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Enders-Stevens Completes The Dream In Pomona

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 17 2014

Erica Enders-Stevens hoists the Pro Stock hardware after winning in Pomona on Sunday. (Photos courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Ten years after launching her professional drag racing career against a stacked quarter-mile lineup featuring Greg Anderson, Warren Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., Erica Enders-Stevens joined the club Sunday as the NHRA’s first woman Pro Stock world champion.

Enders-Stevens recorded her sixth victory of the 2014 season when two-time world champion Jason Line fouled at the start of their winner-take-all final-round pairing during the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.

Enders-Stevens, 31, became the third female to win an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship, an exclusive group featuring three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney and three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Angelle Sampey-Drago.

“To join two of my heroes, Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey, who are both my friends now, as NHRA world champions, is simply unreal,” Enders-Stevens said after Line’s Christmas Tree miscue (0.011-seconds too quick) gift-wrapped the victory at historic Pomona (Calif.) Raceway. “The words of advice I’ve received from those two women means so much to me.”

In other season-ending results, Matt Hagan claimed his second Funny Car world championship at the expense of 16-time champ John Force and also won the season-ending race, while Andrew Hines sealed his fourth Pro

The 2014 NHRA champions are Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock)

Stock Motorcycle championship via a first-round victory. Morgan Lucas earned the Top Fuel race victory and Hector Arana Jr. captured the Pro Stock Bike win.

Enders-Stevens trailered veteran Larry Morgan and Rodger Brogdon in the first two rounds, a prelude to perhaps the race of the year in Pro Stock during the semifinals. Enders-Stevens and Jonathan Gray each posted perfect 0.000 lights off the starting line, with Enders-Stevens prevailing with a quarter-mile pass in 6.494-seconds at 213.67 mph to Gray’s numbers of 6.524-seconds at 212.29 mph.

Line and Enders-Stevens each had won 12 times against the other in prior events; Erica was 2-1 against Jason heading into Sunday’s final. While Line turned on the red light, Enders-Stevens ran the quickest pass of the weekend at 6.480-seconds and 213.43 mph en route to her 12th career Wally trophy.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said Enders-Stevens, driver of the Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro fielded by Richard Freeman. “And that’s perfect proof that with the right group of people anything is possible and that’s all through God. I’ve got the right group, a group that stands behind me, and we have a blast together. That’s what it’s all about. Win, lose, or draw we love each other and that’s all that matters.”

Enders-Stevens led a charge this season by four female NHRA racers that resulted in 14 victories. She was joined in the winner’s circle by Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car and Angie Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Additionally, Brittany Force raced to four runnerup finishes and three No.1 qualifying positions in her second season of Top Fuel competition.

“It’s awesome to be a part of this female movement in NHRA,” Enders-Stevens said. “I think it goes to show what we’re capable of and what a great platform NHRA gives all of us girls to climb the ladder and to get to where we want to go. What a blessing; this is awesome.”

Enders-Stevens, whose early life as an NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League competitor was the subject of a Disney Channel original movie in 2003, made her Pro Stock debut in the 2005 season-opening Winternationals at Pomona. After advancing to six final rounds in her first eight seasons she broke through with her first national event victory in 2012 at Joliet, Ill. Erica challenged for the championship in each of the last three seasons, finishing a career-best fourth in 2012. She finished 39 points/two rounds of racing ahead of Line in the 2014 final standings.

Enders-Stevens led the point standings for most of the season and overcame a slow start in the six-event Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship by rallying in the last four playoff races for a pair of semifinal finishes in Madison, Ill., and Reading, Pa. She closed her championship run with back-to-back victories in Las Vegas and Pomona. Enders-Stevens posted six pole positions during the 24-event season, including four during the Countdown, in the Camaro tuned by co-crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones.

“I was a little kid with a big dream,” said Enders-Stevens, a native of Houston now living in New Orleans. “I started racing junior dragsters and then moved into Sportsman racing and moved on up the ranks to the pro level and now 10 years later here I am in Pro Stock. It’s an awesome feeling and I feel so blessed.

“I definitely grew a lot. I learned a lot, I became better and so did our team. I have them to thank for that. It was a long, hard year. I had to sit out two races and we were still able to accomplish this dream, and it says a lot of what we’re capable of. The sky is the limit. We’ve got a lot of great things happening for 2015, and I just couldn’t be more proud of my guys.”

Chevrolet also earned its 20th NHRA Manufacturers’ Cup, dating to 1966. Enders-Stevens and Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Camaro, contributed 10 of the 19 wins by Chevy drivers. Points are awarded to current-year entries in Funny Car, Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock. Team Chevy drivers took one win in Stock and captured 18 victories in Pro Stock.

Matt Hagan was crowned Funny Car champ on Sunday.

Funny Car, Hagan claimed his second title with a semifinal round win over Tommy Johnson Jr. Hagan then put an exclamation point on his championship by racing to his fourth victory of the season and 14th of his career over second-place finisher Brut Force in the final. Hagan powered to a 1,000-foot final round performance of 4.076-seconds at 310.77 mph in his Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to hold off Force’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, which finished in 4.086-seconds at 276.58 mph.

“I think that the championship was really what we were after, and the race win was kind of icing on the cake,” said Hagan, who won his first championship for Don Schumacher Racing in 2011. “But it just solidifies that we had a great race car. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and everybody says he’s (Force) the best, so we beat him _ and that’s what’s cool about this deal. It was nice to finish it out here strong. We beat him here last year at this time, and we did it again this year. Hat’s off to him. They’ve got a great car, but we had a little better one today.”

Hagan, who turns 32 on Tuesday, scored four victories this season including three in the Countdown playoffs to wrap up the championship after finishing the regular season in eighth place. Hagan, who moonlights as a cattle rancher in his Christiansburg, Va., home, has finished first or second in the points in four of the last five seasons.

“There’s a lot of guys who have been out here their entire careers and haven’t won one of these so you never take any of it for granted,” said Hagan, who finished 43 points/two-plus rounds of racing ahead of Force. “We gave these fans what they were waiting for and paid for, and hopefully, we can go out and win another one. But it’s just great to be in this experience and be a part of this.”

Lucas took his second Top Fuel victory of the season and 11th of his career by posting two of the top three-quickest runs in category history to hold off newly-crowned Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher in the final. Schumacher, son of team-owner Don Schumacher, earned a record eighth Top Fuel world championship at the wheel of his U.S. Army dragster at the end of qualifying on Saturday. “The Sarge” finished 131 points/six-plus rounds of racing ahead of runnerup J.R. Todd of Kalitta Motorsports.

Lucas, who ran a part-time schedule this season, raced to round wins over Billy Torrence, Shawn Langdon and former world champion Antron Brown before defeating Schumacher in the final. Lucas posted a 3.707-second 1,000-foot run to win the semi match with Brown and saved his best for last, posting a track record 3.704-second elapsed time at 325.14 mph to Schumacher’s 3.742-seconds at 324.98 mph for the win.

“I feel like I’m doing a better job behind the wheel on a part-time basis than I ever did racing fulltime,” said Lucas, driver of the Lucas Oil/GEICO dragster sponsored by father Forrest and tuned by Aaron Brooks. “The car was fast, and it was on a string. I almost didn’t have to steer it or do anything. It felt like I was strapped to a missile. I had a lot of fun today.” Lucas is a 30-year-old resident of Indianapolis.

Hines, a 31-year-old native of Villa Park, Calif., captured his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship and first since 2006 via a first-round win over Katie Sullivan. Hines raced to six victories during the season to earn his first championship in the Countdown Era aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Hines, who earned his previous titles consecutively from 2004-06, finished 69 points/three-plus rounds of racing ahead of H-D teammate and three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to write ‘4x’ next to my name,” said Hines, whose Harley is tuned by former three-time world champion and brother Matt. “It was nice to finally get it done, but also to get it done with a win. I didn’t really want to have to be the guy who waited for someone else to lose to clinch it. It’s great to get that big trophy and that big check, but the biggest trophies I have are my wife, Tanya, and my kids, Declan and Rion.”

Arana Jr. went on to claim the race victory on his Lucas Oil Buell, taking his second win of the season and ninth of his career by outrunning Krawiec in the final round.

“I popped the clutch and never saw Eddie,” said Arana Jr., a 25-year-old resident of Milltown, Ind., and son of 2009 world champion Hector Sr. “My bike went straight down the track and it was an amazing feeling. This is going to be a good offseason. I’m glad we got the win for the team. This is a good confidence booster. It’s good for our morale for the next four months.”

The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is scheduled to begin Feb. 5-8 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Order of finish (1-16) at the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway, final race of the 24-event NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Morgan Lucas; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Antron Brown; 4. J.R. Todd; 5. Steve Torrence; 6. Richie Crampton; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. Dom Lagana; 9. Larry Dixon; 10. Billy Torrence; 11. Troy Buff; 12. Doug Kalitta; 13. Khalid alBalooshi; 14. Bob Vandergriff Jr.; 15. Spencer Massey; 16. Clay Millican.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan; 2. John Force; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 4. Alexis DeJoria; 5. Del Worsham; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Robert Hight; 8. Ron Capps; 9. Jack Beckman; 10. Bob Tasca III; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Chad Head; 13. Gary Densham; 14. Courtney Force; 15. Cruz Pedregon; 16. Jeff Arend.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders-Stevens; 2. Jason Line; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 4. Jonathan Gray; 5. Shane Gray; 6. Rodger Brogdon; 7. Dave Connolly; 8. Matt Hartford; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. V. Gaines; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Larry Morgan; 13. Greg Stanfield; 14. Jeff Isbell; 15. Greg Anderson; 16. Allen Johnson.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Hector Arana Jr.; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Andrew Hines; 4. Chaz Kennedy; 5. Adam Arana; 6. Steve Johnson; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Hector Arana; 9. Jerry Savoie; 10. Matt Smith; 11. Jim Underdahl; 12. Shawn Gann; 13. Freddie Camarena; 14. Katie Sullivan; 15. Angie Smith; 16. Elvira Karlsson.

Sunday’s final results from the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:

Top Fuel _ Morgan Lucas, 3.704-seconds, 325.14 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.742-seconds, 324.98 mph.

Funny Car _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.076, 310.77 def. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.086, 276.58.

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.480, 213.43 def. Jason Line, Camaro, foul.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.832, 195.08 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.977, 176.37.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Duane Shields, 5.412, 264.13 def. Cameron Ferre, 5.625, 265.74.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Steve Harker, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.489, 266.21 def. John Lombardo Jr., Ford Mustang, 5.519, 263.36.

Competition Eliminator _ Aaron Strong, Chevy S-10, 8.116, 165.44 def. Clint Neff, Bantam Roadster, 10.668, 78.17.

Super Stock _ Jeff Taylor, Chevy Cobalt, 9.634, 124.03 def. Marion Stephenson, Pontiac Sunbird, foul.

Stock Eliminator _ Bobby DeArmond, Chevy Camaro, 10.128, 128.18 def. Paula Cotten, Plymouth Duster, foul.

Super Comp _ Gabriel Torres, Dragster, 8.907, 168.16 def. Alan Kenny, Dragster, 8.905, 170.08.

Super Gas _ Trevor Larson, Chevy Corvette, 9.917, 158.04 def. Tommy Phillips, Chevy Camaro, 9.894, 160.63.

Summit Super Pro _ Steve Sisko, Dragster, 9.648, 113.04 def. Cliff Carr, Dragster, foul.

Summit Pro _ Gerald Halle, Chevy Chevelle, 9.506, 140.85 def. Dustin Moore, Chevy Nova, foul.

Summit Bike _ Roy Hagadorn, Suzuki, 8.862, 142.60 def. Brenda Kay, Suzuki, 8.606, 150.56.

Summit Sportsman _ Bill Crutcher, Chevy Nova, 12.490, 107.35 def. Scott Smith, Chevy Malibu, foul.

Final round-by-round results from the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:


ROUND ONE _Shawn Langdon, 3.758, 326.00 def. Spencer Massey, 5.184, 138.43; Morgan Lucas, 3.745, 326.40 def. Billy Torrence, 3.766, 326.00; Steve Torrence, 3.787, 325.53 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.833, 314.02; Richie Crampton, 3.720, 320.89 def. Troy Buff, 3.812, 318.84; Antron Brown, 3.746, 321.81 def. Clay Millican, 5.927, 97.74; J.R. Todd, 3.765, 325.77 def. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 4.924, 141.16; Dom Lagana, 3.832, 312.93 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.719, 171.71; Tony Schumacher, 3.749, 327.11 def. Larry Dixon, 3.765, 324.67;

QUARTERFINALS _Todd, 3.765, 323.04 def. S. Torrence, 3.763, 327.35; Brown, 3.749, 323.43 def. Lagana, broke; Lucas, 3.903, 299.53 def. Langdon, 4.986, 166.19; Schumacher, 3.752, 327.35 def. Crampton, 3.763, 327.82;

SEMIFINALS _ Schumacher, 3.770, 328.30 def. Todd, 3.824, 262.23; Lucas, 3.707, 325.45 def. Brown, 3.742, 320.74;

FINAL _ Lucas, 3.704, 325.14 def. Schumacher, 3.742, 324.98.


ROUND ONE _ Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.035, 310.48 def. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.051, 317.27; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.200, 295.85 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 10.017, 83.08; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.028, 316.38 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 11.137, 72.48; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.060, 316.23 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.774, 176.07; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.025, 314.61 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 5.381, 135.95; John Force, Mustang, 4.083, 319.29 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.337, 245.45; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.015, 320.05 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.083, 167.63; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.049, 313.29 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 6.611, 98.40;

QUARTERFINALS _ J. Force, 4.031, 318.62 def. Wilkerson, 4.101, 313.00; Johnson Jr., 4.077, 311.27 def. Worsham, 4.027, 314.83; Hagan, 4.081, 314.83 def. R. Capps, 6.801, 100.94; DeJoria, 4.012, 313.80 def. Hight, 5.317, 149.93;

SEMIFINALS _ Hagan, 4.065, 315.86 def. Johnson Jr., 6.184, 107.28; J. Force, 4.044, 320.58 def. DeJoria, 6.953, 94.32;

FINAL _ Hagan, 4.076, 310.77 def. J. Force, 4.086, 276.58.


ROUND ONE _ Dave Connolly, Chevy Camaro, 6.528, 212.33 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.913, 163.77; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.545, 211.66 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.536, 211.59; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.528, 212.19 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 8.475, 114.04; Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.520, 211.39 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.507, 213.30; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.522, 212.36 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.524, 212.69; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.496, 213.06 def. Jeff Isbell, Camaro, foul; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.516, 212.13 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.578, 210.54; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.494, 213.47 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.551, 210.93;

QUARTERFINALS _ Coughlin, 6.527, 212.73 def. Hartford, 6.548, 211.53; J. Gray, 6.529, 212.13 def. S. Gray, 6.502, 212.73; Line, 6.519, 212.46 def. Connolly, 6.518, 212.43; Enders-Stevens, 6.494, 213.67 def. Brogdon, 6.511, 212.46;

SEMIFINALS _ Line, 6.511, 212.93 def. Coughlin, foul; Enders-Stevens, 6.494, 213.67 def. J. Gray, 6.524, 212.29;

FINAL _ Enders-Stevens, 6.480, 213.43 def. Line, foul.


ROUND ONE _ Adam Arana, Buell, 6.889, 195.51 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.853, 194.80; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.874, 193.32 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.059, 190.65; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.886, 195.90 def. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, foul; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.848, 194.24 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.942, 192.80; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.839, 194.77 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.054, 193.38; Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.835, 198.17 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.971, 195.99; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.904, 191.35 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.888, 194.66; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.893, 192.11 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.880, 195.65;

QUARTERFINALS _ Kennedy, 6.924, 189.31 def. Pollacheck, 6.941, 190.78; Krawiec, 6.835, 194.13 def. A. Arana, 6.881, 195.42; Hines, 6.864, 194.02 def. H. Arana, 6.959, 191.05; Arana Jr., 6.888, 195.22 def. Johnson, 6.937, 193.96;

SEMIFINALS _ Arana Jr., 6.808, 197.16 def. Kennedy, 6.981, 187.55; Krawiec, 6.850, 194.83 def. Hines, 6.890, 194.80;

FINAL _ Arana Jr., 6.832, 195.08 def. Krawiec, 6.977, 176.37.

Final point standings (top-10) following the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 2,594; 2. J.R. Todd, 2,463; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,430; 4. Shawn Langdon, 2,419; 5. Doug Kalitta, 2,407; 6. Steve Torrence, 2,406; 7. Antron Brown, 2,405; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,326; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,299; 10. Brittany Force, 2,249.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan, 2,628; 2. John Force, 2,585; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,442; 4. Courtney Force, 2,421; 5. Robert Hight, 2,414; 6. Del Worsham, 2,393; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2,382; 8. Ron Capps, 2,375; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,310; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,244.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,639; 2. Jason Line, 2,600; 3. Dave Connolly, 2,481; 4. Shane Gray, 2,463; 5. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,445; 6. Allen Johnson, 2,403; 7. Jonathan Gray, 2,385; 8. Vincent Nobile, 2,364; 9. V. Gaines, 2,269; 10. Chris McGaha, 2,168.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Andrew Hines, 2,689; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,620; 3. Hector Arana Jr., 2,472; 4. Matt Smith, 2,416; 5. Steve Johnson, 2,369; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,350; 7. Hector Arana, 2,319; 8. John Hall, 2,253; 9. Angie Smith, 2,223; 10. Michael Ray, 2,144.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 17 2014
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