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Enders Heads To Vegas Seeking Answers For New Car Blues

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 1 2016
NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has struggled early this season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

NHRA Pro Stock champion Erica Enders has struggled early this season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

In automobile racing, other drivers are not one’s only competition. To win races, teams and drivers must also conquer the always-changing technical landscape.

In the NHRA Pro Stock category, that technical landscape has changed dramatically this season and defending two-time champion Erica Enders and her Elite Motorsports have had a tough time adapting.

Enders, who has dominated the class the last two years, has failed to advance out of the first round of eliminations at the first three national events this year.

New to Pro Stock for 2016 are fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.

While her Dodge Dart GTs have taken a beating to this point in the season, Enders’ confidence is holding up nicely.

“It would be very easy to get down,” Enders, who has 21 Pro Stock victories in her career, said. “Especially when you’re used to winning, but that’s part of the process we’ve got to go through to get our new program up and running. It’s only a matter of time before we’re back where we were before. Like I tell the fans all the time, ‘Just hang on; we’re coming.’ ”

This weekend, Enders and Elite hit The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – a track where they have been tough over the years. Enders has won the spring and fall race at the track each of the last two years and has claimed the last two K&N Horsepower Challenge titles, an all-star bonus event that takes place during the spring race.

She’s hoping Vegas marks a turning point for her and her team’s 2016 season.

“We’ve had an incredible two years there,” she said, “and we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us to do well this weekend. Twenty-two consecutive round wins in a row is huge, so Vegas has obviously been good to me. I’m hoping Lady Luck will get on our side this weekend. We certainly haven’t had the best start to the year.”

If things don’t turnaround for Enders and Richard Freeman-owned Elite this weekend, it won’t be because of a lack of work in the team’s shop.

She said the speed-making tools and machinery have been in used around the clock at Elite

“They’re the best group of people in the whole world, so I know the tables are going to turn,” Enders said. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s a brand-new program, and they work every day at it. I’m hopeful Vegas will be that turning point in our season like it was last year.

“I’ve certainly got the best group of people, and the adversity that we’re going through only makes us stronger, only makes us work harder, only wants us to fight for it more. I wouldn’t want to go to battle with anyone else.”

To return to the top of the podium in Vegas, Enders and Elite will have to figure out a way to get pat the current dominant team in Pro Stock, Summit Racing.

Summit and drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line have clearly figured out the new machinery. The team has won two of the three events in their Camaros. Line leads the points battle while Anderson is second and third teammate Bo Butner is third.

The K&N Horsepower Challenge in which eight Pro Stock drivers will duel for a $50,000 top prize is set for Saturday.

Anderson is a two-time winner this season and four-time Challenge champion and is looking forward to returning to compete in the all-star event after a two-year absence.

“We’ve been talking about this race for the last month or two,” said Anderson, who is 10-1 in eliminations through the three events. “Two years ago I sat out because I had my heart repaired and last year I just didn’t have enough points to get in the race. It’s been tough to sit on the sidelines and watch; I love that race. To go race and not have to worry about points and race for a big check at the end of the day is a great feeling. The fact that it’s in KB Racing’s home town makes it more special.”

Teammate Line has not been as hot in Vegas as Anderson. But, he said he hopes that changes this weekend.

“Vegas has always been a tough place for me and I’ve never had that kind of success there that I’d like to,” said Line, who has built his points lead on a victory at Phoenix and two advancing to the final at Pomona and Gainesville. “This year I have the best chance I’ve ever had it at winning the K&N Horsepower Challenge. Doing it at (team owner) Ken Black’s home track is an even bigger bonus. I’m tired of watching everyone else win it.”

Drag Racing in Las Vegas

WHAT: 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.

WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Las Vegas off Interstate 15.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 1-3

SCHEDULE:        

FRIDAY, April 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying

MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, April 2– LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations

MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:05 p.m.

K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 1, 4 and 5 p.m.

SUNDAY, April 3 – Pre-race ceremonies, 11:15 a.m.

MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon

TELEVISION:      

FRIDAY, April 1, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m.  (ET)

SATURDAY, April 2, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 9 p.m.  (ET)

SUNDAY, April 3, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 5 p.m. (ET)

2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; John Force, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Enders, K&N Horsepower Challenge.

MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Robert Hight, 3, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; John Force, 2, FC; Cruz Pedregon, 2, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Erica Enders, 2, PS; Allen Johnson, 2, PS.

MOST K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, 4; Kurt Johnson, 4; Jeg Coughlin, 3; Bob Glidden, 3; Warren Johnson, 3; Larry Morgan, 3; Bruce Allen, 2; Erica Enders, 2; Allen Johnson, 2; Jim Yates, 2;

TRACK RECORDS:            

Top Fuel – 3.722 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’15 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’15.

Funny Car – 3.931 sec. by Tommy Johnson Jr., Oct. ’15 and 325.92 mph by Del Worsham, Oct. ’15.

Pro Stock – 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. ’15.

NATIONAL RECORDS:    

Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.

Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ‘16, Gainesville, Fla. and 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.

Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C. and 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 644-4444. Tickets also available online at www.lvms.com/tickets.

NHRA Mello Yello Point Standings

 

Top Fuel: 1.  Brittany Force, 251; 2.  Clay Millican, 210; 3. Doug Kalitta, 205; 4. Steve Torrence, 199; 5. Terry McMillen, 178; 6. Leah Pritchett, 166; 7. J.R. Todd, 157; 8. Tony Schumacher, 155; 9. Richie Crampton, 153; 10.  Antron Brown, 149.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 280; 2.  Ron Capps, 279; 3. John Force, 221; 4.  Jack Beckman, 205; 5.  Courtney Force, 201; 6.  Del Worsham, 189; 7.  Tim Wilkerson, 183; 8.  Chad Head, 162; 9.  Alexis DeJoria, 119; 10.  Matt Hagan, 118.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 337; 2.  Greg Anderson, 331; 3.  Bo Butner, 233; 4.  Drew Skillman, 205; 5.  Chris McGaha, 161; 6.  (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 160; Allen Johnson, 160; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 138; 9.  Alex Laughlin, 121; 10.  Erica Enders, 97.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 129; 2.  Hector Arana, 99; 3.  Andrew Hines, 79; 4.  LE Tonglet, 74; 5.  Chip Ellis, 62; 6.  (tie) Michael Ray, 52; Jerry Savoie, 52; Jim Underdahl, 52; 9.  Angelle Sampey, 35; 10.  (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 33. Melissa Surber, 33.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, April 1 2016
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