Posts Tagged Sonoma

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.”

Crowd favorite Erica Enders hoping for better results on race day in Sonoma

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Sonoma 2017

SONOMA, CA — The first two days of the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals have been a bit of a struggle for two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders, but that hasn’t dampened the spirits of the always popular pro from Houston.

“We definitely have an issue that we are working to fix,” Enders said after qualifying a season-low 15th on the grid with a 6.949 at 211.89 mph. “Everybody is doing all they can to figure out what the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro wants and, so far, it’s just not translating to the scoreboard.

“The good news is that tomorrow is a new day and we will take what we have learned and try to move forward. I wouldn’t want anyone else behind me except for this Elite Motorsports crew. We go through the ups and downs of this journey together and we’ll get this fixed and move forward.”

The way Enders sees things at this point is that you must be prepared to beat everyone in the field if you hope to reign victorious on race day. She knows that anyone capable of qualifying for an NHRA national event is also capable of winning the race, so she’ll focus on what’s ahead, rather than what’s already transpired.

“We aren’t two-time world champs for nothing,” Enders said. “Struggling at times is all part of the journey. We learn as we go and we keep working at it. The incredible thing about my crew is they never make the same mistake. Once we figure out something that isn’t working, it’s over and we never go back to that spot again. There is a method to the madness.”

To run the table tomorrow, Enders will first have to take care of Round 1 opponent Bo Butner, who qualified second with a 6.546 at 211.63 mph. The two drivers have gotten very familiar this year, racing five times in total. Butner is an impressive 4-1 against his good friend Enders.

“I hope to surprise him and get one back,” Enders said. “They’ve had a great year, winning three times already, so it’s obviously a tough draw for us in Round 1 but when you qualify 15th, what do you expect?

“We are all very frustrated. It’s an unfortunate situation but at the end of the day we get to do what we love with the people that we love so we are still winning. We’ll be here all night because we’ve definitely gotta get this car fixed. I have complete faith in this team.”

Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry live eliminations from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Melling Performance pro Erica Enders vying for vintage victory at Sonoma Raceway

SONOMA, CA – Two-time NHRA Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders has her sights set on some racing redemption in her bright red Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro this weekend at the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at scenic Sonoma Raceway, set in the heart of Northern California’s wine country.

“We love going to Sonoma,” Enders said. “It’s one of my favorite places to race, and let’s face it, a trip to the wine country is certainly fun and something my whole team looks forward to every year. This year I’m hoping to finally get a Wally (trophy) in Sonoma and get a little payback on the Christmas Tree after Denver.”

Enders has reached at least the semifinals in three of the previous four NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, including the latest event in Denver. However, a red-light foul start in the semifinal round on Thunder Mountain cost her a chance to race for her second national event victory of the season.

“You know, there’s a saying in baseball that essentially says if you don’t get caught stealing base sometimes then you’re not trying hard enough,” Enders said. “I completely agree. The Pro Stock class is the most competitive class in the NHRA. Sometimes you push it just a little too much and that bright red bulb comes on.

“We’ve obviously got our Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro running very well. Our performances lately attest to that. We just need to seal the deal and get more Wallys. I’m always a pretty optimistic person, but right now I have the highest amount of confidence in Richard (Freeman, team owner), Rick and Ricky Jones (crew chiefs) and our team to get the job done.”

Enders, a Houston native, has yet to race in a final round at Sonoma Raceway in her 13-year career. This weekend marks the midpoint of the NHRA’s Western Swing, three events in consecutive weekends ending in Seattle.

Last month in Epping, N.H., Enders won her first event of the season, the first win for the fan-favorite since the fall of 2015. She has collected 22 Wallys in her already legendary career.

A trip to the final round in Sonoma would not only be a first for Enders in the wine country, but it would also signify a historic milestone for the 33-year-old – 250 elimination round wins.

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:15 and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:10 and 4:20 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first two rounds of qualifying action live from 8-9 p.m., Friday, and live eliminations from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

Reigning Pro Stock champ Erica Enders catches wrong kind of break in Sonoma

Erica Enders | NHRA Sonoma 2016 Pro Stock

SONOMA, CA — Two-time and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has been hoping the breaks start turning her way in this transitional drag racing season, but when her engine broke in the water box just seconds before her opening-round pass, even she couldn’t believe her misfortune.

“It’s almost like ‘what else could go wrong,’ ” said Enders, the most prolific female Pro Stock racer of all time. “It’s just a tough, tough way to end the day … before it even started.

“I fired up and rolled through the water box, and as I went to get the rpm up for the burnout, I heard a weird noise in the engine. I radioed the guys and they had me hold there for a minute at idle to see if it would clear itself up, but it was pretty obvious we had a problem. I had no choice; I had to shut it off.”

As disappointing as the moment was for Enders, the 21-time national event winner didn’t lose any ground in her quest to make the Countdown to the Championship field as her nearest rival in the points, good friend Alex Laughlin, also lost in the first round.

“We have three more races to catch Alex and get past him to make the playoff field,” Enders said. “It’s really the biggest goal we have right now, for our fans and sponsors to see us make it in.

“The guys are already tearing the Elite/Mopar Dodge Dart apart to see exactly what happened, and I know they’ll have us ready to go next weekend in Seattle.”

Enders trails Laughlin by nine points, or less than half a round of elimination action.

The 29th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Lucas Oil begins Friday, Aug. 5, at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to keep Denver momentum rolling

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock | Sonoma 2016

SONOMA, CA — With four race days left before the Countdown to the Championship begins, two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders knows time is short to be able to defend her 2015 title.

But Enders also knows she and the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team are more than capable of making a late-season surge, perhaps beginning with the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

“Tomorrow is a very important race day for us as we only have four Sundays left to get this car in the Countdown,” Enders said. “We know that it’s kinda hovering over our head, but at the same time we have made up ground for sure and we will continue to work on this thing.”

Enders is 11th in the Pro Stock points standings, one spot out of the top 10 who are locked in for the Countdown, the championship-determining segment of the season. She’s also less than a round out of 10th place, meaning one or two rounds of racing could determine who races for the championship and who doesn’t.

Enders qualified No. 10 here with a top pass of 6.612 seconds at 209.26 mph. She’ll start Sunday’s eliminations against Elite teammate Vincent Nobile, who qualified No. 7 with a run of 6.592 seconds at 210.64 mph. Nobile has beaten Enders in the first round twice in the last four races, a trend she hopes to end Sunday.

“I think he’s loaded me up plenty of times this year, so I’m hoping it’s our turn tomorrow,” Enders said. “Either way, we have an Elite Motorsports, Elite Performance car heading to the second round. We will just put our heads down and go to work and see what the outcome is tomorrow.”

Enders qualified No. 2 in Denver last weekend, an example of how her Elite team has made progress. She started quickly here, though that momentum has been difficult to maintain.

“After we made the first run here on Friday, we still felt we were significantly headed in the right direction,” Enders said. “We posted a 6.62 on the scoreboard, but we could have very well run a .59 for sure. So that tells us that what we had found for Denver certainly translates here.

“Since that first run, it’s gone downhill, but you know that’s where my awesome guys come into play, and we dig deep and we keep working on it. At this point it would be so easy to throw in the towel, but that’s not what we’re made of. We’ve got a bunch of people over here helping us get this Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart headed in the right direction.”

Pro Stock eliminations start around noon, Sunday. FOX will carry the action live from 1 to 4 p.m. PT, Sunday.

Reigning champ Erica Enders on a season-long high as Sonoma race approaches


SONOMA, CA — Fresh off her most encouraging outing of the year, back-to-back and reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders is anxious to get to Northern California for this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

Enders qualified a season-best second on the Denver elimination ladder and logged an elimination round-win before parts failure cost her just enough time to lose her second-round race against Allen Johnson. Nevertheless, the huge uptick in performance has the entire Elite/Mopar Dodge Dart race team feeling better about themselves.

“I think with the gains we made in Denver we can definitely carry those to Sonoma and continue to work on making the car better, making better runs, and me driving awesome,” Enders said. “That definitely is the goal in Sonoma: To pick up where we left off in Denver and go in an even more upward direction.”

It has been a catch-up year for Enders and company as the team switched manufacturers just as NHRA implemented the biggest rules-package changes in class history. Enders went from two years of dominating Pro Stock to fighting just to stay in the field for this year’s Countdown to the Championship. She currently sits nine points outside the top 10.

“We definitely need to make up some ground in the points,” Enders said. “With four races left before the countdown starts, we’re the one car sitting on the outside looking in, but only by a few points. I’m looking forward to heading to Sonoma, the second stop on the Western Swing, and making up some ground. If we have truly turned the corner, it’s coming at a perfect time.

“I’ve never won at Sonoma before, but it’s one of my favorite tracks on the tour. Where it’s located, being in wine country, sure doesn’t hurt! I’m definitely excited to race there. It’s been a goal of mine to win at Sonoma for some time because of it being one of my favorite stops. We’re looking forward to going back there.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:10 and 4:15 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying action from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Friday, and 7 to 8 p.m., Saturday. FOX will carry eliminations live from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday. (All times listed in PT).

Erica Enders determined to bounce back after second-round exit in Sonoma


SONOMA, CA — Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports team are more determined than ever after a second-round exit in the NHRA Sonoma Nationals on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Her Elite team was making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, and Enders was racing here for the first time since 2012. Still, she qualified No. 9 and advanced to the second round before bowing out to No. 1 qualifier and eventual race winner Chris McGaha.

“We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Enders said. “We’re going to load up and go to the next race. My guys are the most determined bunch I’ve ever met. Right now our day is over, but where are all three of my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones and Mark Ingersoll) and my team owner (Richard Freeman)? They’re in the lounge, going over notes and trying to figure out how to get better.

“You can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be back, and we’re just going to use this to fuel our fire.”

Enders and her team have handled adversity well in the past. Earlier this year, after losing in the first round in Gainesville, Fla., and in the second in Charlotte, Enders won the K&N Horsepower Challenge and the national event in Las Vegas and then won in Houston.

And after losing in the first round in Englishtown, N.J., she raced to the semifinals in Epping, N.H., before winning in Bristol, Tenn. Enders also lost in the first round in Norwalk, Ohio, before going to two consecutive semifinals in Chicago and Denver.

In Sonoma, her 100th consecutive race, Enders faced No. 8 qualifier Shane Gray in the first round, and she left first with a .017-second reaction time and held off Gray with a pass of 6.531 seconds at 211.93 mph. Gray’s run was slightly better, 6.530 at 212.39 mph, but Enders won on a holeshot.

“There have been plenty of days when my team has carried me,” Enders said. “I wish I could’ve carried them further this weekend. My crew chief always tells me, ‘If you can be .020 all day on Sunday, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to go to the winner’s circle with the people that we have and the equipment that we have.’ Today just wasn’t our day.”

Enders also left first on McGaha, .020 to .029, but McGaha made a pass of 6.514 seconds at 212.13 mph to run down Enders’ 6.529 at 211.93 mph.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders ready to make noise in rare bottom-half start


SONOMA, CA — With her Elite Motorsports team making its first appearance at Sonoma Raceway, It would be easy to blame a relatively poor qualifying performance for Erica Enders at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend on their lack of notes for the track, but Enders and her team — the defending NHRA Pro Stock World Champions — won’t make any excuses.

“We certainly don’t have data from out here,” said Enders, who qualified for her 100th consecutive race. “But we can always take weather and track conditions and compare them to other places we’ve raced at. I guess we’re behind the other teams in that aspect, but at the same time, that is no excuse.

“My guys are the best, and we’ll do our damndest to prove it tomorrow.”

Enders qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.534 seconds at 212.03 mph despite her team racing in Sonoma for the first time. That’s only the second time in her 37 races to date with Richard Freeman’s Elite team that she has failed to qualify in the top half of the field.

Plus, Enders and the team have faced other issues this weekend as they’ve tried to move up the Pro Stock ladder.

“We’ve definitely struggled,” Enders said. “We’ve had some breakages and some things not go our way so far this weekend, but we’re determined to change that tomorrow. I’m certainly looking forward to race day, even though our performance wasn’t tremendous in qualifying. I still am confident about tomorrow.”

Enders faces Shane Gray in the first round of eliminations on Sunday after Gray qualified No. 8 with a top pass of 6.533 seconds at 212.03 mph.

In addition to her team making its first appearance in Sonoma, Enders is making her first start here since 2012.

“I do love it here in Sonoma,” Enders said. “It’s certainly not the showing we wanted to have during qualifying, but tomorrow is a whole new day, and I’ve got the best guys in the business to get the car as good as it can be.

“We’ll just go after it tomorrow. We’ll keep fighting and try to make it better.”