Posts Tagged Race Recap

Erica Enders-Stevens completes historic sweep in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens turned in another brilliant driving performance to continue her run of success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, winning the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Sunday to secure a second consecutive double-up at The Strip.

Enders-Stevens also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday, completing the Challenge/national-event sweep for the second year in a row. The sweep earned Elite Motorsports a $25,000 bonus to go with the $50,000 earned from winning the Challenge.

“I guess we can start saying Vegas is our lucky track,” Enders-Stevens said. “Winning is very challenging, and to be able to do it at both Vegas races last year and then come back here and do it again shows what we’re capable of. But it’s also very surreal. There are so many tough competitors out there, and the bar has really been raised. I’m just proud of my team.

“It’s certainly a high-pressure situation, but my guys thrive on it. They perform very well under it, and I’m so proud of them.”

The Las Vegas winning streak has reached 18 round-wins, including last fall’s national event. She last lost a round here in October 2013 when she was with another team. She also became the first driver to sweep the Challenge and national event in consecutive years since Bob Glidden did it in 1987-88.

“I’m just really proud for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “My guys have worked so hard and continue to give me a great race car, which has been a struggle at the start of this year. I think we’ve got our hot rod back.”

The victory was Enders-Stevens’ 13th of her career and first of the season. A test session following the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte two weeks ago went a long way in her Elite team overcoming troubles with a new tire and new fuel for 2015.

Sunday, though, Enders-Stevens had to undergo her own troubles. Flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and fever, left her dehydrated before the race, and she took intravenous fluids before the first round. She took another IV later in the day.

“I just really had to focus on the mental side of it,” Enders-Stevens said. “Anybody can relate to feeling so bad you don’t even want to get out of bed. To have to get in a race car on a 130-degree racetrack in a 15-layer firesuit certainly tests you. I just had to be positive.

“I asked my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones) to do their best to pump me up on the radio, so we had some fun out there. I give them the credit today. They gave me a consistent race car. Granted, we did win on a couple of holeshots, but that’s my job as a driver. You don’t get sick days here.”

Enders-Stevens responded with holeshot wins in the semifinals and final. She had a bye in the first round after Matt Hartford failed to make the call, and she then beat Jimmy Alund with a pass of 6.661 seconds at 207.27 mph to Alund’s 6.697 at 206.70 mph.

She then ripped off a .001-second reaction time in the semi’s to overcome Greg Anderson’s quicker 6.671 at 208.71 mph with her run of 6.673 seconds at 207.53. The difference was on the Christmas Tree, where Anderson’s light was .055.

In the final Enders-Stevens and Vincent Nobile — opponents in the K&N Horsepower Challenge final on Saturday — made identical 6.674-second passes. Enders-Stevens, though, had a .024 light, a tick quicker than Nobile’s .040.

“I don’t want to dwell on being sick,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not that big a deal. Everybody gets sick. They took care of me, and we were able to get it done today and that’s all that matters.”

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Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens looks for better days after tough Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens saw her streak of consecutive NHRA Four-Wide Nationals final-round appearances at zMax Dragway come to an end in the second round Sunday.

Enders-Stevens had raced for the Four-Wide Nationals title in 2012, ’13, and ’14, but tire shake in the second round ended her chances of four finals in a row.

The 2014 Pro Stock champion hasn’t had the start to this season she would have liked, as a new tire and new fuel has delivered a wicked curveball to her Elite team.

“It’s one of those deals that we’ve got to work through,” Enders-Stevens said. “If any team out here can do it, I know that it’s mine because we have perseverance and determination. My crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll have the same no-quit attitude as the rest of us.

“We’re going to stay here and test tomorrow and figure this car out. We obviously have some issues and we will fix it.”

Enders-Stevens slipped into the Four-Wide field on Saturday despite not making a full qualifying run (Friday’s two sessions were rained out), and as the No. 16 qualifier she faced No. 1 qualifier Chris McGaha, No. 8 Shane Gray, and No. 9 Buddy Perkinson.

Enders-Stevens was sharp on the Christmas Tree with a quad-best .015-second reaction time, and her pass of 6.521 seconds at 214.42 mph was enough to beat McGaha’s quicker 6.481-second run at 214.28 mph as well as Gray’s 6.525 at 213.37 and Perkinson’s 6.550 at 212.19 mph.

“It certainly wasn’t pretty but we got down,” Enders-Stevens said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us after not getting down in qualifying, but like I’ve said before, I have all the faith in the world in my guys, and we were able to get it done.”

But in the second round against McGaha, No. 4 Greg Anderson, and No. 12 Jonathan Gray, Enders-Stevens’ red Camaro shook at the hit, and she was forced to push the clutch in.

“How we do doesn’t define us,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s how we pull through these tough moments as a team. I couldn’t ask for a better group than what I’ve got, so I’m really optimistic about what’s to come. This will just make us stronger.”

History is on Enders-Stevens’ side as she tries to bounce back from Gainesville exit

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GAINESVILLE, FL — NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens hopes history repeats itself after an uncharacteristic first-round exit at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on Sunday at Auto-Plus Raceway.

The last time Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team exited in the first round, they turned it around and went on to win the 2014 championship.

“It’s not how many times you fall down,” Enders-Stevens said, “it’s how many times you get up.”

Enders-Stevens last lost in the first round in Brainerd, Minn., last year. She and her team used that as motivation for the Countdown to the Championship, when she won two races, went to the semifinals twice, and reached the second round twice.

“We ran poorly in Brainerd that day, but we bounced back and did well in the Countdown,” Enders-Stevens said. “I have a world of confidence in my team, and I trust that we will bounce back and be just fine.

“My team owner Richard Freeman, my crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll, and my entire team are the best in the business and we’ll be ready for Charlotte.”

Enders-Stevens drove a new Chevrolet Camaro in Gainesville, and while there is tons of potential, developing a new car often takes time. She qualified No. 7 — her lowest since the season finale in Pomona, Calif., in 2013 when she was with another team — and lost in the first round to Jimmy Alund.

Both cars struggled off the line, with Enders-Stevens getting sideways before she had to push in the clutch. Alund’s pass was 7.032 seconds at 209.59 mph, while she coasted across with a 13.824-second run at 62.06 mph.

“To come back and see all my fans at the trailer after a run like that takes the sting out, for sure, especially the little kids,” Enders-Stevens said. “They’re just full of joy, and it definitely puts a smile on my face.”

Champ Enders-Stevens pulls runner-up card in the desert

Erica Enders-Stevens reaches final round in Phoenix

PHOENIX — Progressing through the elimination ladder once again, reining World Champion Erica Enders-Stevens came up one win light short of victory at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Taking on No. 16 Joey Grose in the first round of final eliminations, Enders-Stevens was able to power her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro on with a win after Grose experienced an issue with his car early in the run.

In the second round against Greg Anderson, Enders-Stevens cut a .013 light and never looked back, running a 6.570 to beat Anderson’s 6.603 and advance to her second semifinal of the year.

However, the semifinal round was a tight battle in which both her and Chris McGaha had almost identical reaction times, her .027 to his .026. McGaha’s car stepped out and swerved partway down the track though, allowing Enders-Stevens to cruise on to her first final-round appearance of the 2015 season.

“What a great weekend for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “It speaks volumes for our team, how hard they work and their determination for perfection. To be three of the final four cars two weeks in a row is unreal. The morale is awesome around here. It’s three different groups but it’s really one team.

“I know I talk about my team a lot, but that’s the most important part of the puzzle. We certainly have a great group of guys, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be a part of it.”

After battling with Brogdon all weekend for the top spot in qualifying, Enders-Stevens had one more showdown with her fellow Elite Performance driver in the final round. Enders-Stevens killed the Christmas Tree with a .017 reaction time and was out in front until an untimely mechanical issue reared its head and Brogdon passed her at the line for the win.

“We’re having a blast,” Enders-Stevens said. “Did I want to win? Absolutely. It’s so hard to get to a final round in Pro Stock, so to give one away it sucks. I am very happy for Rodger though. We’re glad to have him on board as part of our team. He had the fastest car all weekend and he deserved to win.

“We were going after it in the final. I was up on the wheel and on the Tree, and we just had an unfortunate miss in the car. It’s one of those loses that kind of burns a little bit because all we had to do was get down the racetrack and we would have won. God had a better plan though, and it was Rodger’s day.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series action will continue with the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, March 12-15, at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.

Enders-Stevens begins title defense with semifinal showing in Pomona

Enders-Stevens reaches semi finals at 2015 Winternationals

POMONA, CA (Feb. 8) — Elite Motorsports turned in another impressive performance at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, though 2014 Pro Stock champion Erica Enders-Stevens didn’t have the Circle K Winternationals end the way she wanted.

Enders-Stevens, who won the title here last November by winning the race, bowed out in the semifinals; however, she was one of three Elite-powered drivers to reach the semifinals. Rookie Drew Skillman, Enders-Stevens’ teammate, raced to the final round, and Rodger Brogdon used an Elite engine to get to the semi’s.

“It was a great day for Elite, that’s for sure,” Enders-Stevens said. “We had three cars in the semifinals with mine, Drew’s, and Rodger Brogdon’s, so that’s a great accomplishment for the team. It bodes well for the rest of the year, for sure.”

Enders-Stevens was the No. 1 qualifier in Pomona, and she opened her title defense by beating Matt Hartford in the first round, 6.548 seconds at 211.43 mph to 6.651 at 208.78 mph.

Then, Enders-Stevens dumped No. 8 qualifier Chris McGaha on a holeshot in Round 2. Her .035-second reaction time gave her a .011-second lead and it held up. His pass was quicker, 6.565 seconds at 210.73 mph, but her run of 6.569 seconds at 211.36 mph held him off.

Skillman then turned the tables on Enders-Stevens in the semi’s, using a .015 light and 6.590 at 210.41 mph to beat her 6.573-second run at 211.53 mph.

“That’s probably the worst way to lose, but if it had to happen to anybody, I’m glad it was to Drew,” Enders-Stevens said. “I am happy for him. How cool is it for him to go to a final round in his first race? Good for him.”

Despite ending her race early, Enders-Stevens knows her team has what it takes to compete for race wins and the championship.

“It’s a long season, and we know you can’t win a championship in the first race,” Enders-Stevens said. “We showed we still have great horsepower by qualifying No. 1, so we’ll go to Phoenix with our heads held high. I have the best guys in the business, and they bust their butts for me. Maybe there I can return the favor.”

Up next for the Elite Motorsports team is the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Feb. 20-22, in Phoenix.

Enders-Stevens surges to Pro Stock points lead with stellar Vegas victory

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 2) — When in high-pressure situations, champions deliver.

Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens delivered under pressure Sunday, knocking out points leader Jason Line in the semifinals and then beating five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. to win the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The victory was the fifth of the season and 11th of her career, and it vaulted her into the Pro Stock points lead with one race remaining in 2014.

“It can’t get much better,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s just really incredible. I can’t be any more proud of my team. We had a meeting coming in here on Thursday. (Team owner) Richard (Freeman) just reminded us to go out there, have fun, and stop putting pressure on ourselves. There’s no pressure from him or anyone else.

“When I came in here today I told myself I was going to give it all to God and do my best. I was a nervous wreck in Reading and I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be. That’s what I wanted to change coming in here. I just wanted to go out there and do what I know how to do. I’m confident in my guys and they’ve given me a great race car. Every time I fire up the car, it’s up to me.”

After winning in the first and second rounds, Enders-Stevens lined up against Line in the semi’s with championship implications in the air, and Enders-Stevens ripped off a .009-second reaction time, getting the crucial round-win when Line turned on the red-light.

Then, facing Coughlin in the final round, Enders-Stevens was even better, cutting a .007 light against one of the best drivers in the history of NHRA. She sped to the win with a pass of 6.587 seconds at 206.36 mph to beat Coughlin’s 6.596 at 209.14 mph.

“Those were two of the most important rounds of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “I stepped up the plate and it feels good. (Crew chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones were talking in my helmet and telling me, ‘Give it to God, do your best, if you want it, you’ve got to take it, don’t let up, and go after it.’

“That’s exactly what they did with the tune-up on the race car and that’s what I did behind the wheel today.”

The win against Line moved her to within three points of the lead, and beating Coughlin moved her 17 points ahead with only the Auto Club NHRA Finals on Nov. 14-16 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., remaining on the schedule.

“This is what it’s all about,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve been driving for 22 years, 10 of which I’ve been trying to make this Pro Stock deal work. Everything is just starting to come together. I know God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. All of those ups and downs in my Pro Stock career make this just that much sweeter.

“We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us in Pomona but what a cool position to be in. How blessed are we to be here? Regardless of how this ends, it’s been an incredible year and I could not be more proud.”

Enders-Stevens Powers into Second Place with Semifinal Showing in Reading

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READING, Pa. (Oct. 5) — A strong semifinal showing at Sunday’s 30th annual NHRA Nationals has thrust superstar racer Erica Enders-Stevens back into the championship picture with two races left in the drag racing season. Enders-Stevens, who led the Mello Yello points for 13 races during the regular season, is now just 35 points behind Jason Line, who exited in the quarterfinals.

“I have such an awesome team,” Enders-Stevens said. “They gave me a great race car all weekend, from qualifying No. 1 to going to the semifinals today. I wanted to give them more — I wanted to get to the finals and win — but to close the gap on Jason to less than two rounds is really exciting.

“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end and we’re ready for it. Having the quickest car here has given us so much confidence. Now we’ve got a couple weeks off to get back to the shop and regroup. The last two races will be incredible.”

After coming within two-thousandths of a second of resetting her own national record in qualifying, Enders-Stevens remained red-hot on race day, beating Frank Gugliotta with a 6.469 at 213.30 mph to Gugliotta’s 6.579 at 209.79 mph. She then downed Vieri Gaines with a 6.484 at 213.60 mph to Gaines’ 6.507 at 212.69 mph.

It wasn’t until the semifinals against good friend and past series champion Allen Johnson that Enders-Stevens was quieted, slowing to a 6.759 at 210.87 mph to Johnson’s 6.499 at 212.69 mph.

“The car just shook the tires really hard down low,” she said. “I pedaled it and got back on the gas as fast as possible, but when you lose all of that early momentum there’s not much you can do. I stayed after it just in case Allen had trouble but I saw him all the way down the track. That round was a bummer but we’re still smiling over here.”

The NHRA tour takes a two-week break before resuming action with the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 2, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“We were undefeated in the spring race in Vegas, so we’ll try to keep that streak alive,” Enders-Stevens said. “We won both the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the regular national event, so we have nothing but good thoughts going through our heads.

“It’ll be good to get home, catch up on our rest, and have time to service the car and the motors. Having four races in a row was pretty taxing for everyone. Even so, we’ve put ourselves in an incredible position to challenge for the title. I’ve dreamt of this my whole life and it’s so cool to be living in the moment right now.”

Determined Enders-Stevens Moves to Third in Pro Stock Standings

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ST. LOUIS (Sept. 28) — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens left Gateway Motorsports Park on Sunday more determined than ever in her pursuit of the Pro Stock championship.

Enders-Stevens was quickest in six of the seven rounds in which she competed, earned the No. 1 qualifier, and raced to the semifinals of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. Plus, she had the better reaction time in her three rounds of eliminations Sunday.

“Awesome weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “That’s obviously not the way we had anticipated it ending, but God’s got a plan and I trust it. We’re going to move on to Reading (Pa.).”

Enders-Stevens moved up to third in the points standings, trailing leader Jason Line by 67 heading to the NHRA Nationals next weekend at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.

“I could not be more proud of my guys,” Enders-Stevens said. “They work their tails off for me and for us. We have the best car on the property, the best team in the business, the best crew chiefs, and I’m driving well. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and all my money is on us, like it is all the time. I have all the faith in the world and I’m hungry.

“We’ve got a lot of heart, determination, and perseverance, and we’re going to go to Reading with our chins held high.”

Enders-Stevens started Sunday’s eliminations with a .014-second reaction time and a 6.514-second pass at 212.66 mph that took out No. 16 qualifier Larry Morgan, whose run was 6.651 seconds at 208.78 mph.

Next up was Countdown to the Championship contender Jonathan Gray, but she left first with a .032 light and then outran him with a 6.538-second pass at 212.39 mph. Gray, fifth in the points standings, made a pass of 6.590 seconds at 206.48 mph.

Including all four qualifying sessions, Enders-Stevens was quickest in six consecutive rounds. But in the semifinals against Dave Connolly, her Camaro shook the tires and she pushed the clutch in, coasting to a pass of 15.947 seconds at 52.67 mph.

Connolly trailed at the Christmas Tree, as Enders-Stevens had a .014 light to Connolly’s .022, but he got the win with a pass of 6.576 at 211.46 mph.

“Six in a row and I guarantee if she hooked, it would’ve been seven in a row and going to the finals,” Enders-Stevens said. “But that wasn’t God’s will today and that’s OK. There’s a reason for everything.

“What an awesome opportunity for me to drive this Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro for such an elite group of guys. I’m really proud of them and the sky’s the limit for us. Teamwork makes the dream work.”

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