Posts Tagged US Nationals

Erica Enders adds U.S. Nationals title to growing résumé

Erica Enders wins 2015 U.S. Nationals at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Erica Enders can now add U.S. Nationals champion to her growling list of accomplishments in what is becoming a legendary career.

Enders won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway with a brilliant driving display, beating her final three opponents on holeshots, including Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the final round.

The victory cemented her No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock points standings for the Countdown to the Championship, which begins at zMax Dragway in Charlotte in two weeks, and it was her 18th career win, tying her for second all-time with the legendary Shirley Muldowney.

Enders may not be a legend yet, but she has accomplished a lot. She won the 2014 Pro Stock World Championship, becoming the first female to win the class title, and now she has won the biggest race of all, three years after a crushing defeat in the final round to a teammate.

“I’m struggling putting it into words because we’ve worked so hard for so long to get here,” Enders said. “There have been times in my career, particularly the final at Indy in 2012, where I really didn’t understand why things went down the way they did. It’s worth the wait. It’s worth the wait to do it with the right people and I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”

Her team is proud of her, too, especially after her driving Monday. After dispatching Vieri Gaines in the first round, Enders was actually outrun by Larry Morgan in the second round (6.613 seconds at 209.52 mph for Morgan to 6.617 at 209.01 mph for Enders), but her .036-second reaction time and .007-second head start was the difference.

Then came a big matchup in the semifinals against Greg Anderson, who was second in the points standings and the No. 1 qualifier here. But Enders drilled the Tree (.013 to .054) and overcame Anderson’s 6.591-second pass at 210.41 mph with her 6.618 at 209.39 mph.

“It was a challenge all day long, and our big round was against Greg Anderson,” Enders said. “Beating him allows us to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 seed. Those 30 points are going to be really, really crucial to us considering last year. Had we lost to Jason Line in the final (in Pomona, Calif., last year), we would have lost by a single point, so it’s huge. It’s huge for me, it’s huge for my team, and huge for any kid that ever had a dream. I came here as a little kid and I wanted to be here. Twenty-three years later we finally made it.”

In the final against Skillman, Enders had another .013 light to Skillman’s .025, and her run of 6.611 seconds at 209.75 mph was enough to hold off his 6.606-second run at 209.98 mph. The victory was her sixth of 2015, and her career total now matches Muldowney.

“Six wins in a single season is huge because I tied Shirley Muldowney,” Enders said. “I talk about Shirley an awful lot because she’s been a lifelong hero of mine because of what she had to endure driving back then. She still managed to do it with grace and class and come out on top. Over the years she became my mentor and my friend. I’m really lucky to have her in my corner. To put my name next to hers for a tie for all-time wins is incredible.

“I remember it like it was yesterday, wanting to get on the list, period, with just one win, and to say we have 18 is nuts.”

And it came at the race where she was named grand marshal. Enders got the call from Chevrolet before the race in Seattle, but she thought it was a joke.

“I kinda was like, ‘Are you joking?’ ” Enders said. “It’s a huge honor. I’m a Chevy girl through and through, and I’m very proud to drive a Camaro. It’s very neat, and it was a big honor to be up there today before the race. Jim Campbell has done a lot for our sport, as has everybody at Chevrolet. It’s just an honor. It feels surreal because I have to pinch myself to believe that we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Pro Stock champ Erica Enders gunning for first U.S. Nationals victory

Erica Enders - 2015 U.S. Nationals qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Elite Motorsports driver Erica Enders has already accomplished a lot in her career, from winning the 2014 Pro Stock World Championship to piling up 17 professional victories — one short of matching Shirley Muldowney for second among winningest female drivers — but she still has one big thing remaining on her bucket list: win the U.S. Nationals.

Enders has a good shot at it in 2015, as she has qualified No. 4 for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“It’d be pretty awesome to win,” said Enders, a runner-up at Indy in 2012. “It would rank right up there with the championship and winning in your hometown. It’s the biggest race of the year, and I would be ecstatic if we won it.”

There is plenty more on the line for Enders and her team. She is first in the Pro Stock points standings with one race remaining before the Countdown to the Championship, and the U.S. Nationals pays 1.5 times the normal amount of points.

“It’s very crucial for us because it’s worth a point and a half,” Enders said. “I’d really like to go into the Countdown in the No. 1 position, so we’re going to fight tooth and nail for it Monday and see what happens.”

Enders’ best qualifying pass was 6.571 seconds at 210.54 mph, just .009-second off the No. 1 qualifier.

“The car is good,” Enders said. “We lost a session Friday because of the weather. Saturday morning, after 95 percent of my burnout, a coil wire came off, and we weren’t able to make that run, which put us first pair out for the third session.

“We had to be very conservative in Pro Stock, being first pair out on a racetrack like that,” Enders said. “We made a very good run and were No. 1 for a while before we ended up No. 4.”

Then on Sunday, Enders was third-quickest in each session. She’ll face No. 13 qualifier Vieri Gaines in the first round Monday after Gaines had a pass of 6.620 at 209.01 mph.

“Monday is definitely going to be tricky,” said Enders, the most recent winner on the Pro Stock tour in Brainerd, Minn. “It’s going to be hot, and that makes my crew chiefs’ jobs very interesting, but I’m fortunate to have three of the best the business has ever seen. I know they’ll give me a fast, consistent race car, and if I get up on the wheel, there’s no reason we can’t have a repeat of Brainerd.”

Richie Stevens, Enders-Stevens Present $40K to Serving Orphans Worldwide

NHRA stars Richie Stevens and Erica Enders-Stevens Present Donation to Serving Orphans Worldwide

BRISTOL, TN — Serving Orphans Worldwide (SOW), which supports orphanages and children’s homes across the globe, accepted a $40,000 donation on behalf of Stevens-Enders Motorsports at the completion of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

NHRA Pro Stock drivers Richie Stevens and wife Erica Enders-Stevens helped raise awareness of the non-profit organization with branding on their race cars and on-air promotion during the ESPN2 television coverage. Backed by anonymous donors who came forward during the race weekend, drag racing’s latest power couple presented Serving Orphans Worldwide Chief Operating Officer Richard Baker with the donation in the Stevens-Enders Motorsports pit.

“That’s just amazing,” Baker said. “I’m trying to fight the tears back. That’s enough money to fund an orphanage for an entire year.”

Serving Orphans Worldwide was founded in 2010 to help “rescue” orphanages that need help and funding to continue to operate.

“Richie and I are proud to be associated with such an incredible organization that helps so many children around the world,” Enders-Stevens said. “The fact we were able to raise $40,000 to help some children warms our hearts and shows how caring people are out here in the NHRA community.”

As part of the donation, Stevens and Enders-Stevens plan to travel to Thailand after the NHRA season to select the first orphanage they will officially “adopt.”

“We only get involved with orphanages that are in rescue mode and we elevate them,” Baker said. “We’ve got three stages: Rescue, Train, Sustain. We understand that orphanages will probably never be 100 percent sustainable and that they are not the ideal solution to the orphan crisis, but we’re meeting kids where they are and helping them get the love and care they deserve.”

With the help of Serving Orphans Worldwide, several orphanages have already begun income-generating or farming projects to help sustain themselves. Serving Orphans Worldwide is involved with orphanages in 25 countries on five continents, most in third-world countries that lack the government and private sector safety nets that are present in the United States.

“There’s a great need out there,” Baker said. “We’re just scratching the surface, but we are making a difference.”

SOW became involved in NHRA through Stevens’ long relationship with businessman Tom Pierson, a supporter of Serving Orphans Worldwide and sponsor of Steven’s Camaro.

“We’re excited about the partnership with Richie and Erica,” Baker said, “and amazed and humbled by their willingness to give.”

Enders-Stevens is the No. 2 Seed for Countdown after U.S. Nationals

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1) — A Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory may have slipped through Engines Inc. Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens’ fingers, but she still leaves Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on Monday very proud.

Enders-Stevens dropped a second-round match to Dave Connolly, but she will be the No. 2 seed when the Countdown to the Championship begins in two weeks at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, NC.

“Even though we didn’t win the U.S. Nationals, and that was our goal, we can leave here with our heads held high,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve got a good car and the best team in the sport. It would’ve been nice to win here, but it starts to matter at the next event.”

Enders-Stevens has had a dream season, winning four national events and the K&N Horsepower Challenge. She led the points standings for 13 races before slipping to second in Brainerd, MN.

“I think we’re going to go in the No. 2 spot,” Enders-Stevens said. “Obviously our goal is to go in as the No. 1 seed, but it’s not detrimental to what the outcome’s going to be.”

Enders-Stevens started her 2014 U.S. Nationals with a race against her husband Richie Stevens, who joined Elite Motorsports for this race and beyond. She got the jump on Stevens with a .022-second reaction time and led the entire race, winning with a pass of 6.619 seconds at 208.52 mph. Stevens’ pass was 6.643 seconds at 208.52 mph.

“That’s my job,” Enders-Stevens said. “I have to put aside who’s in the other lane and just execute. That’s what we did first round and we did it second round, too, but it just didn’t end up being our day. We didn’t have lane choice and we struggled over there.

“I hate that Richie lost. I’m glad that we won but it’s bittersweet. I’m stoked that we picked up 20 points, but at the same time I hate that Richie’s debut wasn’t what any of us at Elite Motorsports had planned for it to be. But our job is to win rounds, despite who’s over there.”

In the second round, Enders-Stevens made a pass of 6.622 seconds at 208.88 mph but couldn’t get around Connolly, whose run was 6.613 seconds at 207.82 mph.

Enders-Stevens and her team made improvements throughout the weekend, giving her confidence for Charlotte and the Countdown.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “We have so much heart. It would have been easy to get frustrated, get negative, and give up when things weren’t going as we had planned them to go when we got here.

“We spent a few days testing in St. Louis to get our cars — mine and Richie’s and Shane (Tucker’s) — sorted out. It didn’t go as planned when we stepped foot on the property here, but they dug deep and we ended up being second-quickest of the runs in eliminations. Even the round we lost, we were the quickest in that lane by a couple of hundredths, so that says a lot about my crew chiefs and my entire team.”

Pro Stock Superstar Enders-Stevens Begins Pursuit of First U.S. Nationals Title from No. 5 Spot

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INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 31) — Before Engines Inc. driver Erica Enders-Stevens can dream about winning the U.S. Nationals, she’ll have to get past her husband.

Enders-Stevens qualified No. 5 for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, meaning she’ll race the No. 12 qualifier in the first round. That happens to be her Elite Motorsports teammate and husband Richie Stevens.

“It’s not what we came here to do, by any means,” Enders-Stevens said. “We brought Richie and his car out because we needed him to take out some of the heavy hitters in points for us, but to come out here and run each other first round.

“I won’t treat running him any different than I treat running (Allen Johnson) or Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) or Jason (Line). It just doesn’t matter who’s over there. We’ll do our best.”

Enders-Stevens snared the No. 5 qualifying spot with a top pass of 6.607 seconds at 208.55 mph. Stevens’ best lap was 6.627 seconds at 208.59 mph in a new Chevrolet Camaro.

Enders-Stevens is trying to regain the No. 1 spot in the Pro Stock points standings after losing it in Brainerd, Minn. She had led the points for 13 weeks in what has been a stellar season, as she has won four races and the special K&N Horsepower Challenge.

She hasn’t qualified outside the top five in all 15 of her races and has two No. 1 qualifiers.

Her Elite Motorsports team, led by crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, has worked to make her Camaro better in Indy, and in the final qualifying session she was .007-second off the best elapsed time.

“We’re making steps in the right direction,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s consistent and we’ll be fine tomorrow. That last run, we were just a few thousandths off from being the fastest of the session. The way it’s running is encouraging.”

Enders-Stevens is racing in Indy for the first time since 2012, when she went to the final round. A U.S. Nationals victory would be a tremendous achievement for any driver, but Enders-Stevens refuses to put any extra pressure on her or her race team.

“It’s prestigious but at the same time it’s just another race,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not worth more than any other race for points or payout, so our mindset hasn’t changed.

“It would be an added bonus to be able to say you won the U.S. Nationals. We had one stolen from us in 2012 and I’d like to get it back.

“We’ll take it one round at a time tomorrow, do our best, and see what happens.”

Enders-Stevens all Smiles after ‘Beating’ Husband during Indy’s Q3

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INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 30) — Engines Inc. Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens was all smiles Saturday night after moving up the ladder to the provisional No. 5 qualifying spot for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

And in doing so, she won an Elite Motorsports intramural battle with husband Richie Stevens. The two faced each other in the third qualifying session with pride and bragging rights on the line.

Enders-Stevens got off the line first with a brilliant .007-second reaction time and was never headed, running 6.607 seconds at 208.55 mph. Stevens’ light was .018 and his 6.632-second pass at 208.33 mph came up short.

“I should’ve made a bet but I didn’t,” Enders-Stevens said. “And then we outran him three-hundredths so we won. That was cool. It was fun; it was like we won a round down at the top end. My guys were really happy.

“That run was our best of the weekend, so we were all very excited. It ended up being the third-best for the session, so it’s not too shabby. We’ve got to pick away at it. We’ll get there. Monday is when it matters.”

Stevens is racing as his wife’s teammate for the first time this season, driving a new Elite Motorsports Chevy.

“It was cool to race Richie,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve talked enough crap to each other over the years, and it was nice to line up against him again — and beat him again.

“I’m so proud of him. No one has worked harder than he has, and he deserves to be back out here. I hope we can race against each other again soon.”

Enders-Stevens, meanwhile, is looking to Sunday’s final two qualifying sessions to move up the Pro Stock ladder.

“We’ve gotten better and figured out some stuff,” Enders-Stevens said. “I hope we’ll continue to get better and be faster tomorrow.”

Enders-Stevens Ready to Get No. 1 Spot Back at U.S. Nationals

Enders-Stevens Ready to Get Back Number 1 Spot in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 26) — Engines Inc. driver Erica Enders-Stevens is ready to reclaim her spot atop the Pro Stock points standings during the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Enders-Stevens led the Pro Stock standings for 13 of the 17 races to date, but a parts failure during the first round in Brainerd, Minn., caused her to drop to second.

Indy marks the final race before the Countdown to the Championship, and Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports team are looking at the big picture: the Pro Stock championship.

“It’s how we finish the season that’s going to be important,” Enders-Stevens said. “Indy obviously is the most prestigious race of the year, the Super Bowl of drag racing, so I’m very hopeful to go out there and just have a really great weekend and get our No. 1 spot back from Jason Line to go into that No. 1 seed into the Countdown in Charlotte.

“I don’t believe any woman in a professional category has ever gone into the playoffs in the No. 1 position so far. It’s certainly at the top of our list of goals, but it’s not detrimental if it doesn’t happen. We’ll just have to start out swinging in Charlotte as hard as we can and go from there and remain positive and continue to have fun as a team. I’m very optimistic of what we’ll be able to accomplish.”

Enders-Stevens has had a stellar season, winning four national events and the special K&N Horsepower Challenge. She has qualified No. 1 twice and third or better in 14 of her 15 races.

“My mindset is going to be the same as it has been all year,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m extremely blessed to be in the position I am in, with a great team at Elite Motorsports standing behind me. It’s been a dream season up to this point, and we’re hopeful to carry that momentum and that confidence through the end of the year. I’m very optimistic about what’s to come.”

Enders-Stevens did not race at Indy in 2013 but reached the final round in 2012. She fully appreciates the prestige of the U.S. Nationals.

“It’s just got so much history,” Enders-Stevens said. “As a kid, I grew up watching all of the legends that I looked up to — Shirley Muldowney and Bob Glidden and the ones after them — and it’s just been one of those races and one of those facilities that’s so awesome and holds so much history. NHRA held the first Jr. Drag Racing League National Championship there in 1994, and I was part of that.

“In 2001 we got down to three cars out of 174 in Super Comp and then in 2012 we were runner-up in Pro Stock as well, so I feel like I’ve got a lot of unfinished business there and I’m hopeful we can get it done this year.

“It’s just an awesome facility and it gives you goose bumps when you walk in the gate there. It’s one of those deals that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there and experienced it yourself.”