Posts Tagged Race Preview

Erica Enders fired up about returning to scene of historic victory

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CHICAGO, IL – The memories of Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend’s Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals, are sweet for Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders.

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock world champion, raced to her first final round as a professional here in 2006, and she became the first woman to win a Pro Stock race when she beat Greg Anderson in the final in 2012.

“Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart,” Enders said. “It was the place where I had my first final-round appearance in 2006, and we finally went on to win there in 2012. I’m really excited to go back.”

Enders has since become one of the top racers in NHRA, winning 16 times and the 2014 Pro Stock championship, but she always has an extra bounce in her step when she pulls into Route 66 Raceway. Plus, crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones live two and a half hours away in Galesburg, Ill., making it a special event for her team, much like Enders’ love of the race in her hometown of Houston.

“It’s the home track for two of my crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones,” Enders said. “How I feel about Houston, they feel about Chicago. We’re going to do our best to get it done there.”

Enders, too, has motivation following a first-round loss in Norwalk, Ohio, last weekend. She qualified No. 1 for the fifth time this season, but her Chevrolet Camaro got sideways at the hit in the first round. Still, she sits second in the Pro Stock standings as the season reaches the midway point.

“We’ve got a lot to prove after Norwalk,” Enders said. “I know that we can do it. It’s times like these when we really thrive, and that’s when we have something to prove but it’s not to anybody but ourselves.

“I’m excited to have another shot this weekend. We go into Chicago with our heads held high because regardless of the results in Norwalk, we’ve still got the best car, the best team, and the best driver.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 4:15 and 7:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders hopes history repeats itself in Norwalk

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NORWALK, OH — Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Erica Enders hopes history continues to repeat itself in 2015, including at this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

So far this season, the 2014 NHRA Pro Stock World Champion has repeated victories she earned last year. She won in Las Vegas, Houston, and Bristol in 2014 and has done so this season as well. Enders added a victory in Topeka, Kan., to help her lead the points standings as she heads to Norwalk, where she is the defending race champion.

“So far this season we’ve been able to repeat every win we had last year,” Enders said. “Vegas, Houston, and Bristol and we added Topeka. Hopefully that trend continues. We’ve definitely got a good race car and I’ve got the best team.”

The Norwalk victory a season ago capped a terrific performance by Enders and her team. She was quickest in all four qualifying rounds and in all four rounds of eliminations, snapping a winless streak by Pro Stock No. 1 qualifiers.

“We broke that streak where nobody had been able to qualify on the pole and win the race,” Enders said. “We had a dominant performance last year, being low e.t. of every qualifying and elimination round. It was a really exciting weekend.

“Coming off the win in Bristol, we’re hopeful to carry that momentum and have a repeat of Norwalk last year. I look forward to winning another ice cream scoop.”

A special ice cream scoop is awarded to Norwalk winners, a symbol of the treat enjoyed by fans and competitors at the track for many years.

Norwalk is also renowned for its impressive fireworks display during the Independence Day holiday weekend.

“It’s one of my favorite facilities to go to,” Enders said. “The Baders go above and beyond to treat the racers like family, and being that it’s Fourth of July, all the stuff they do for fans is incredible.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 5 and 8:45 p.m. ET, Friday and Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 10 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, and the elimination rounds live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday.

Racing on Father’s Day holds special memories for Pro Stock champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders-Stevens in Bristol winner's circle

BRISTOL, TN — Father’s Day is a special time for dads and their kids, a time for children to honor their fathers for all the sacrifices made.

While racing at this weekend’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders will certainly thank her dad, Gregg Enders, for everything he did to further her career in drag racing.

“My dad means the world to me,” Enders said. “He’s been a huge support in my racing career, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without him. We will do our best to bring him home another Wally this year on Father’s Day.”

Erica went to her dad, a racer himself, when she was 8 years old, asking to drive in the new Jr. Dragster class. Gregg agreed and began a long journey as mentor, crew chief, and supporter.

“He gave up a lot for (sister) Courtney and I to be able to race,” Enders said. “From the Jr. Dragster days to Super Comp and Super Gas to funding a Pro Stock team on his own, he provided all the stepping-stones to get me where I am today.

“Now, I’m with a team that takes great care of me and we have a blast together. Every challenging moment was worth it to get where I am now at Elite Motorsports.”

Enders won the 2014 Pro Stock world championship, with Gregg and Courtney arm in arm behind her at Auto Club Raceway last November.

Enders remains a leading contender to repeat as champion, as she’s second in the points standings with three wins in four final-round appearances and three No. 1 qualifiers in nine races to date. She heads to Bristol as the event’s defending champion.

“I’m excited to go back,” Enders said. “So far this year, we’ve won at the same tracks we won at last year, so hopefully that trend continues at Thunder Valley. I’ve never been shy to say that Bristol’s one of my favorite tracks on the tour, and the fact that it’s been good to us in the past makes it even more fun to go back.”

Enders has been to the Bristol final round in three of the last four races (2011, 2013, 2014), reaching the semifinals in 2012.

“It’s an awesome part of the country,” Enders said. “The fans are kind to us, and the facility is beautiful. Plus, Bruton Smith and his staff treat the competitors well.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 5 and 7:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 12:30 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 8 to 10 p.m., Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 3 to 6 p.m., Sunday.

Reigning world champion drag racer Erica Enders expects excellence in Epping

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EPPING, NH — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports Pro Stock race team are expecting a memorable outing at this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals, and the world champions have plenty of reason to be optimistic, including three victories in the last five races, three top qualifying efforts, and an enviable 20-6 race day mark in the first nine races of the season.

“Everything’s been clicking for us,” said Enders, a Houston native who now lives in New Orleans with her husband, fellow racer Richie Stevens. “We even switched to a new car a few races back but really didn’t miss a beat. In fact, we got even better. It speaks to the quality of work these guys put in every day. We expect the best from each other and they deliver it time after time.

“Our team owner, Richard Freeman, is really good at getting the best out of people and that attitude spreads throughout the team. We’re not cocky; we just know what we’re capable of, and we feel a huge responsibility to prove ourselves every weekend.”

Enders has chalked up national event wins in Las Vegas, Houston, and Topeka, Kan., this year. She also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas, a special non-points event for the category’s top-eight teams from the last 12 months. Her three national event wins are the most in the Pro Stock class and tied for most in the pro ranks with Top Fuel’s Antron Brown and Funny Car’s Matt Hagan.

“I’m sure if you asked Antron and Matt they’d tell you the same thing, that whenever you win a Wally all you really want to do is win another one,” she said. “It’s addictive. It’s the best reward for the crew and the engine builders for all the long hours they put in to make me look good. I get on TV, but they’re the real heroes of this operation, no doubt.”

With 15 national event wins in her career, Enders is just three behind legendary nitro pilot and trailblazer Shirley Muldowney, a longtime idol who has become a great friend and confidant to the 31-year-old Enders.

“I’ve been hearing about Shirley’s mark lately because the media picks up on the numbers, but there is no comparing me and her,” Enders said. “What she went through back when she raced was really tough. She opened the door for girls like me to even know we had a chance to race. Plus, they didn’t run near as many races every year back then, so to compare her numbers to mine is crazy.

“Bottom line, Shirley will always be the first lady of drag racing. She is a great friend and someone I know I can call at any time of the day or night to ask her advice. Her and Angelle (Sampey) were such a big help last year when the championship battle got intense. I’m honored just to be mentioned alongside of them.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions will be held at 4:30 and 7 p.m. ET, Friday, and 12:30 and 3 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast all the qualifying action from 7:30 to 10 p.m., Saturday, and the elimination rounds from 5 to 8 p.m., Sunday.

Record setter Erica Enders returns to Englishtown on a roll

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ENGLISHTOWN, NJ — No one was faster during the 2014 Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park than Erica Enders, and no one is more excited to return for this year’s event.

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team set the national elapsed time and speed records in Englishtown a year ago, 6.464 seconds and 215.55 mph, and she still holds the speed mark.

“There’s a lot of history at Raceway Park,” said Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock champion. “I’m excited to go back because we set both ends of the national record there for e.t. and mph. The e.t. record was just broken by Jason (Line) in Charlotte, but we still hold the mph record. Definitely some fond memories there for me: My husband Richie (Stevens) has won there a handful of times, so it’s a lucky track for him.”

Plus, Englishtown is a favorite stop for Pro Stock competitors because fans in the area truly love the class.

“It’s Pro Stock country up there,” Enders said. “People there love Pro Stock, so it’s always exciting to get back to a racetrack where the whole grandstands want to see us race. The back of the pits are packed, and you get a lot of educated questions. It’s nice.”

Weather may not allow for record-setting runs this year, but Enders should still be among the fastest drivers. She is coming off a victory at Heartland Park Topeka, where she was the quickest in all three rounds of qualifying and in all four rounds of eliminations. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 80s this weekend with a slight chance for rain.

“Englishtown and Reading are always two of the most likely tracks to have weather conditions conducive for record-setting runs,” Enders said. “If the conditions are there, I definitely put our money on us. We’ve certainly got a good handle on our hot rod right now, and I’ve been driving really well. We’ll see what the good Lord deals us with the weather, and we’ll go up there and do our best.

“Record or not, our goal is to win the race. Coming off a win in Topeka, I’m very excited to get back behind the wheel.”

The Topeka victory put Enders back on top in the points standings for the second time this season, and she leads Line by 58 points, but this is no time to be counting points, Enders said.

“It’s always exciting to lead the points, but it’s a long season,” Enders said. “We’re only a third of the way through it, and we’ve got a lot of races left. There are a lot of tough competitors out there in Pro Stock, and it’s going to come down to the wire. With the Countdown format, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to get very far ahead. We were 250 points ahead last year, and it came down to the final round of the final race.”

Qualifying for the Toyota NHRA Summernationals takes place at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Elimination racing begins at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Reigning world champ Erica Enders has fond memories of Heartland Park Topeka

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TOPEKA, KS — Back before she was a champion, before setting multitudes of records, and before her regular visits to the Winner’s Circle, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders came to Heartland Park Topeka intent on proving herself in the cutthroat world of Pro Stock racing.

It was 2006 and Enders was racing for another team at the time. She would hear the rumblings that a woman didn’t belong in the class, including some jabs from other drivers in the category. Her self-confidence was high but she desperately wanted something to show for the team’s efforts, something that would quiet the critics.

“When someone asks me about Topeka, the first thing that jumps into my mind was 2006 when we got top qualifier,” Enders said. “It was the first time a woman had ever been No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and it was just such a huge feeling of accomplishment for all of us. It was a Saturday night I’ll never forget; definitely some high-fives in the pit.”

Although Enders and Co. couldn’t parlay that qualifying performance into a win on race day, the accomplishment proved she truly belonged in the professional ranks of the sport.

Fast-forward to this year’s NHRA Kansas Nationals and Enders arrives as the reigning world champion with 15 national event titles to her credit, just three behind legend and idol Shirley Muldowney. Enders’ top qualifying effort in Topeka 10 years ago has since been replicated 14 times, and her 175-117 elimination-round record gives her one of the best winning ratios among her peers.

But despite her unquestioned racing abilities, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, says not much has changed in her racing mindset.

“Ask me about Topeka right now and I’ll tell you the same thing I would have said 10 years ago: We go in there wanting to prove ourselves,” she said. “One of the best things about drag racing is every race is a fresh start. What you did in the past doesn’t help you at all. You constantly have to show what you’re capable of, and this team thrives on that challenge.”

The Elite Motorsports group hasn’t had any problems doing that this year, winning twice, finishing runner-up once, and posting a pair of semifinal results through the first seven races. Enders currently is ranked second, just a round and a half behind Jason Line.

“The thing about winning is it’s addictive,” Enders said. “We won in Las Vegas and Houston this year and then went to Atlanta last weekend and we went to the semi’s. It was kind of a bummer, which is crazy because 10 years ago that would have been huge.

“This team that Richard Freeman has put together, they work so hard. They’re champions, every single one of them. I’m the lucky one that gets to drive but they’re the reason we win.

“Hopefully, we can be No. 1 qualifier again this time through. Then I hope we can win the trophy and really make some more great memories at Heartland Park Topeka.”

The quest for another top qualifying honor begins with time trials at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, followed by the final two sessions at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m., Saturday. Elimination racing begins at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Erica Enders-Stevens gears up for Houston homecoming with Lupe Tortilla, Elite Motorsports

Enders-Stevens gears up for Houston homecoming

HOUSTON, TX — Coming home to Texas always puts an extra kick in Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens’ step, and she has even more reasons to be upbeat about the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway.

For starters, she will be sponsored by her favorite restaurant, Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants, and she’s coming off a second consecutive double-up at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge on April 25 in Las Vegas, then won the regular national event the next day. She became the first driver since Bob Glidden to pull off the sweep two years in a row, and now she’s coming to race in her hometown, where she won last year.

“Vegas was huge for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “We didn’t exactly start off the season the way we wanted to. Granted it wasn’t horrible, but we hadn’t gotten a handle on the tires and the fuel yet. Staying after Charlotte to test got things looking up for us. It was a huge confidence builder, and it was also pretty surreal to be able to double up two years in a row.

“That was an awesome experience. I believe we create our own momentum, and we’re on a high right now. I’m excited to carry that into Houston.”

She moved into second place in the Pro Stock points standings with the Las Vegas win and hopes to go back to back in her hometown. Born and raised in the Houston area, Enders-Stevens now lives in New Orleans with her husband, Richie Stevens.

The 2014 win in Houston was her first pro victory in her hometown.

“It was a really important race win to me, not only because it was my first professional win in my hometown but also because it’s sort of a home track for my team owner, Richard Freeman, as well,” Enders-Stevens said. “And it was the first Pro Stock race my dad ever got to see me win. It was really an exciting weekend and everything came together.”

Enders-Stevens hopes that happens again, especially after partnering with longtime friend Stan Holt’s Lupe Tortilla Mexican Restaurants.

“We’ve got a different name on the door this weekend, and it’s a great family-owned business in Lupe Tortilla,” Enders-Stevens said. “Stan Holt has been a big part of my career going back to Jr. Dragsters, and he’s been a longtime family friend. We’re really proud to fly his colors in Houston and support him. Hopefully we’ll get a bunch of people to go try the best food in the country.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. CT, Friday, and 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday. Saturday qualifying will be broadcasted at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Sunday’s elimination action will air live beginning at 2 p.m.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Las Vegas double

Erica Enders-Stevens hoping for another Vegas double

LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens hopes to double down for the second year in a row at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Last March, Enders-Stevens won the special K&N Horsepower Challenge in Las Vegas and then doubled up the next day by winning the regular national event.

Is a repeat at this weekend’s SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals in the cards?

“Vegas will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first win with Elite and we were able to double up there,” Enders-Stevens said. “Then we went there in the fall and won the race to take over the points lead for the championship.

“We swept the Vegas races last year, so we’re really excited to go back, especially coming off a successful test in Charlotte. It gives us a little boost of confidence heading to Vegas.”

Enders-Stevens joined Richard Freeman’s Elite team for the 2014 season, but she was winless with Elite before heading to Vegas. That changed when she knocked off Dave Connolly in the final of the Horsepower Challenge and beat Jason Line in the national event final.

“It was just a special weekend for my team and I,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were still pretty new together, and it was neat to see how well everyone worked together, even under such a high-pressure situation for $100,000. It was a weekend I’ll never forget.”

The K&N Horsepower Challenge is a special race for seven Pro Stock drivers based on qualifying points accrued since the 2014 event (one is added via a fan vote). Qualifying sessions Saturday are used for K&N Challenge elimination rounds, with the K&N final being an extra pass Saturday. The winner pockets $50,000.

“It’s a really exciting specialty race that K&N puts on every year for us,” Enders-Stevens said. “All of us Pro Stock guys are so appreciative of K&N for their involvement in NHRA and their support of our class. It’s an exciting weekend coming up, and being the defending champions makes it even more exciting for us.

“Two of the qualifying passes are K&N elimination rounds, so not only is Sunday important but Saturday is really important to us, too. We’ll get one day to get our ducks in a row and then we’ll swing for the fences on Saturday. I’m really excited about it, and I’m hopeful that we can get it done again.”

Qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Final eliminations will start at approximately noon, Sunday. Saturday qualifying will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and elimination action Sunday will be aired at 5 p.m.

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