Posts Tagged Race Preview

Vegas is ‘just another race’ for championship front-runner Erica Enders

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders can clinch her second consecutive championship at the 15th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. After all, she has a massive 154-point lead on her nearest rival in the standings and is riding an otherworldly winning streak of 18 straight rounds of competition at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning five successive races at the facility.

Yet the record-setting driver from Texas says this weekend’s race is no different than the first 22 this year, of which she has won eight, an all-time, high-water mark for female drivers.

“I’m treating this race like all the other ones; I want to do my very best to put this Elite Motorsports Camaro in the winner’s circle,” Enders said. “We have an awesome team with the best mechanics, engine builders, and crew chiefs in the world and we have a lot of confidence. To change the way we’ve been racing at this point would be crazy.”

Crazy indeed. Enders’ eight victories (Las Vegas 1, Houston, Topeka, Bristol, Brainerd, Indianapolis, Charlotte 2, and Dallas) lead all professional drivers, regardless of category. Her 52-14 race day record also blows away the entire professional field.

As for her good fortune at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, has won three national events and two K&N Horsepower Pro Stock Challenges in her last three trips to the high desert.

“It’s no secret Las Vegas has been very, very good to us,” Enders said. “I love the track, and the fans that come to those races are already in a party mood being in Vegas, so the atmosphere is always very upbeat.

“Coming off a win in Dallas (Oct. 18), that also raises our level of confidence. We are carrying a lot of momentum at the right time. Last year was do-or-die every round when we came to Vegas. This time we have a little cushion in the points, but we know we’re not done racing. There is work to be done, and these guys are super hungry to get another championship.

“God has a plan for us and it takes a lot of stress off my shoulders knowing that my destiny has already been set. I just need to do what I can behind the wheel and then let God handle the rest.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.

Texas girl Erica Enders wants another big win in her home state

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DALLAS, TX — Erica Enders is known as the reigning Pro Stock world champion. She’s also referred to as the points leader and odds-on favorite to win this year’s title, having led the standings for the last four races. She’s the most prolific female racer in class history and recently passed legend Shirley Muldowney for number of national event victories on the all-time list.

The bottom line is Enders can answer to a lot of different titles, but the one she relishes the most is a simple one: Texan.

Born and raised in Houston, Enders attended Texas A&M before chasing her drag racing dream full-time. The decorated driver of the Elite Motorsports Camaro often wears Texas-themed clothing and jewelry and always greets fellow Lone Star State inhabitants with a broad smile, no matter where in the world she might be.

It’s no wonder she’s so anxious to win this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, a racetrack at which she has competed since she was 8 years old.

“It’s time to get a pro win up there,” Enders said. “This would be the perfect season to get it done because we already won the Houston race in April, so we could sweep the Texas races. That would mean a lot to me, being a Texas girl and all.”

Enders certainly has the horsepower to get the job done. She has won an NHRA-leading and personal-best seven national events this year, including at three of the last five stops on tour, and has a comfortable three-and-a-half-round lead over her nearest rival in the Mello Yello championship points with just three races left in the season.

She has been the No. 1 qualifier five times, had the quickest car on the property six times, and posted top speed at three different meets.

“It’s all about this incredible team that (owner) Richard Freeman has put together,” said Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “The guys in the Elite pit are the best in the business. I’m just the lucky girl that gets to drive the car and do the interviews on TV.

“Being a Texas girl, I do take a lot of pride in my work ethic, and having a fast hot rod makes me work even harder to be perfect whenever I climb into the car and put on my helmet. It’s always a lot of pressure, but over the years I’ve figured out how to thrive off of that pressure. I actually drive better when the stakes are highest, and as much as we want to win this race and put more points on the board, I’ll be feeling it for sure.

“We’ve made a few real good runs at the Dallas trophy before but never with a car like this one. We’re ready to get it done.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:45 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon, Sunday. All racing action will be shown on ESPN2.

Growing points lead won’t alter Erica Enders’ strategy in Reading

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READING, PA — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders has stretched her Pro Stock points lead to 113 after two races into the Countdown to the Championship, but if you think the defending world champion and her team plan to alter their approach at this weekend’s NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, think again.

“We’re not changing one thing,” Enders said. “We’re just going to go on to the third race of the Countdown and race smart and calculated. We’ve got to keep pace, continue our points lead. That’s the mind-set going in. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. One round, one at a time.”

Enders has been on fire lately, racing to four consecutive final rounds and winning three in a row before falling to teammate Drew Skillman in the St. Louis final. She has won seven times in 2015, and one more victory this year would break Angelle Sampey’s mark for single-season wins by a woman.

Enders has been spectacular at the first two races of the six-race Countdown. She has won seven of eight rounds of racing, two of those on holeshots, including the Charlotte final. She left first on Skillman in St. Louis, but her Transportation Impact Camaro immediately shook the tires, and Enders had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Reading should be a fast race, as conditions are usually conducive to record-setting elapsed times. Enders has been fast in 2015, with five No. 1 qualifiers and qualifying in the top four at 16 of the 20 races to date.

“If the weather is conducive, it’s definitely a possibility to see a new record up there,” Enders said. “Elapsed time is the only one that is worth any points, so we’re going to do our best to get it, but we’re not going to change our game plan.”

Enders recorded the third-quickest e.t. in Pro Stock history, 6.464 seconds, in Englishtown last year. Jason Line holds the national record of 6.455 seconds, and his teammate Greg Anderson has been quick lately.

And while Enders and her team will try to lower the e.t. mark, the goal is to go as fast as possible in each round.

“We’ll do our best, and if it’s meant to be, we’ll set the record,” Enders said. “Greg (Anderson) is really fast right now, and those 20 points (for setting the record) are huge. We’ll go after it, but we’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:15 and 4:15 p.m., Friday, and 11:15 and 2:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday.

Pro Stock champ, points leader Erica Enders heads to St. Louis with formidable momentum, new sponsor

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ST. LOUIS, MO — Erica Enders arrives at Gateway Motorsports Park for this weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals on a three-race winning streak that has her 83 points ahead of her nearest rival in a quest to win consecutive Pro Stock world championships.

In addition, the driver of Elite Motorsports’ crimson cannonball, which will sport new sponsorship from Transportation Impact, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Enders is on a roll, having just passed legend and friend Shirley Muldowney’s career win total with her 19th victory last Sunday in Charlotte.

“It’s definitely a good point in the year to have momentum,” Enders said. “I’ve always said we create our own momentum, and it’s a great confidence-booster for everyone on the team. We’re one race into three consecutive events for the start of the Countdown to the Championship, and we couldn’t be doing any better. We were able to begin the Countdown with the No. 1 ranking and hold strong in Charlotte and win the race, so we definitely have a little bit of a lead.

“Passing Shirley was too much to even wrap my head around. She was the person I wanted to be when I grew up and to see her name next to mine is surreal. And then she was one of the first people to call me and say, ‘Good job.’ It’s very special and means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

As for this weekend, Enders already knows the way to Gateway’s victory platform, having visited it twice before. Now she’s hoping for another return to pad her lead that much more.

“I’ve never been shy to say St. Louis is one of my favorite tracks,” Enders said. “I had some success there in the Sportsman days and got my only Countdown win in 2013 there. It’s just an exciting, fun place to race. We recently tested there before Indy, so we got some good data for that facility. I’m excited to go back, especially off the successful three weeks we’ve had.”

Just one day after winning at zMax Dragway for the very first time, Enders and her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro team proudly announced a major associate sponsorship agreement with Transportation Impact, a privately-held logistics company that specializes in helping some of the largest companies in the world drastically reduce their shipping costs.

Enders will be celebrating a birthday shortly after the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, and she plans to blow out everyone else’s candles on Sunday before extinguishing hers on Oct. 8.

“I’m very optimistic and excited about what’s to come,” Enders said. “I’m hopeful we can carry our momentum to St. Louis.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 and 5:15 p.m., Friday, and 1:45 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday.

Erica Enders, Elite Motorsports ready to defend Pro Stock championship

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Pro Stock champion Erica Enders begins the Countdown to the Championship playoffs from the lofty No. 1 spot at this weekend’s NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Victories in the last two races, including the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, cemented her No. 1 spot — and a 30-point lead over the No. 2 driver — in the points standings.

“I’m really excited to be in the No. 1 position because that 30-point bonus would have significantly changed things in Pomona [Calif.] last year when it came down to the final round at the final race with Jason (Line) and I,” Enders said. “Had I lost that round, I would have lost the championship by one point.

“We still have a ton of work cut out for us going into the Countdown. We weren’t the fastest car at Indy, but you bet your butt our guys are back in the shop working on that to see if we can find some more horsepower and get our act together for the Countdown.”

Enders has six victories in seven final-round appearances in 2015, racing to the semifinals in five other races. She also has five No. 1 qualifiers and has amassed a 40-12 round-win record through 18 races.

“We came off the win in Brainerd [Minn.], went to Indy, and won at Indy,” Enders said. “We want to carry that momentum. You want to start off the Countdown on the right foot. These are the six most important races of the season. You have to have as little parts failure as you can. You have to change things out more frequently than you would have before just to stay ahead of the game.

“I’m really excited. I’m very optimistic about the final six races. I know that my guys are as well.”

Enders won the 2014 world championship by winning twice, racing to the semifinals twice, and reaching the second round twice in the six-race Countdown. That experience can only help as she guns for her second consecutive season title.

“I feel like we as a team learned a lot about ourselves last year, being able to perform well in those high-pressure situations,” Enders said. “Behind the scenes, of course, your stomach is in a knot. I joked last year going into the final round that I could have puked. I think my crew chiefs were the same way. So much is on the line for one round.

“We were pretty tough. That’s something that we learned, and I’ve become a much better driver with the guys that are surrounding me now. My Elite Motorsports team has helped me so much. I feel that even in crazy situations — when things break, go wrong, you’re rushed, or you’re not in sequence — I’ve learned how to overcome those feelings and just be able to block that out.

“I feel like I can have anything thrown at me and can have anything thrown at us and we can come out on top. That’s something that we had to learn and had to acquire over the years. Going into this Countdown, yes, I feel like we are the best that we have ever been, and I’m very, very excited about what’s to come.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:15 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 12:45 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders hopes to reap U.S. Nationals rewards

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The rewards are plentiful for Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Erica Enders during this weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion, sits atop the points standings with one more race before the Countdown to the Championship begins, so a good showing at Indy could cement her status as the No. 1 seed.

She’s also coming off a victory at Brainerd International Raceway two weeks ago and is gunning for two wins in a row and her first U.S. Nationals title.

Enders has 17 Pro Stock victories in her brilliant career, and her next win would tie her with the legendary Shirley Muldowney, and she’d trail only Angelle Sampey on the all-time win list for women. Plus, Enders is the grand marshal for this weekend’s race.

“I’m real excited to head into Indy, our biggest race of the year,” Enders said. “Not only is it like our Super Bowl, but it’s double the jackpot and a point and a half this time. Being the last race before we head into the Countdown, it could solidify our No. 1 seed into the Countdown, providing we keep pace with the Summit cars.”

Enders leads Greg Anderson by 16 points after her Brainerd win, but NHRA is awarding 1.5 times the normal amount of points at Indianapolis.

“Going in as the No. 1 seed is definitely important,” Enders said. “That is one of our goals this weekend. We’re coming off a win in Brainerd, which certainly gives us a lot of confidence. Hopefully, we’ll keep the momentum on our side of things and continue the streak.”

Enders and her team tested at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis earlier this week, trying to improve their already stellar performance this season. Enders has won five times in six final-round appearances, racing to the semifinals 11 times in 17 races. Plus, she has five No. 1 qualifiers.

“We learned a lot and things went well,” Enders said. “For a team that doesn’t test a lot, it was really nice to get to try some things. That’s all good stuff heading into the biggest race of the year.”

Muldowney, one of drag racing’s pioneers, will be at the U.S. Nationals this weekend, and she certainly supports Enders.

“She’s a legend of our sport and a huge personal hero of mine,” Enders said. “To be within one pro win of Shirley is surreal, and if we win Indy, we’d be tied with her and then only trailing Angelle. I remember like it was yesterday working so hard to get our first Pro Stock win, and in three short years, we’ve not only been able to score our first win but we’ve been fortunate to win 17 of them — and the world championship. It’s pretty incredible to look at that, knowing how long it took to get the first one.

“I’m beyond excited to have my name on the list with two incredible women like Angelle and Shirley, and it’s obviously my personal goal to become the winningest female of all time. We’re working on it.”

Historic race of the past has Erica Enders excited about future Seattle success

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SEATTLE, WA — Reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders is ready to make some more history at picturesque Pacific Raceways this weekend during the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.

During her breakthrough 2012 campaign, Enders and Funny Car racer Courtney Force made a mark in the record books in Seattle by becoming the first pair of female professionals to win the same national event.

“That was such a cool day,” Enders said. “I had just won my first ever Pro Stock trophy in Chicago a few races before the Western Swing, and that was a huge deal because no woman had ever won in Pro Stock before. We finally got it done and it was like, ‘How can we top that?’ Then we come up here and make some more history with Courtney. It was really neat to be a part of that, especially with my buddy Courtney.

“The Seattle win was special because it validated the Chicago win. It proved we were legit. We ended up winning a couple more times that year, but the Seattle win was one of the biggest I’ve ever had.”

Enders, who is married to fellow Pro Stock racer Richie Stevens, enters the weekend second in the Mello Yello championship points. She’s currently 47 points behind Greg Anderson and 147 ahead of third-place Jason Line.

“We have to go to Seattle and perform flawlessly, especially coming off a quarterfinal result in Sonoma,” Enders said. “We all know what we need to do in this pit and we just need to get to work. Seattle is usually a hot and tricky racetrack, so we’ll be prepared for that and try to win some rounds and maybe get back in the winner’s circle. I’ll talk to Courtney and see if we can’t recreate 2012!

“As much fun as it will be to reminisce a little bit, we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us. This year has been extremely competitive, like it seems to be every year, but I think the new fuel and tires they have us using this year have really evened the playing field more than ever before. It’s been stressful but fun.”

While in town, Enders will be sure to take in the local scene.

“Seattle is such a beautiful city,” she said. “You start taking it in before you even land, just looking out the windows of the airplane and seeing Mount Rainer and Puget Sound. I know we’ll be eating a lot of fresh seafood and taking in some glorious sunsets. I’m excited. This is definitely a race you always look forward to every year.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry both qualifying and elimination action.

Success in Sonoma on the mind of reigning world champion Erica Enders

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SONOMA, CA — Two against one may not be fair, but reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders’ season-long battle with rival teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line hasn’t phased the popular professional from Texas. If anything, the two-pronged attack against her has only served to motivate the sport’s top female Pro Stock racer, who has been ranked first or second in the points for the last four months.

“With the exception of two races early in the year, either Greg, Jason, or I have been in the No. 1 spot and we’ve swapped it around nine times already in 14 races, so it’s been another super tough year in Pro Stock,” said Enders, who lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens. “It’s a huge challenge every week but that’s why we race. It’s stressful but fun at the same time.

“We knew coming into this year with the No. 1 on the side of our Elite Motorsports Chevrolet that we were going to be the hunted, and that’s proven to be true. Everyone takes their best shot against us, and we’ve had to raise our level to keep up the fight.”

Enders enters this weekend’s 28th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals just 37 points, or roughly the equivalent of two elimination rounds, behind Anderson. Line is a distant but always dangerous third, 176 points in arrears of Enders. To date, Enders has a 4-2 record in head-to-head matchups with Anderson and is 1-0 against Line.

Although Sonoma Raceway isn’t one of the places where Enders has hoisted a Wally trophy, she still ranks the track as one of her favorites and is excited to get back to wine country and regain the top ranking in her class.

“Sonoma is definitely in the top three on my favorite’s list,” Enders said. “I’m excited to be able to go back, especially with a really fast, consistent hot rod.

“It would be really awesome to get it done in Sonoma. It’s wine country and along with the Wally you get a giant bottle of wine from the track if you win. I’m fortunate to have a bunch of winos on my team, so we’d love that.

“My team owner, Richard Freeman, has never been there and has never raced there, so it’s new territory for him. A couple of my crew guys have never been out there, either, so it’ll be a fun, exciting weekend.

“We’ve definitely got a lot of confidence, even though we’re not coming off a win in Denver. We’ve got momentum and confidence heading into Sonoma, and that sits well with me.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 and 6:45 p.m., Friday, and 1:10 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will carry both qualifying and elimination action.

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