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Enders Hoping For Bull’s Eye In 2016 Dart

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 15 2016
Erica Enders will go for a third Pro Stock championship in a Dodge Dart.

Erica Enders will go for a third Pro Stock championship in a Dodge Dart.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Two-time/reigning Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders’ 2016 Dodge Dart has been unveiled, a month before she begins pursuit of a third consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title.

bugnhranotesLike her championship-winning Chevrolet Camaros from 2014 and 2015, Enders’ Dart was built by RJ Race Cars in Galesburg, Ill., the acclaimed shop led by Erica’s crew chiefs, Rick and Rickie Jones.

Enders’ Elite Motorsports team is beginning a partnership with Mopar and Dodge this season. The Dart is built to NHRA’s new Pro Stock specifications, including fuel-injected engines replacing traditional carbureted V8s, a 10,500 rpm limit, removal of hood scoops and shortened wheelie bars.

“Rick and Rickie take a lot of pride in the cars they produce,” Enders said in a statement. “They both have said these two cars are the best two pieces that have ever come out of their shop. That’s pretty cool.”

RJ Race Cars also is building a new Dodge for Enders’ teammate, five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.

“It will definitely be a different kind of Pro Stock, not the Pro Stock that we’re used to,” Enders said in an interview with National Dragster. “We weren’t able to get the new Mopar blocks that we needed until just recently, and I’ll admit that has put us behind. But I will tell you that I am eternally optimistic because we have the best and smartest guys in the business.

“It’s a tall order to stay where we’re at, winning races and winning championships. Switching from the archaic way of racing we did with carburetors and screw drivers to tuning with laptops will be different, as will be the driving. I’m not saying we won’t struggle, because we did (in 2015), but we rose to the call and got it figured out and I expect that we’ll be able to do the same in 2016.”

A 32-year-old native of Texas, Enders swept to her second consecutive Pro Stock championship in 2015 by winning nine races, including three-of-six during the six-event Countdown to the Championship. En route, Enders broke Pro Stock Motorcycle star Angelle Sampey’s single-season record for victories by a female (seven in 2001). Enders also passed Top Fuel legend Shirley Muldowney (18 wins) for second place in career wins by a woman; Erica’s 21 career victories now only trails Sampey’s 41.

Enders posted a 58-15 won/lost record, including 17-3 in the Countdown playoffs. Enders’ 58 round wins were 13 more than point runnerup Greg Anderson, a four-time world champion and driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Enders’ average reaction time of 0.023-seconds was second only to Jonathan Gray’s 0.022-seconds.

Enders and her Elite Motorsports team are expected to test the new Dodge in Chandler, Ariz., the week before the season-opening event, the 56th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., Feb. 12-14.

Don Schumacher Racing and NAPA Auto Parts have announced a multiyear extension to their marketing partnership that began in 2008 with Ron Capps driving DSR’s Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. The team again will be led by crew chief Rahn Tobler in 2016.

“Our partnership with NAPA has been so rewarding from the team’s performance on the racetrack and involvement between Ron and DSR with the NAPA Auto Parts Stores and NAPA AutoCare Centers throughout the country,” DSR owner Don Schumacher said in a statement.

Capps will start his 12th season with DSR and ninth with NAPA when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opens its 65th campaign Feb. 12-14 at Pomona, Calif. Capps has won 44 NHRA Wally trophies, second- most all-time in the Funny Car category.

“It shows the talent of all the people I’ve worked with at DSR over the years with support from our partners like NAPA,” Capps said. “I’m so fortunate to have been able to travel around the country for NAPA and meet thousands of members of the NAPA family. They’re the greatest fans in racing.”

The NAPA Dodge closed-out the year by earning its first No. 1 qualifying position in 24 Mello Yello events with a 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.886-seconds during the season-finale at Pomona, Calif. The pass was a career-best for Capps and briefly held the NHRA national ET record. Tobler and the team improved on that during championship eliminations the following day with a time of 3.885-seconds at 326.87 mph, the fourth and fifth-quickest Funny Car runs in NHRA history.

“I thought our run to be the No. 1 was strong, but Tobler came back and put me on another ride I won’t forget,” Capps said.”I can’t say enough about how hard Tobler and our NAPA guys have worked to get this car consistent and putting so many 3-second runs on the board in the last part of the Countdown.”

Capps and Tobler finished 2015 ranked fourth in points, their best overall result since placing as runnerup for the championship a record fourth time in 2012. Capps won a pair of national events and was runnerup in three others. He racked up a 34-22 won/lost record, including 11-6 in the Countdown.

One-third of the way through 2015, Capps and NAPA were No. 1 in points after winning titles at two of the first six races _ at Gainesville, Fla., and Baytown, Texas _ and advancing to the championship round in four of the first seven.

Capps’ win at Baytown, near Houston, was his 44th in NHRA Funny Car and 45th pro title overall. That gave him sole possession of second place on the all-time NHRA wins list for Funny Cars. “No. 2 all-time is crazy,” Capps said. “I’m not that good so it goes to the guys who have been on our teams over the years and our sponsors like NAPA.”

A new class of NHRA competition emerged in 1966, as hot rodding enthusiasts tried to squeeze more performance out of their Gassers, Super Stocks and Muscle Cars. With a larger motor, stretched frame and bigger rear tires, these unique machines took the drag racing world by storm, except for the fact they didn’t look like any previous Factory Hot Rod.

In fact, these cars looked just a bit “funny.” The concept and name stuck, and 50 years later the Funny Car category remains one of the most popular to ever have powered down a drag strip. NHRA will celebrate 50 years of the Funny Car during the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with a promotion that will feature fan-favorite cars, explain the evolution of the category, remember the greatest rivalries and put the spotlight on the legends who drove the cars in some of the most memorable side-by-side races in NHRA history.

“The Funny Car class continues to be a flagship for the NHRA and in 2016 we are thrilled to be able to celebrate 50 years of the cars, stars and amazing performances that have made that category one of the most popular in NHRA history,” Peter Clifford, NHRA president, said in a statement.

The Funny Car’s short-wheelbase and nitro-fueled front-engine layout remains a formula for unpredictable runs. Fans still recall some of the signature Funny Cars in NHRA history, including the Chi-Town Hustler, the Jungle Jim Chevys, Don Schumacher’s Stardust Barracudas, John Force’s Brute Force Chevys, Raymond Beadle’s famed Blue Max Mustangs and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s U.S. Army machines, to name a few.

Numerous nostalgic Funny Cars will be featured at events and remembered through exhibitions, car displays, NHRA-exclusive Cacklefests, special burnout and dry-hop performances and autograph sessions. New TV partner FOX also will produce short Funny Car vignettes and provide interviews with many of the greatest Funny Car drivers in history.

All 10 NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series races will air on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and FOX Sports 2 (FS2) in 2016. FS2 will televise each half-hour program in primetime on the Thursday following each national event that features the series. In addition, FS1 will re-air the 30-minute shows within three days of the original FS2 Thursday broadcast.

Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammers, the series is highlighted by historic Muscle Cars like 1967 Ford Mustangs, ’68 Pontiac Firebirds and ’69 Chevy Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American Muscle Cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended-door Pro Mods travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.

The first Pro Mod telecast will be the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals from Gainesville, Fla. (March 24, 10-10:30 p.m. ET) on FS2 with a rebroadcast on FS1 (March 26, 3-3:30 p.m.)

Brad Gerber, a skilled sales executive with wide experience in the world of automotive publishing and digital media, has been named NHRA vice president of sales and chief development officer. Gerber will lead NHRA’s sales and business development team and oversee all media sales, corporate sponsorships and revenue development initiatives. He will report to NHRA president Peter Clifford and be a part of NHRA’s leadership team.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 15 2016
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