Posts Tagged Race Recap

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.”

Expired engine ends Erica Enders weekend in opening round of Toyota Nationals

Erica Enders | Las Vegas 2017 NHRA

LAS VEGAS, NV — It doesn’t happen often for Erica Enders and her Elite Performance race team but an expiring engine ended the six-time Vegas champion’s day in the opening round of competition.

“As hard as we push these motors it’s actually surprising it doesn’t happen more often but we got bit today and that ended our race,” Enders said. “We’ll be fine. It’s an easy fix and we have lots of spares so we’ll be prepared for Pomona, no problem.”

Had the motor survived through the finish line, the outcome could have been very different as opponent Allen Johnson was running close but was on the chase after Enders fashioned a .019-second starting line advantage after a great .010 reaction time.

“Allen’s my good friend and we love to race each other,” Enders said. “That sucker double-bulbed me but I stayed in my routine and cracked his ass with a great light. We were having a great race but when I got to fifth gear in our McLeod Chevy I heard the motor break. Our team owner, Richard Freeman, tells me to leg it out no matter what on race day but when I heard it break I looked over and Allen was right there.

“The smartest thing to do was push in the clutch and do everything I could to avoid further damage so knowing Allen was running strong enough to win I made an executive decision and gave it up. We’ll get him next time.”

The final numbers had Johnson crossing 6.716 seconds at 202.82 mph to Enders’ coasting 7.036 at 163.49 mph.

Enders has a busy week ahead with several appearances at the annual SEMA show here in Las Vegas. The team also plans to test their new Pro Mod car before the season finale, the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Nov. 10-12, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona.

Even in adversity Erica Enders finds encouragement after quarterfinal finish in Dallas

Erica Enders | Dallas NHRA 2017

DALLAS, TX – Two-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion and proud native Texan Erica Enders, driver of the bright red Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, raced to a second-round finish today in eliminations of the AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals at the Texas Motorplex.

With only two events remaining in the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif., Enders is optimistic she’ll visit the winner’s circle again this season, but she also laments on a very close loss to Greg Anderson Sunday.

“The car’s running better,” said Enders, who recently turned 34. “That was my round to win for sure. I gave it up on my end, both at the Christmas Tree and with my lapse in driving skills. It’s just one of those deals. Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug, and today I’m the bug. I’m disappointed in myself because my guys gave me a really great car that was capable of winning the round and capable of fighting for the event win.”

Along with getting the customary winner’s Wally trophy for winning the event, the folks at the Texas Motorplex offer up a couple of more reasons to race for a victory in the Lone Star State.

“I want to do well everywhere I go, but I really wanted to do well here in Texas,” Enders said. “The cowboy hat and belt buckle incentives for winning are very cool, but my head wasn’t completely in the game today. I’m disappointed for my team because they worked their butts off and I didn’t do my part behind the wheel.”

Despite her critical self-assessment, Enders is encouraged by the performance of her entire Richard Freeman-owned Elite Motorsports team, which includes Jeg Coughlin Jr., Brian Self and Alex Laughlin.

Enders defeated Kenny Delco in the opening round after Delco jumped the start with a red light.

“We got down the track all four qualifying sessions,” Enders said. “We were third after Friday. Today we had a slight mishap in the first round, it shook the tires and I had to pedal and get it down there but we got the round win. In the second round, we went out and threw up a pretty good number on the board, one that was good enough to win, so it’s disheartening.

“We are headed to my favorite track on the circuit, definitely my luckiest track, so we’ll see if we can turn it around in Vegas.”

For second race in a row, points leader Bo Butner sends Erica Enders home

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA St. Louis Pro Stock

ST. LOUIS, MO — They may be good friends off the track, but two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is getting tired of meeting up with current points leader Bo Butner on race day.

For the second playoff race in a row, Butner eliminated Enders in the quarterfinal round of competition. This time it was at the sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“We encountered an all-too-familiar issue against Bo — tire shake,” Enders said. “I did my best to drive through it but got it a little out there on the edge. I guess the positive out of it is I still have a racecar that’s not waded up.”

The race against Butner started equally but Enders’ Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro soon got wildly out of shape, forcing her to push in the clutch and surrender the run. Butner stayed under power and crossed with a 6.561 at 211.66 mph, well ahead of Enders’ 8.408 at 117.33 mph.

Earlier in the day, Enders sharply dismissed Allen Johnson with a wire-to-wire job that started with a .016-second head-start and ended with Enders posting a quicker 6.566 at 211.46 mph to Johnson’s 6.571 at 210.24 mph.

“Everything we do, we do together,” Enders said. “It’s not me driving or the guys tuning, it’s just one big team. They like to joke and say we win as a team and lose as a driver but that’s just to be funny. It really is a group effort.

“I have the best guys. I have won races on holeshots and I’ve won races because I had the faster car. They give me the best they can every time and I can assure you that every time I get in the seat I try to give them the best I have. At the end of the day we are all human and these cars are just very temperamental. They have a mind of their own and unfortunately today mine was in a bad mood.

“My teammate Lump (Brian Self) went to the semifinals, which was cool. He took out some tough competitors and it was a fun day for him. This was his first semifinal in NHRA competition so that was cool. Now we will all get to work on these cars and try to get them ready for Dallas.”

Enders next heads back to her home state of Texas for the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals, Oct. 13-15, at the Texas Motorplex south of Dallas.

Erica Enders finishes second in Seattle after closest race of NHRA season

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Seattle 2017

KENT, WA — Professional drag racing is the only motorsport in the world with the need to time things to the 10-thousandth of a second, an increment of time put to the test in the final round of Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals when two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders was edged by Drew Skillman by .0006 seconds, or an estimated one inch, making it the closest drag race of the entire season.

“That was so close,” Enders said. “I thought I had him. It felt like we were just a sliver ahead of him but it’s really hard to tell at that speed. You’re not really looking over because 100-percent of your focus is getting to that stripe first. I was pretty sure I was going to push the gas pedal through the floorboard.”

Had Enders gained one more tick at the starting line — she left five-thousandths of a second ahead of Skillman — her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro would have reached the other end first, but Skillman’s 6.604 at 209.33 mph was just enough to take the win ahead of Enders’ 6.609 at 209.49 mph.

“Good for Drew,” said Enders, the 2012 Seattle winner. “He’s my bud so it’s cool, but I will say he owes me one or two now so we’ll have to get him next time. It was cool to be in the closest race of the year and really cool to make a little personal history in the semifinals also.”

In reaching her 39th career final round, Enders reached the impressive milestone of 250 elimination-round victories when she beat a red-lighting Tanner Gray in the semifinals. Gray was an over-eager -.068 at the tree and could only watch as Enders zoomed to a 6.633 at 208.71 mph.

“Saying 250 round wins is pretty crazy because it was so hard to get there,” Enders said. “But it’s also been so rewarding. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”

Earlier in the day, Enders beat quarterfinal opponent Jason Line with a 6.595 at 209.46 mph to Line’s 6.603 at 209.30 mph. She opened the day with a 6.592 at 210.08 mph victory over a resigned Matt Hartford.

“If you had told me last Saturday night after four so-so qualifying runs that we’d turn the corner Sunday over there and learn enough to come here and get this car all the way to the finals I would have said you were crazy,” Enders said. “But my guys pull through in the clutch time and time again.

“It’s easy to have down times in the course of a season when you want to just go crazy but these guys never let us get down on ourselves. We rise up like champions and just get to work. That’s what we’ll do leaving here. We still have plenty to do to these Elite cars but we’re chipping away at it.”

The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before returning to action Aug. 18-20 with the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Despite her best run of the weekend, Erica Enders edged in Sonoma’s opening round

Erica Enders | NHRA Sonoma 2017 | Melling Performance

SONOMA, CA — A late night in the Elite Motorsports pit produced a massive turnaround for two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders, who had struggled mightily through two days of qualifying for this weekend’s 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Unfortunately, despite posting her best run of the meet by far, Enders came up just short in her first-round race with three-time 2017 winner Bo Butner.

“That was definitely a huge step in the right direction considering we basically got zero data from four really off-pace qualifying passes,” Enders said. “I’m really so proud of my team for hanging in there and persevering even when there was barely a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel yesterday afternoon.”

After topping out at 6.949 at 211.89 mph during time trials, Enders’ crew, led by the father/son duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, got her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro fixed overnight, producing a very competitive 6.567-second run at 212.13 mph. Second-place qualifier Butner was just slightly quicker, taking the win with a 6.549 at 212.03 mph.

“Had we made that run right there in the fourth qualifying session we would have positioned ourselves much differently on the ladder,” Enders said. “Had that been the case, I think today’s turnout could have been the winner’s circle but as my team owner says, ‘If crickets had pistols, the birds wouldn’t mess with them.’

“No one usually cares about the ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda,’ but in this case I do because, in my opinion, I have the smartest guys in the business working on my car. We have literally been stumped for a handful of races but what just happened is a huge step in the right direction and definitely gives us some hope heading up to Seattle. Now we have something to work with.”

The 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals are scheduled for Aug. 4-6 at Pacific Raceways.

“Today gave us a huge injection of hope and we’ll go on to Seattle a little more confident,” Enders said. “The main thing is we want to be up and running at the top of the charts by the time the Countdown starts. We’ve got three more races so we’ll get this Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro tuned up by then and give it hell from there.”

Strong semifinal finish in Denver for two-time world champ Erica Enders

DENVER, CO — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders kept her hot streak alive with a strong semifinal finish at this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at beautiful Bandimere Speedway.

Enders now has one victory, one runner-up result and two semifinal finishes since the first week of June, a steady streak of performances that has her climbing up the championship points rankings.

“We’re pleased with the weekend, for sure,” Enders said. “You always set out to win the race and after qualifying No. 2 on the ladder, we had high hopes of bringing home the Wally (trophy) today. You know in this sport there’s only one happy camper at the end of the race but we’re optimistic about the way we’re running lately and we’re anxious to get to California next weekend and do it all over again.”

The day started with a first-round dismissal of Alan Prusiensky, with Enders powering her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.983 at 198.06 mph over Prusiensky’s 7.041 at 195.68 mph.

Rival Chris McGaha was next and he gave up the win at the starting line with a -.002 second red-light start. It was a fortuitous moment for Enders as McGaha had a better elapsed time, running a 6.969 at 197.05 mph to Enders’ slower but winning 6.978 at 198.29 mph.

“The first two rounds all three of our team cars were struggling at the hit,” Enders said. “Jeg (Coughlin) shook in Round 1 and had to give up his run. Vincent (Nobile) had two really good passes but his crew chief Lump (Brian Self) told us they were right on the edge. And my runs all were touchy. It’s part of racing up here.”

Looking to make a statement, Enders wanted a quick start against semifinal opponent Bo Butner, but her anxiousness ultimately cost her the race as she fouled at the start by -.007 seconds. It may not have mattered anyway as she soon chattered the tires and was forced to shut off and drift to the finish. Butner won with a 6.948 at 198.47 mph.

“When I put the car on the chip it was pulling me forward,” Enders said. “I still didn’t expect to red light but it happens. As a driver, you never want to red light but I’m not going to beat myself up over this one. There were other factors involved.

“Bottom line, the Melling Performance/Elite Chevy is running great and we’re going to keep our chins up and move on to the second race of the Western Swing in Sonoma. I’m going straight there to visit with some sponsor friends and maybe tour a winery or two. We should be rested and ready for Friday.”

The NHRA tour quickly moves to California’s wine country for next weekend’s 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

Erica Enders charges to Pro Stock finals in Chicago, settles for second place

CHICAGO, IL — Two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders nearly recreated history Sunday at the 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals before coming up a fraction of a second short of her ultimate goal of winning another Wally trophy.

Enders was the first woman in history to win a Pro Stock race in 2012 when she reigned supreme at Route 66 Raceway. Although she couldn’t close the deal this time through, her third final-round showing of the season proves her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro will be a contender once the playoffs start.

“These are the days that are really exciting,” Enders said. “Dealing with live TV on FOX forced us to have 30-minute turnarounds between rounds so it really tested the mettle of the crews. As always, my guys answered the call and we had one heckuva outing.

“Chicago has a special meaning to us. We got our first win here back in 2012 and my first final-round appearance was at this track in 2005 so it’s been very good to me over the years. Would we like to have won today? Absolutely, but it was a good day all-in-all for the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports team.”

For the third time ever, Enders faced good friend Drew Skillman in the final round. This time it was Skillman with the better car as he was able to quickly catch and pass a fast-leaving Enders to win with a 6.627 at 209.23 mph to Enders’ 6.655 at 207.37 mph. Skillman now has a slight 2-1 advantage over Enders when the trophy is on the line.

“When you look at the other ETs on paper, there’s no reason why we should have gotten past second round, let alone third, so getting to the final was a real bonus,” Enders said. “I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of the racing we did today. I’m definitely happy with our performance here.”

Enders improved her career record to 22 victories and 16 runner-up results. She has one win and two runner-up finishes this year.

This particular day wasn’t easy. After beating part-timer Chris McGaha in Round 1, 6.651 at 208.91 mph to McGaha’s 6.665 at 208.59 mph, she faced multi-time world champions and teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line in back-to-back rounds.

Against Anderson she used a massive .051-second reaction time advantage to steal the win with a 6.649 at 208.68 mph to Anderson’s quicker-but-losing 6.614 at 209.59 mph. She then narrowly edged Line by .006 seconds with a 6.649 at 208.46 mph to Line’s 6.654 at 208.88 mph. Enders left on all four of her Sunday opponents.

“The adrenaline was pumping all day and my Rick Jones Race Cars-built Camaro was so solid,” Enders said. “It was a fun race.”

The NHRA tour takes a weekend off before returning to action July 21-23 with the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.

“We are taking a team vacation to Grand Cayman, all 26 of us,” Enders said. “When we get back we are going to test in Tulsa before we head out on the Western Swing. We’re running better but we still have work to do on all four team cars. We’ll try to sort them out in Tulsa. I’m excited for the time off and excited to get back after it in Denver to see if we can’t carry this momentum.”

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