Posts Tagged Route 66 Nationals

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.

Enders-Stevens Hoping for Another Memorable Chicago Race

Erica Enders-Stevens in Bristol winner's circle

CHICAGO — The life of Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens changed forever on July 1, 2012, when she scored her first career Pro Stock victory at Route 66 Raceway — and became engaged to Richie Stevens.

Enders-Stevens is hoping to recreate the same kind of magic when NHRA returns for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals this weekend.

“Chicago 2012 is obviously one of the best events in my racing career and in my personal life,” Enders-Stevens said. “We worked seven years to try to get a win in Pro Stock, and for it to finally happen in Chicago — and then for me to get engaged after that — it made for a dream weekend.”

Enders-Stevens has since risen to the top of the Pro Stock ladder, winning eight more times. Three of those victories have come this season, and she leads the points standings in the ultra-competitive class by a whopping 183 points.

Her pairing with Richard Freeman’s Elite team has been a boon to her career, as crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones consistently have her near the top of the field.

Enders-Stevens has qualified fifth or better in every race, including one No. 1 qualifier and seven No. 2s, and she has won at least one round in all 11 races to date, including six semifinal appearances and four finals.

And now she heads to Route 66 Raceway, one of her favorite tracks.

“I’m looking forward to Chicago because it’s always been close to my heart,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s sentimental because it’s where I went to my first final round when I became pro, when I first started, and of course that’s where we got our first win in 2012. I’m looking forward to going back and starting with a clean slate this weekend.”

Her love of the track goes even further back than her pro career, back when she raced the Sportsman classes.

“Even before Pro Stock, I raced Super Comp and Super Gas there,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve got a lot of memories there and am looking to making some great new ones with my new team.”

Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals will be held at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m., Friday, and 4:15 and 7:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all qualifying and elimination action, including live coverage of the final two rounds.