Enders, Coughlin To Campaign Darts In ’16

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 9 2015
NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will have a new look and a new teammate in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders will have a new look and a new teammate in 2016. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., who have combined for seven NHRA Pro Stock world championships, will campaign a pair of Dodge Darts for Elite Motorsports during the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

bugnhranotesThe two-time/reigning Pro Stock champ, Enders’ switch to Dodge from Chevrolet Camaro was wrapped in a Team Jegs release announcing Coughlin’s latest fulltime return to the class as driver of the Magneti Marelli Mopar-powered Dodge. Enders won 15 national events in Camaros during her two-year title run. Enders and Coughlin, who have combined for 79 Pro Stock victories, will campaign RJ Race Cars-built Darts prepared by the Richard Freeman-owned team.

In addition, Drew Skillman _ the 2015 Road to the Future Award winner as NHRA’s Rookie of the Year _ and Vincent Nobile will drive Camaros for Elite next season. Skillman scored his first national event victory in 2015 for Elite, while Nobile joined the organization at midseason.

“To look at the lineup that Richard has put together at Elite Motorsports with chassis-builders, crew chiefs, engine-development guys and crew members, it’s a job well-done,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I really enjoyed my time with them when I got behind the wheel of their car in Sonoma, Seattle, and Indy (in 2015). As we’ve

Jeg Coughlin Jr. will be in Elite company next season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Jeg Coughlin Jr. will be in Elite company next season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

put this program together with Erica and I being teammates under the Mopar banner, it’s extremely exciting.

“It doesn’t stop there. When we look at the depth of the team with Drew Skillman and Vincent Nobile and then look across at crew chiefs Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll and Brian Self, it’s just the start of a lot of great things to come.”

Coughlin, fourth in Pro Stock history with 58 victories, has reunited with Dodge, the manufacturer with which he won the 2013 Pro Stock championship. “It will be great driving a Dodge again, especially with Elite Performance horsepower under the hood,” said Coughlin, a 45-year-old resident of Delaware, Ohio. In addition to 2013, Coughlin won titles in 2000, 2002 and 2007-08.

NHRA has introduced new rules that dramatically will alter the mechanics and aesthetics of the “Factory Hot Rods” in 2016. Among the highlights is a switch from carburetors to fuel injection and removal of the oversized hood scoops that have been a staple of the class for decades.

Enders followed her historic championship in 2014 with a second title last season. The native Texan led the ultra-competitive class with nine victories, 11 final-round appearances and six No. 1 qualifiers. Enders also posted an impressive streak of three consecutive victories, all on hole-shots _ a first in NHRA history. Enders won five of the final eight races, including three-of-six Countdown to the Championship events.

“I say it all the time, but my guys at Elite Motorsports are the best,” said Enders, 32. “We have great chemistry, great leadership and a great work ethic _ all things needed for a championship team. We get it done because of the people. I couldn’t ask to be on a better team.

“I definitely want to strike while the iron’s hot. We’ve got such a great program. I didn’t think I could want anything more than I wanted the 2014 championship. But this year when we came out, I made a decision that I was going to play with all the heart I got. I drove so much better this year than I drove last year. I drove good last year, but this year I drove even better. I really stepped-up to the plate and so did my guys. I feel like I have the smartest and best guys in the business on our side.

“I know our offseason is going to be full of a lot of hard work and testing. I feel like we can crawl our way back up to the top, and definitely it’s going to make us more hungry to prove that we can do it over and over again.”

Enders’ nine victories broke two-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey’s single-season NHRA mark of wins by a female (seven) set in 2001. Enders has 21 career victories, 39th all-time. She is second among women in victories, trailing only Sampey’s 41. Enders’ 19th career win passed three-time Top Fuel world champion Shirley Muldowney on the all-time win list for women.

“To put Jeg beside Erica and have them as teammates, both of those Dodges will be in contention for a championship,” Freeman said. “We feel like we can do that fairly quickly. Jeg and I have been friends a long time and have talked about doing this, but the timing was never right. It all came together and we’re super-excited to have him be part of our program. We feel like we’ve made this program one of the most coveted in all of motorsports. Mopar joining up with us gives the team another opportunity to prove this is a huge deal for us and for NHRA.”

Coughlin and Enders will carry sponsorship from the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) as part of a new sponsorship between the school and Elite Motorsports. UNOH is an entrepreneurial, not-for-profit university founded in 1920 and based in Lima, Ohio. UNOH offers six co-ed motorsports teams as part of its athletics program.

“I certainly understand the passion these students have for motorsports because I grew up the same way, knowing this is what I wanted to do for a career,” said Enders, who attended Texas A&M University in College Station and studied marketing. “Motorsports is a huge business and we need PR and marketing people, team managers, engineers, financial experts and designers just as much as we need drivers and mechanics. UNOH helps people on every level.”

Shawn Langdon will contest the full 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule in Top Fuel for Don Schumacher Racing, giving the team a world champion in the cockpit of each of its three dragsters.

Langdon joins eight-time champion Tony Schumacher and two-time/reigning

Shawn Langdon has a new employer.

Shawn Langdon has a new employer.

champ Antron Brown in the DSR lineup. The trio has combined to win the last four NHRA Top Fuel world championships _ Brown (2012 and 2015), Langdon (2013) and Schumacher (2014).

Langdon, 33, competed for DSR during the six-race 2015 Countdown to the Championship while on-loan from Alan Johnson Racing after that team suspended its operation at the end of the 16-race regular season due to a lack of sponsorship.

Langdon joined DSR’s Sandvik Coromant/Red Fuel Powered by Schumacher team with crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler and closed the season by winning the NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif., for his first win with DSR. It was the second win of the year for the Red Fuel team that began the season with Spencer Massey as driver and ended 2015 ranked sixth, one point out of fifth.

“After Pomona last month, Alan and I sat down and discussed 2016 and beyond,” said Langdon, a native of Mira Loma, Calif., who lives in Avon near Indianapolis. “Alan and I decided it was in both of our best interests to go our separate ways. That was tough. I had a great three years with Alan, Alan Johnson Racing and being part of the Johnson family. I’ll have special memories for the rest of my life.”

Langdon will become the seventh driver to compete in Top Fuel for the seven-team organization since its inception in 1998. “We are adding one of the best drivers in our sport and a quality young man to our lineup and nothing could make me happier,” DSR owner Don Schumacher said. “He’s a second generation driver from a great family and who fits in perfectly here.

“We’ve watched Shawn from his first days in Top Fuel and knew he would be a champion one day. I really got to know him at the end of this season when Alan Johnson allowed him to join us for the Countdown so both would have a chance to win another world championship. You couldn’t ask for a driver to interact better with his team and everyone at DSR. He is just a class act. He wanted to win a race so badly for the Red Fuel team and I was thrilled when he pulled that off at the Finals with Todd and Phil.”

Langdon, a 12-time event-winner, will be sponsored by DSR ProSeries, Schumacher Electric Corporation’s professional brand of battery chargers and jump starters, and Sandvik Coromant, a global supplier of cutting tools, tooling solutions and know-how to the metalworking industry.

Langdon is the only driver in NHRA history with world championships in Top Fuel (2013), Super Comp (2007 and 2008) in Sportsman competition and the Jr. Drag Racing League (1997). “I’m very excited about this new chapter in my life,” said Langdon, who will continue as a Toyota Racing driver.

Funny Car racer Courtney Force and Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham

Courtney Force and Graham Rahal have tied the knot.

Courtney Force and Graham Rahal have tied the knot.

Rahal were married on Nov. 21st at a beachfront ceremony in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The couple was surrounded by family and friends during the event. “I married my best friend and the lady of my dreams,” Rahal said on his Instagram account. “I couldn’t be more excited for what our life has in store, and together I truly feel we can accomplish anything. I love you @courtneyforce, now Mrs. Rahal, and I can’t wait to spend my life with you!”

Force, a daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion and team-owner John Force, is a seven-time Funny Car winner. Rahal, the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, finished a career-best fourth in the 2015 IndyCar Series standings.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 9 2015
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