Posts Tagged Seattle

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.

Two-time champ and No. 4 qualifier Erica Enders looking for more Seattle success

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Seattle 2017

KENT, WA — Erica Enders was fighting for her playoff life the last time the NHRA tour passed through Pacific Raceways. This time around, she easily secured her spot in the 2017 Countdown to the Championship by simply qualifying for the elimination field of the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.

Even better, Enders is four spots better and a world away from the struggles of last season. To wit, she’s qualified a lofty fourth on this weekend’s ladder in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and she’s one of nine different winners the class has produced in the first 15 races.

“We have a shot, that’s all we ever ask for, and certainly we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Enders said. “It’s definitely been a different feeling coming into this weekend without the pressure we had one year ago. But to be honest, we’re still not super happy. We’re better, but nowhere near where we want to be.

“It seemed like we were really onto something earlier this summer when we won Epping and that every weekend one of these Elite Motorsports cars was racing for the trophy. But we’ve found out how extremely finicky the electronic fuel injection can be. It’s been a fight, not only for us but for everyone. That’s why we’ve had so many different winners.”

After a couple of down weekends, Enders and crew found the heartbeat of their Chevrolet last weekend in Sonoma during an elimination race against good friend Bo Butner.

“We didn’t win the race but it was the first really good pass we had made in a while,” Enders said. “It gave us a new baseline tune-up that seemed to work. We came in here with something to build on and it’s worked to some extent. We’ll keep chipping away.”

A winner here in 2012, Enders’ best pass this weekend flashed a 6.575 at 210.31 mph on the Seattle scoreboards. She also ran a 6.596, a 6.614 and a 6.631 in the other three qualifying sessions.

By qualifying fourth on the modified 14-car grid, Enders first opponent on Sunday will be No. 11 qualifier Matt Hartford, who closed qualifying with his best pass of the weekend, a 6.643 at 207.46 mph. Enders opened the 2017 season by beating Hartford in Pomona in their only head-to-head meeting of the year.

“We’ve got a car that goes A-to-B, which is a big start,” Enders said. “We have a tune-up that seems to be working and we’ve got all the talent in the world in this pit. I know the guys won’t rest until we’re back running like we were in Epping.”

Pro Stock eliminations will begin at noon, Sunday. The FOX Network will broadcast the action live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (Times are local and subject to change.)

Seattle success on the mind of two-time Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders

Erica Enders | NHRA 2017 Pro Stock

KENT, WA — Erica Enders has placed a push-pin in this weekend’s 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways as the place she would most like to get her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro back into the winner’s circle.

There are many reasons the two-time world champion is feeling especially optimistic as the NHRA series completes its Western Swing of consecutive races in Denver, Sonoma and Seattle. First, she opened the newly created Eastern Swing with a win. Second, her team had a nice up-tick in performance last Sunday in Sonoma. And third, she’s a past winner in Seattle.

“There’s definitely a lot of optimism in the Elite Motorsports pit after our race day run in Sonoma,” Enders said. “We have been struggling for a few races but the guys made a big move between qualifying and eliminations in Sonoma and the car really responded. Now we can start fine-tuning that setup and hopefully we’ll be back where we were when we won Epping a few months ago.

“We’re going back to a track where we’ve had some success. We made it to the winner’s circle there in 2012 and it’s always been a really fun place to race. The city of Seattle is so pretty and it’s a race weekend we always enjoy. I’m definitely looking forward to getting there.”

Bracketing the two NHRA “Swings” with wins would represent a huge step towards securing a position in the Countdown to the Championship, drag racing’s six-event version of playoffs. Races in Seattle, Brainerd and Indianapolis will complete the regular season. At that point, only the top 10 drivers in the points are eligible to run for the title.

“There definitely is a renewed sense of hope here,” Enders said. “We are back to believing the sky’s the limit moving forward. We are closing in on the Countdown to the Championship and we’ve got to get this Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports car headed in a more consistent direction. We are going to do our best to get there.”

To get the team primed for the stretch run, team owner Richard Freeman arranged a white-water rafting trip this week in Oregon. It was just what the group needed, according to Enders.

“It was definitely a wild deal,” Enders said. “I’m an adrenaline junkie but I had never whitewater rafted before. I was a little nervous about it ahead of time but anything this team does together, we always end up having a blast. (Fellow racer) Bo and Randi Lynn (Butner) were able to join us as well so it was a lot of good fun with some great friends.

“You need these times to get business and racing off of your mind, even if it’s just for a day, and focus on the family side of this crazy sport. It was another great team-building experience, something we were blessed to do together. All-in-all, a really cool experience.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air the first two rounds of qualifying action from 6-7 p.m., Friday. The main FOX Network will broadcast eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Clutch holeshot win puts Pro Stock champ Erica Enders in Countdown position

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Seattle 2016

SEATTLE, WA — When the pressure is on, champions rise to the occasion.

When Pro Stock champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team needed to have a good performance in the first round of the 29th annual Protect The Harvest.com NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday at Pacific Raceways, they put one on.

Enders ripped off a .009-second reaction time against Alex Laughlin, winning a crucial round despite a slower elapsed time. And in beating Laughlin, who came into the race 10th in the points standings, Enders took over 10th, the final spot in the Countdown to the Championship.

“I said in my interview at the top end that it reminded me of the U.S. Nationals last year, racing Greg Anderson in the semifinals, where the winner of that round got to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position,” Enders said. “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Under pressure, we are awesome together.”

Enders’ pass was 6.581 seconds at 209.39 mph, but her .048-second advantage on the starting line was enough to hold off Laughlin’s 6.569 at 210.90 mph.

“My guys gave me a good race car,” Enders said. “It wasn’t a great run. We feel like we could have definitely gone a .56 out there first round, and it was important to put a little bit of a spread on Alex. It’s not a big spread, but we will take what we can get at this point.”

Enders now unofficially leads Laughlin by nine points with two races before the Countdown.

Enders had another excellent reaction time in the second round, .031, and was in front of No. 14 qualifier Aaron Strong before she had engine issues. Strong had beaten No. 3 qualifier Greg Anderson in the first round.

“We got a break with Greg going out first round,” Enders said. “Performance-wise, we had him covered a little bit and shoulda, coulda, woulda gone to the semifinals at least today. Jeggie (Coughlin Jr.) and I had a chance to meet up in the semifinals. He had Bo (Butner) covered three-hundredths on the Tree, I had Aaron covered five and a half and everything went away.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders faces another test in Seattle’s first round

Erica Enders | Pacific Raceways 2016 NHRA

SEATTLE, WA — Pro Stock champion Erica Enders faces a big test in the first round of the 29th annual Protect The Harvest.com NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.

After qualifying No. 11, the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver will race Alex Laughlin in the first round on Sunday. The battle could go a long way in deciding which driver reaches the Countdown to the Championship, as Laughlin is 10th and Enders 11th, just 11 points out of the top 10.

Should Enders win, she’ll move around Laughlin in the Pro Stock standings with two races left before the Countdown begins. That sounds like a lot of pressure, but Enders has been there before, performing well under pressure in winning the 2014 and 2015 championships.

“No, no pressure at all,” Enders said. “Tomorrow is just another race day and my guys will give the best car they know how to. I’m gonna have to get up on that wheel, that’s for sure. We’ll get it all sorted out tonight before we go to the hotel and come back tomorrow fresh and ready to roll.”

Enders rallied from a difficult Friday to post two good runs on Saturday, the best being a run of 6.572 seconds at 209.75 mph. Laughlin’s best pass was 6.552 seconds at 211.53 mph to snare the No. 6 qualifying spot.

“Yesterday, aside from crashing and blowing things up, was probably the worst day in drag racing I’ve had,” Enders said. “Today was a new day and my guys really rallied and worked hard on these Dodge Darts to get them to run right. Not just my car but our Mopar/Magneti Marelli team (of Jeg Coughlin Jr.), too. That was just one of those days you like to chalk up to a total loss, but today did go better.

“I get to control my own destiny tomorrow. I’ve got Alex Laughlin first round, who is the one standing in front of us to get into the Countdown. He’s probably one of the nicest kids out here, but it’s go time tomorrow.”

Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 5 to 6 p.m., Friday, and 11 to 12 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders confident Elite team can perform under pressure

Erica Enders | NHRA Seattle 2016

SEATTLE, WA — Two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders learned a lot about her Elite Motorsports team after winning back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. When under pressure, Enders and her team didn’t flinch; instead, they performed at their best.

This year, Enders and her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team are facing a different kind of pressure as they prepare to race in the 29th annual Protect The Harvest.com NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil this weekend at Pacific Raceways.

Enders is 11th in the Pro Stock points standings, battling to get into the top 10 so she can defend her title in the Countdown to the Championship. The Countdown starts in three races, and only the top 10 qualify for the Countdown. But Enders is confident her team can succeed again.

“I don’t have any doubt we’ll rise to the occasion again,” Enders said. “Certainly, it’s not been like the last couple of years with the struggles we’ve had switching to EFI and switching manufacturers. It’s certainly been a learning year for us.

“Having said that, we’re going to do the best we can. In my opinion, nobody performs as well under pressure as we do collectively.”

NHRA mandated fuel-injected engines for 2016, and that change alone has been challenging for all Pro Stock teams, but Enders’ team also switched manufacturers and built a new race car. One good race, however, could propel her into the Countdown and into championship contention.

“We’ve been fortunate in years past,” Enders said. “This year, things haven’t necessarily been falling our way. We’ve had struggles with parts failures and stuff that wasn’t typical in the past. Those are all huge obstacles we have to overcome. I feel like we’re certainly right on track to making better runs and getting more horsepower. We just need a little bit of a break.”

Elite team owner Richard Freeman built a championship team, led by crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, and Enders remains confident in her group.

“The guys who Richard has assembled are the best of the best, a top-notch group of guys,” Enders said. “No matter what stands in front of us, we’re always able to get through it. We always seem to rise to the occasion, rise to the call.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 1 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 5 to 6 p.m., Friday, and 11 to 12 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Bizarre second round sends Erica Enders home early in Seattle

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SEATTLE, WA — A series of wacky circumstances helped end Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders’ day in the second round of the NHRA Northwest Nationals on Sunday at Pacific Raceways.

After beating Bob Butner in Round 1, Enders faced Elite teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the second, but from the start, almost nothing went right.

“I fired the car and had no oil pressure and no vacuum, so I radioed my guys and told them,” Enders said. “My crew chief just waved me in the water to start the burnout. I went to start my burnout, and then they were waving their arms to stop, so I aborted the burnout.

“They told me to shut it off, and they pulled my front-end clip off. Turns out the oil sump belt had come off, so there was no oil turning to the motor. They put that on, put the front end back on, and I fired it up. I had to reset all my switches, and the starter said I could do a short burnout. As I was pulling up, they were like, ‘No, back up.’ I backed up through the water and started my whole procedure over again. It was extremely rushed, and I was unable to do a burnout across the starting line, which means we couldn’t put any rubber down or burn through the resin.”

That’s detrimental to a recalcitrant Pro Stock car, though Enders did make a decent pass of 6.530 seconds at 211.89 mph. Coughlin, who shut the engine off in his Camaro while he waited for his teammate, won with a run of 6.532 seconds at 211.96, earning the victory on a holeshot.

“We did what we could with what we had,” Enders said. “I pulled in and pre-staged, but to be quite honest, I didn’t rise to the occasion today. I’m pretty disappointed in myself as a driver. Regardless of the distractions up there, I’m a world champion for a reason, and I didn’t show it today. It makes me mad, but at the same time, there were eight things that were horribly wrong all at one time, and it was a distraction. This is a game that’s won and lost by thousandths of a second.

“There have been multiple times when I did rise to the occasion, but today just wasn’t one of them.”

Enders, the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion, was grateful to Coughlin for waiting.

“The fortunate thing is my teammate Jeg Coughlin waited for me,” Enders said. “He didn’t have to, but we’re a team back here, and we’re a team up there. He shut his car off, and he wasn’t going to pre-stage without me. That speaks a lot about his character and the class he brings to this operation.

“The good thing about that round was that I was racing a teammate. Nobody else would have waited, and one of the red cars was going to the semifinals.”

Enders, who qualified No. 7, took out Butner with a pass of 6.518 seconds at 212.13 mph, leaving first with a .034-second reaction time. Butner’s run was 6.524 seconds at 212.39 mph.

“We feel like we made a really good move in the right direction with our race car. We’d been struggling the last two weeks, and that was evident by the scoreboard. But we fixed it, so that’s something else to be proud of.”

Enders now looks forward to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in two weeks at Brainerd International Raceway.

“You can bet I’ll show up in Brainerd mad,” Enders said, “and wanting to win that race.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready for ‘crazy’ competition in Seattle

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SEATTLE, WA — The Pro Stock field for the NHRA Northwest Nationals this weekend at Pacific Raceways is so insanely close that Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders is only .008-second off the quickest qualifying time but sits No. 7.

The top eight are less than a hundredth of a second apart, as Enders and Jason Line had identical elapsed times of 6.509 seconds, with Enders getting the higher position based on a faster speed, 212.16 mph to 212.06 mph.

“It’s the closest field that I can remember,” Enders said. “I’ve been racing a long time, and to have the top eight separated by a hundredth of a second is crazy.”

The close competition means race day should be extremely competitive, with drivers likely to be the difference between winning and losing, and the 2014 Pro Stock World Champion wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Tomorrow is going to be a driver’s race, and to be quite honest I’m perfectly fine with that,” Enders said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to race in Seattle again. It’s been really nice to hear how excited all the fans have been to have us back.

“I’m hoping for a long race day tomorrow. It’s going to be crazy, crazy competitive.”

Enders and her Elite team are racing in Seattle for the first time, as they skipped Sonoma and Seattle last year. Enders is racing in Seattle for the first time since 2013.

Enders is a four-time winner in 2014, and she’s currently second in the Pro Stock points standings with three races remaining before the Countdown to the Championship begins. She kicks off Seattle’s race day against No. 10 qualifier Bo Butner, whose top pass was 6.518 seconds at 212.33 mph.

“He’s a good leaver and his car has been running good,” Enders said. “We’ll all have to be on our game tomorrow, but I have a lot of confidence in myself and my crew. We’ll be ready.”

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