this Elite Motorsports Mopar Dodge Dart to the winner’s circle. That’s our goal.”

Her first battle comes against new Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who qualified No. 8 with a pass of 6.645 seconds at 208.55 mph.

“Figures” Enders said. “It’s all right. You know it’s bound to happen when you have 25 percent of the field under one canopy. We were hopeful that wouldn’t be the case, especially at this first event. We have pretty equally matched hot rods, so I guess we’ll see who the best driver is tomorrow.”

Race day eliminations will air live from 2-5 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1.

Two-time champ Erica Enders hopes good things come in threes

Erica Enders ready for Pomona 2016

POMONA, CA — The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least Erica Enders hopes so.

The Elite Motorsports driver has won the last two NHRA Pro Stock World Championships, with the 2015 title won in dominant fashion. She went to the winner’s circle nine times last year, clinching the title at the penultimate race of the season.

But big changes are on tap for 2016, starting with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals this weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona: The class is switching to fuel-injected engines with a 10,500-rpm limit and wheelie bars are shorter. On top of that Enders and her team are switching to Mopar, and she’ll be driving a new Dodge Dart along with new teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“I’m excited to get the season started, to get a feel for where everybody’s at,” Enders said. “We’ve beaten all the changes into the ground talking about them, but it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. It’s definitely going to be a tough year.

“I’m excited about going back to Pomona. We’ve had some success there in the past and our plan is to continue that. We’ll head west after we finish testing Wednesday and see how it goes.”

Enders won the season-finale in Pomona in 2014, winning the championship by beating Jason Line in the final round of the final race. She won six times that year, but 2015 was even better.

“You learn a lot when you experience things with the right people,” Enders said. “I’d always hoped for what I have here at Elite, and to have finally gotten a chance to work with such an elite group of people and to win the championship our first two years together says a lot.

“What impressed me last year is we were able to top what we accomplished in 2014, which was an absolute dream season. You wonder if that’s even possible, and then we went out there and did just that by winning nine races, the U.S. Nationals for the first time, and then to wrap it up a race early was just crazy.”

Enders and her Elite team have succeeded through a combination of talent, hard work, and perseverance. They believe in each other, and Enders is convinced the team’s chemistry will help them get through the big transition this season.

“I pick them over anybody else in the whole world,” Enders said. “I know that if anybody can, we can. It’s very challenging and there’s definitely going to be a learning curve involved. It’s going to take time to get better, but at the same time, you’ve got to be optimistic, and we are — we’ll be just fine.

“A lot of the teams over the offseason worked on the horsepower they had, but we built two new teams, two new race cars, and a whole new Mopar engine program. We’ve jammed as much as you could pack into an offseason. And with EFI added to the equation with a lower rev limiter and shorter wheelie bars, it’s crazy.”

Enders, though, is motivated to take a run at a third championship in a row.

“It’s been an incredible run, and I feel like we’re nowhere close to being done,” Enders said. “Having said that, it’s tough out there every year. It’s going to be a real tall order this year, for sure, with all the changes involved and the new program that we’re building, but we’ll get there. It’s going to take time, but we’re going to be fine. I always say it, but my money’s on us. We’ve got the best group, the best crew chiefs, the best team owner, the best chassis builder, the best drivers. Game on.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. Qualifying action will be broadcast at 10:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 a.m., Sunday, on FOX Sports 1, with eliminations broadcast live at 5 p.m., Sunday.

Today fans can enter to win tickets for Racing in Red premiere, meet Erica Enders

Racing in Red

WYNNEWOOD, OK — Two-time defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is hosting a contest to give away tickets for the premiere of Racing in Red, the film documenting her charge to the 2014 title.

To enter, fans on Twitter can tweet to her (@erica_enders) using the hashtag #racinginred and explain why they should be awarded tickets to the premiere. The contest will close at noon Pacific time on Monday, Feb. 8, and winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the premiere.

Enders will select two winners who give the best response. Winners will also get a chance to meet Enders.

Racing in Red will premiere at 5 p.m. PT, Feb. 11, at the Harkins Chino Hills 18 theater, six miles south of Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Only fans who can attend are asked to enter.

Elite Motorsports team members, the film production crew, media, sponsors, and Kickstarer contributors will be in attendance.

Before the 2014 season, Elite team owner Richard Freeman partnered with Danielson Entertainment Group, LLC, and Design con Carne, Inc., to capture on film the ins and outs of what turned out to be a championship season.

The filmmaking team traveled with Enders and her Elite team through most of the triumphant 2014 season, capturing behind-the-scenes moments that most fans don’t get to see. They were able to document the highs and lows of Enders’ season, getting portraits of Enders and her team members, from owner Freeman and his family to crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

The film will soon be available for purchase at the PiranaZ trailer at NHRA national events.

‘Racing in Red’ film chronicling Erica Enders’ first title run to debut in Pomona

Racing in Red

WYNNEWOOD, Okla. (Jan. 18) — Racing in Red, the film documenting Erica Enders’ charge to the 2014 Pro Stock world championship, will premiere in southern California before the start of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

A few lucky fans can win tickets to the invitation-only event, as well as meet Enders, through a special Twitter contest to be held Feb. 4. On that day, fans should use the hashtag #racinginred and tweet why they should win the contest, and Enders will choose her favorite entry.

The Racing in Red private premiere will take place at 5 p.m. Pacific time, Feb. 11, at the Harkins Chino Hills 18 theater, six miles south of Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. The contest winners will join Elite Motorsports team members, the film production crew, media, sponsors, and Kickstarter contributors at the special event.

To purchase a copy of the film, visit RacingInRed.com. The film should be available in mid-February.

Before the 2014 season, Elite team owner Richard Freeman partnered with Danielson Entertainment Group, LLC, and Design con Carne, Inc., to capture on film the ins and outs of what turned out to be an historic season.

The filmmaking team traveled with Enders and her Elite team through most of the triumphant 2014 season, capturing behind-the-scenes moments that most fans don’t get to see. They were able to document the highs and lows of Enders’ season, getting portraits of Enders and her team members, from owner Freeman and his family to crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

“For them to have been there and captured our dream season is pretty surreal,” Enders said. “I can’t wait to see the finished product, and I know it will give the fans a behind-the-scenes look at exactly what we went through to accomplish what we did.”

Rare mistake yields semifinal finish for Erica Enders at NHRA Finals

Erica Enders Pomona Finals 2015

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders didn’t become a two-time Pro Stock World Champion without being competitive, so one can understand why she was disappointed after falling in the semifinals of the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

An extraordinarily rare mistake cost Enders against Allen Johnson, ending her triumphant season with nine victories and the 2015 championship.

“I didn’t drive like I wanted to this afternoon, but our season was great,” Enders said. “The competitor in me is really mad that I screwed up. I am human and it’s the first time I’ve done so probably since the spring. I guess we’re all entitled, but at the same time I’m better than that.

“I hate it because we probably win the race if we get through that round. It’s just one of those deals. There’s nothing to hold our heads down about.”

Enders clinched the championship at the previous race, in Las Vegas, winning her second consecutive event and third in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

But after beating Vieri Gaines and Larry Morgan on Sunday in Pomona, Enders had some issues on the starting line against Johnson. She decked the engine before Johnson was staged, and then after backing off and hitting the throttle again, Enders had a rare poor reaction time, .068-second. By comparison, she had an average light of .016-second in the playoffs.

Johnson got off the line with a .005 light, and his pass of 6.572 seconds at 209.17 mph was enough to hold off Enders’ quicker 6.542 at 212.43 mph.

“What happened on the starting line was really screwed up and was my fault,” Enders said. “I didn’t rise to the occasion. I hate it; I wanted to win 10 on the year. But what can you say? I had a career season. People in drag racing would give anything to have a season like I did.

“If you put everything in perspective and look at the big picture, it’s kind of hard to be mad about one race. I just know that I’m better than that.”

Still, Enders will celebrate with her Elite Motorsports team at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Awards Ceremony on Monday night at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

“My guys were the first ones to pick me up,” Enders said. “We carry each other. We’ve had a lot of races where things didn’t go right setup-wise, and we’ve had a lot of races where the driver hasn’t been very good.

“But that’s where we’re different than everyone else. We stand by each other, we’re not critical, and we don’t pile on each other when the other messes up. That’s how we roll.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for 10th victory of 2015

Erica Enders Pomona 2015 Auto Club Finals

POMONA, CA — Erica Enders has already captured the biggest prize in the Pro Stock class of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: the 2015 championship. But the two-time series champion is far from finished with the season. Enders is a nine-time winner in 2015, meaning she already holds the record for most wins in a season by a woman, but she wants No. 10.

“I’m proud that we locked the championship up last weekend,” Enders said. “But I’m going into tomorrow with the mindset that I want to win No. 10 on the season. That is my job, that is my goal, and that is what I will do.”

Enders, who clinched the championship during her victory in Las Vegas, qualified No. 2 for the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a stellar pass of 6.503 seconds at 213.33 mph.

“That was our first decent run of the weekend,” Enders said. “Obviously, that’s nice to be able to go to sleep on Saturday night with that run. (No. 1 qualifier) Greg (Anderson) made a killer run and he had us by a hundredth in the 60-foot, and that’s what he outran us by. We know where we need to improve.”

Enders starts her pursuit of victory No. 10 on Sunday against V. Gaines, who qualified No. 15 with a top pass of 6.570 seconds at 211.63 mph.

“We have a great race-day setup,” Enders said. “That’s something my guys are excellent at, giving me a fast, consistent race car on Sunday. We’ve proven all year that’s what it takes to win, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Enders will also keep an eye on Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman, who qualified No. 4 and is on opposite sides of the ladder from her. Skillman, the leading contender for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as the NHRA’s top rookie, is fourth in the points standings but has a shot at finishing second.

Enders is also looking to cap a spectacular Countdown to the Championship, in which she has won three of the five races in the playoffs, including two in a row. Plus, she has raced to the final in four of the five Countdown races.

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