Posts Tagged Topeka

Shimmy, shimmy (tire) shake has Erica Enders dancing to an early exit from Topeka

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Topeka 2017

TOPEKA, KS — Two-time world champion Erica Enders was hoping for more from the 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties, but her usually reliable Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro encountered some severe tire shake just off the launch pad in her opening-round race against teammate Vincent Nobile, resulting in a loss.

After qualifying 7-8 on the elimination ladder, Enders and Nobile knew they would likely have a very close race. As expected, the two experts reacted to the starting lights within one-thousandth of a second of one another. But soon after that, Enders car began to shake its giant rear slicks, reducing the 2014 and 2015 Pro Stock champion to a spectator as Nobile danced away for an easy win.

The final numbers had Nobile cruising to a 6.583 at 210.44 mph to Enders’ forfeiting 9.145 at 109.08 mph.

“We weren’t expecting it to do that,” Enders said. “The guys spent a lot of time overnight and this morning to get us ready to race. It’s disappointing when things don’t go the way you plan. At least Vincent was able to advance so we keep another Elite car in the mix along with Jeg (Coughlin Jr., teammate) on the other side of the ladder.

“This class goes in cycles. The tide is bound to turn in our favor very soon. We have great horsepower, the best people in the sport, lots of drive and determination, and excellent work ethic. We are so eager to get this car back to winning rounds and visiting the winner’s circle with regularity.”

Enders’ next chance at victory comes June 2-4 with the fifth annual NHRA New England Nationals in Epping. N.H.

“It’ll be nice to get back to the shop in Oklahoma and continue working on things to make us better,” Enders said. “We brought out a new motor this weekend and we need to spend a little more time with it to make it work properly with this Rick Jones chassis. The power it showed on the dyno got everyone excited and hopefully we’ll be able to show that off in Epping.”

Elite Motorsports champion Erica Enders to start mid-pack in quest for Topeka crown

Erica Enders | NHRA Pro Stock Topeka 2017

TOPEKA, KS — Missing one of four scheduled rounds of qualifying may not seem like a big deal, but for two-time world champion and past Topeka titlist Erica Enders, a lost round can be the difference between qualifying mid-pack or at the top of the elimination field of the 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties.

“We came here with a renewed feeling of confidence after running so well in Atlanta and getting to our first final of the year,” Enders said. “And we were super happy to be bringing a brand-new motor that showed to be our best ever on the dyno back at the shop. We just wanted as many hits as possible to get it dialed in for race day so losing one to rain feels like a bigger deal than normal.

“Either way, we’re ready to race and we are confident in our abilities. It just would have been nice to get another chance.”

In typical Topeka fashion, wild weather has ruled the race so far. Friday it was on-and-off rainstorms that eventually caused the cancelation of one of the two scheduled rounds.

“We went out there in the one session basically just making a test run,” Enders said. “When you see there are only 14 cars so you’re virtually assured that you’ll qualify, you have the luxury of making test passes during qualifying and we pretty much had to that first run to match the new motor to the basic tune-up we use.”

Fast forward to Saturday when cooler temperatures produced mineshaft conditions.

“Everyone was flying today and we stepped up quite a bit from the 6.668 we ran Friday with a 6.573 at 209.69 mph right out of the box,” Enders said. “That showed us we were much closer to what we wanted to do. We came back in the final session and basically repeated the earlier run with a 6.574 at 210.08 mph.

“Rick (Jones, crew chief) jumped on the radio and said he thought we should have been quicker but I said, ‘Hey, we have a consistent car,’ which is always good, so I’m really liking our chances for what we can do tomorrow.”

Unfortunately for Enders, she has to race teammate Vincent Nobile in the opening round, Enders’ 6.573 giving her lane choice over Nobile and his 6.581.

“No one is happy we have to race each other in the first round but that’s the way the ladder came out,” Enders said. “I guess the good news is someone from Elite will be going to the next round no matter what so that’s a positive. We all use every run to learn something so we win as a team and share the wealth. It should be a good day.”

Pro Stock eliminations start at noon, Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 will begin with a live show starting at 1 p.m. (All times are local and subject to change).

Atlanta runner-up Erica Enders looking to go ‘One Step Beyond’ in Topeka

Erica Enders | 2017 NHRA Southern Nationals

TOPEKA, KS — Fresh off a season-best runner-up finish at the last NHRA tour stop in Atlanta, two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders is looking to go “One Step Beyond” at this weekend’s 29th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Park Topeka.

“We are going to do our best to carry the momentum we picked up in Atlanta and take it to Topeka,” Enders said. “We had a great day there in our Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. All we need to do is get one step beyond that in Topeka and we’ll be back in the winner’s circle. We’d love for that to happen at Heartland Park.”

One of Enders’ 21 national event victories came at Heartland Park in 2015, a recent enough memory to further boost the confidence of the popular driver, who had a Disney Channel movie — Right on Track — made about her and sister Courtney’s early days in drag racing.

“Since the beginning of my driving career, I’ve always taken pride in what I do behind the wheel,” Enders said. “Back in 2014 and 2015, when we won our two titles, we have tried to do everything we can to win every round we race. That includes what I do behind the wheel.

“In Houston and Charlotte, two weekends in a row, I gave away two races because of what I did, nothing else. It was very hard to go back to the pits and look at the guys who had worked so hard to give me a car that would have easily won those races. In reality, they were nothing but supportive. That’s one of the many reasons this team is so awesome.”

The strong showing in Atlanta lifted Enders to seventh in the Mello Yello points and also restored her confidence. Newly rejuvenated, she hopes to further close the gap on the top runners in Topeka, so she’s placing a premium on going rounds.

“Atlanta made me feel like I turned the page on what had happened the previous two races,” Enders said. “I felt like I put it behind me and taking two of those three round wins on holeshots gave me some measure of redemption.

“The next test comes this weekend. We are all excited to get there, and that includes my teammates Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile. They’re running strong also and our goal of being 1-2-3 at every race is getting closer.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m., Saturday, with eliminations starting at 12 p.m., Sunday. Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins at 10 p.m., Friday, followed by a live qualifying show at 2 p.m., Saturday. Elimination action also will be shown live starting at 1 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change).

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders turns on Topeka win light

Erica Enders | Topeka NHRA 2016

TOPEKA, KS — A round-win — any round-win — in the Pro Stock class of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series can be hard to come by, even if it comes against your teammate, so two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders was definitely smiling after beating Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the first round of the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka.

She lost in the second round to No. 1 qualifier Jason Line after a terrific effort on the starting line, but getting a round-win was a positive for the 2015 Topeka winner.

“At this point, you take them as you can get them,” Enders said. “It stinks in the first place that my teammate and I had to race first round, but when it comes down to it, it’s a round-win for our Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart. Round-wins are hard to come by these days. We’ll just keep working at it.”

Enders and her Elite team switched to a new Dodge Dart for 2016, all the while dealing with new fuel-injected engines. Line’s KB Racing team has won all seven races to date as others have tried to catch up.

“People are slowly starting to pick away at it,” Enders said. “You see other cars running better, so it’s definitely out there for us. I know that when we come across it, it’s going to be great and they’re going to be in trouble again, but until that point, we’ve got to stay positive and keep working. That’s all we can do.”

Enders got the win light in the first round when Skillman left .002-second too soon, but her pass of 6.706 at 205.79 mph lost her lane choice in the second round to Line.

Enders was stellar on the Christmas Tree in round two with a .014 light to Line’s .041, but she couldn’t hold him off. Her pass of 6.725 at 204.98 mph wasn’t enough to defeat Line’s 6.661 at 207.85 mph.

“When I unclutched it, I knew I was good,” Enders said. “The first three gears I didn’t see him, so I thought maybe we had a chance, but I plugged it in high gear, and Jason came around me. I saw him come by me.”

Enders and her Richard Freeman-owned team continue to make strides with their program, inching toward the top of the Pro Stock charts.

“We have the right attitudes,” Enders said. “We have the right mindset, we have tremendous work ethic. The stars aren’t lining up for us at the moment, but they will, and when they do, it’s game on.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders starts Topeka defense against Elite teammate

Erica Enders | Topeka NHRA 2016

TOPEKA, KS — Defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has already scored a round-win at this weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka — and Pro Stock eliminations don’t start until Sunday.

Enders, who qualified the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge in the No. 9 spot in Pro Stock, won a round in Super Gas earlier Saturday.

“That was fun to get a round-win in the Super Gas car,” Enders said. “It can take some time to get used to driving in Sportsman again, and even though I’ve driven that car this year, I’m still getting re-adjusted to it. But it was nice to win a round for Buddy and Cody.”

Enders drove the ORTEQ Energy Technologies roadster for owners Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski this weekend. She had a second-round matchup with Bruce Johnson Saturday night, and the two-time Pro Stock champion went .019-second red and lost.

Enders’ best pass in her Pro Stock car was 6.643 seconds at 207.03 mph. The defending race champion squares off against Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the first round.

“Drew and I are friends everywhere but on the racetrack,” Enders said. “When I put on my helmet, he becomes just another driver. It was a lot of fun to work with him last year as he made the transition to Pro Stock, and I helped him as much as I could in 2015.

“But on race day, I’m going to try to beat him like I try to beat anyone else in this class. I hate that we have to race a teammate in the first round, but we all need to qualify better.”

Skillman’s best pass this weekend was 6.642 seconds at 208.07 mph, meaning their first-round matchup could come down to who gets off the starting line first.

“May the best woman win,” Enders said. “Drew’s a great driver, and he’ll be tough to beat, but our job is to do our best to send him home early.”

Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, Saturday. Elimination action will be broadcast live from 2 to 5 p.m. ET, Sunday.

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders holds special memories of Topeka

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TOPEKA, KS — Heartland Park Topeka has a special place in the heart of Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge driver Erica Enders, the two-time Pro Stock champion.

Heartland Park, site of this weekend’s NHRA Kansas Nationals, is where Enders became the first woman to earn a No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and it’s also the track where she scored a dominant victory in 2015, nine years after that first No. 1 qualifier.

Enders was in her second full year of Pro Stock in 2006, driving the Slammers car. In the second round of qualifying for the NHRA Summer Nationals, Enders made a pass of 6.785 at 203.06 mph to jump to No. 1. She held on to that spot to become the 52nd driver to earn a Pro Stock No. 1.

“It was a huge milestone for me and my young Pro Stock career,” said Enders, who was 22 at the time. “It was definitely exciting. The fans were crazy. I signed a lot of autographs that weekend and got a lot of congratulations from a lot of people: a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls. It’s definitely a neat memory.”

Enders got to share the memory with her father Gregg, who helped start Enders’ career as an 8-year-old driving a Jr. Dragster in her home state of Texas.

“It was cool to share that moment with my dad,” Enders said. “He’s the reason why I was in that position in the first place.”

Fast-forward to 2015, and Enders is now driving for Elite Motorsports. She had won in Las Vegas and Houston earlier in the year, repeating race victories from her 2014 championship, but her Topeka success had been limited to that No. 1 qualifier in 2006.

“At that point of the season, we had won the same races that we had won the year before,” Enders said. “Every race we went to where we hadn’t won, we were hoping to break that. Topeka was a track that we typically didn’t have much luck or success at, so to win in the fashion that we did was pretty cool.”

Enders was low for all three of the qualifying sessions (the fourth was rained out) and set the Pro Stock track record of 6.515 seconds at 211.43 mph to again win the No. 1 qualifying spot.

On race day, Enders was quickest in all four rounds, beating Greg Anderson in an early-evening final round to win the race.

“We were low for every session, No. 1 qualifier, and we beat Greg in the finals,” Enders said. “It was a rain delay on Sunday, and we finished under the lights. It was pretty cool.”

Rain had delayed the final, and the winner’s circle celebration had to be moved indoors — not that Enders or anyone on her Elite team minded.

“The winner’s circle was in the barn with the scales,” Enders said. “It was different, for sure, but still awesome.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air qualifying from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET, Saturday. Elimination action will be broadcast live from 2 to 5 p.m. ET, Sunday.

Enders will also compete in Sportsman racing this weekend, as she returns to the Super Gas ranks behind the wheel of the ORTEQ Energy Technologies roadster for owners Buddy Wood and Cody Ortowski.

Reigning world champ Erica Enders has fond memories of Heartland Park Topeka

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TOPEKA, KS — Back before she was a champion, before setting multitudes of records, and before her regular visits to the Winner’s Circle, Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders came to Heartland Park Topeka intent on proving herself in the cutthroat world of Pro Stock racing.

It was 2006 and Enders was racing for another team at the time. She would hear the rumblings that a woman didn’t belong in the class, including some jabs from other drivers in the category. Her self-confidence was high but she desperately wanted something to show for the team’s efforts, something that would quiet the critics.

“When someone asks me about Topeka, the first thing that jumps into my mind was 2006 when we got top qualifier,” Enders said. “It was the first time a woman had ever been No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock, and it was just such a huge feeling of accomplishment for all of us. It was a Saturday night I’ll never forget; definitely some high-fives in the pit.”

Although Enders and Co. couldn’t parlay that qualifying performance into a win on race day, the accomplishment proved she truly belonged in the professional ranks of the sport.

Fast-forward to this year’s NHRA Kansas Nationals and Enders arrives as the reigning world champion with 15 national event titles to her credit, just three behind legend and idol Shirley Muldowney. Enders’ top qualifying effort in Topeka 10 years ago has since been replicated 14 times, and her 175-117 elimination-round record gives her one of the best winning ratios among her peers.

But despite her unquestioned racing abilities, Enders, the wife of fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens, says not much has changed in her racing mindset.

“Ask me about Topeka right now and I’ll tell you the same thing I would have said 10 years ago: We go in there wanting to prove ourselves,” she said. “One of the best things about drag racing is every race is a fresh start. What you did in the past doesn’t help you at all. You constantly have to show what you’re capable of, and this team thrives on that challenge.”

The Elite Motorsports group hasn’t had any problems doing that this year, winning twice, finishing runner-up once, and posting a pair of semifinal results through the first seven races. Enders currently is ranked second, just a round and a half behind Jason Line.

“The thing about winning is it’s addictive,” Enders said. “We won in Las Vegas and Houston this year and then went to Atlanta last weekend and we went to the semi’s. It was kind of a bummer, which is crazy because 10 years ago that would have been huge.

“This team that Richard Freeman has put together, they work so hard. They’re champions, every single one of them. I’m the lucky one that gets to drive but they’re the reason we win.

“Hopefully, we can be No. 1 qualifier again this time through. Then I hope we can win the trophy and really make some more great memories at Heartland Park Topeka.”

The quest for another top qualifying honor begins with time trials at 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, followed by the final two sessions at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m., Saturday. Elimination racing begins at noon, Sunday. ESPN2 will carry all of the action.

Enders-Stevens maintains Pro Stock points with Topeka semifinal

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TOPEKA, Kan. (May 25) — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders-Stevens has the big picture in mind after reaching the semifinals of the NHRA Kansas Nationals on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka.

The semifinal appearance was her fifth in eight races this season to go along with two victories, and she maintained the points lead she’s held for five races in a row.

“If we average semifinals for the rest of the year, we’ll be able to hold the big trophy at the end,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s all about momentum and consistency.”

Enders-Stevens has qualified fifth or better at all eight Pro Stock races this season, including third or better in the last seven. She was No. 2 in Topeka and knocked Deric Kramer in the first round, getting the win when Kramer red-lit.

She then took out No. 7 qualifier Vieri Gaines in round two with a .029-second reaction time and 6.653 at 206.92 mph. Gaines was .058 on the Christmas Tree and slowed to a pass of 15.614 seconds at 54.74 mph.

Then in the semifinals against good friend Allen Johnson, the two cars had identical 6.657-second elapsed times, with Enders-Stevens’ speed at 206.51 mph while Johnson went 206.32 mph. The difference was Johnson’s .022 light; Enders-Stevens was .046 on the Tree.

“We had a good car,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were right there with A.J. The ball was in my court and I missed it. It happens and we’re going to pack up and go on to Englishtown (N.J.). The great news is we have an awesome team.

“We’re going to be fine. I’m disappointed, but there are a lot of other teams that would have loved to have gone to the semi’s today.”

Enders-Stevens and her Elite team were understaffed in Topeka because co-crew chief Rickie Jones and engine maintenance man Jake Hairston were not available. Team owner Richard Freeman jumped in to help with whatever task was needed, and the Elite team performed well.

“We did pretty well with what we had, and my team performed well under pressure,” Enders-Stevens said. “We were under a rushed schedule, as NHRA gave us 50-minute turnarounds. We were thrashing because we were down two guys this weekend, and everybody was pitching in to help. Everyone pulled their weight and performed really well under pressure, and I’m proud of them.”

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