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Enders On Top In Colorado

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 23 2016
NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders showed that she may be back on track Friday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

NHRA Pro Stock driver Erica Enders showed that she may be back on track Friday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)


Erica (provisionally) is back.

Two-time/reigning world champion Erica Enders returned to the top of the NHRA Pro Stock chart Friday, grabbing the provisional No. 1 spot during time trials for the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.

Enders dominated the “Factory Hot Rod” class during the past two seasons, winning 15 races and championships in 2014 and 2015 in Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaros. But a series of offseason rules changes _ and a major brand switch to Dodge _ have stalled her 2016 season as the Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge team works to develop its new Dart and fuel-injected engines.

“What better race to have a turnaround weekend than at our sponsor’s event, the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals,” Enders said. “It might come as a shock to a lot of people because we’ve been running toward the back of the pack all year, but it just goes to show that hard work and determination pay off. Week-in and week-out, we’ve come out here and qualified in the bottom half of the field but my guys never got discouraged. They went home and went to work. That’s what I attribute that to.”

Enders was joined by Courtney Force (Funny Car), Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in a parade of track-record performances at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near Denver. The trek to Colorado marks the traditional start of the three-race “Western Swing.”

Enders’ best qualifying spot this season has been fifth, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After winning nine races and 58 rounds in 2015, she has only five round-wins this year and sits outside the top 10 in the Pro Stock point standings.

“We came here knowing what we found on the dyno this week was pretty significant,” Enders said of her team’s continuing engine development program. “We wanted the scoreboards to dictate what we found.”

Enders, who stood at No. 10 after the first qualifying session, went to the top with a quarter-mile run of 6.963-seconds at 197.71 mph in Q2. “First run, we had to do some fine-tuning with the fuel,” Enders said. “We were able to make a really great run in the second session, and there’s definitely room for improvement on the graphs. That’s also encouraging. I’m just so proud of the hard work they’ve put in.”

Should her numbers hold up after Saturday’s two sessions, Enders will have scored the 19th pole of her career. “I’m not one to really get excited until the fat lady sings,” Enders said. “It was really nice to hear us stay on top after the really quick guys finished running. Tomorrow, you never know. Tonight was a really late run, and if the weather looks good tomorrow, hopefully we run on schedule and won’t have such great conditions tomorrow evening and we’ll be able stay on top. But our goal is to get our race-day setup ready to go, stay consistent and keep repeating.”

Drew Skillman sits second at 6.963-seconds and 197.74 mph in his Ray Skillman Auto Camaro. He was followed by Alex Laughlin at 6.976-seconds and 198.93 mph in the Gas Monkey Garage Camaro. Point-leader Jason Line, a two-time world champion, is 11th at 7.028-seconds and 196.82 mph in the Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Six-time Bandimere winner Allen Johnson is seventh at 6.988-seconds and 197.25 mph in his Marathon Petroleum Dart.

FOX Sports 1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage Saturday at 11 p.m. (EDT). On Sunday, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 3 p.m. (EDT).

Teams in all categories took advantage of cool conditions as racing was delayed until late in the evening after a series of afternoon thunderstorms moved through the area.

Force powered her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS to a 1,000-foot track-record time of 3.917-seconds at 318.39 mph to lead a quick group of Funny Cars. During the first session, Courtney’s father, 16-time world champion John Force, posted a milestone run when he sped to the first three-second Funny Car pass in track history _ a 3.959-second blast in his new-look camouflage Realtree Peak Camaro.

“We were hoping to run in the threes (in the second session) after we saw my dad lay down the 3.95 in the first round,” the younger Force said. “It was definitely worth the wait (due to the rain delays). Really excited and proud of my team for giving me a fast race car. It was awesome to have such a huge crowd here late at night to see a track record run like that.”

Force will look to secure her first pole of the season, first at Bandimere and 10th of her career on Saturday. “My dad was able to run a three on both runs so I know there’ll be a lot of teams gunning for it tomorrow,” Courtney Force said.

Torrence, the defending event winner in Top Fuel, set a track-record 1,000-foot time of 3.776-seconds at 325.14 in his Capco Contractors dragster. “It seems like my whole team has a good handle on ‘The Mountain,’^” Torrence said. “It’s good to come here and have the confidence going into the weekend. This place is so much different than everywhere else we race. The track is unbelievable; it always is here.”

Clay Millican sits second with a 3.815-second pass at 319.14 mph in his Parts Plus dragster while two-time season winner and past world champ Shawn Langdon is third in the Red Fuel dragster at 3.826-seconds and 310.48 mph. Series leader Antron Brown, a two-time Bandimere winner and two-time/reigning world champion, is ninth in the Matco Tools dragster at 3.911-seconds and 281.30 mph.

Five-time/reigning world champ Hines, who grew up in nearby Trinidad, Colo., paced Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track-record quarter-mile time of 7.161-seconds at 185.36 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.

“That run was pretty good,” Hines said. “The first run had the potential to go significantly quicker but I missed a gear and that put me behind. We made an adjustment to the engine for Round 2 and that helped. It made a nice clean run and I was able to keep it straight. When you can do that here on ‘The Mountain’ it pays dividends. I hope it’ll hold for tomorrow. My teammate (Eddie Krawiec) has been getting a lot of green hats (for No. 1 qualifying positions) lately, so I would really like to get one for my team.”

Kraweic, a three-time world champion, was second aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson with a 7.177-second pass at 186.72 mph. Angelle Sampey, also a three-time world champion, is third on her Precision Service Equipment/Star Racing Buell at 7.198-seconds and 183.12 mph.


Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel _ 1. Steve Torrence, 3.776-seconds, 325.14 mph; 2. Clay Millican, 3.815, 319.14; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.826, 310.48; 4. Brittany Force, 3.834, 313.66; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 313.07; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.881, 312.35; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.893, 313.73; 8. J.R. Todd, 3.898, 311.56; 9. Antron Brown, 3.911, 281.30; 10. Richie Crampton, 4.041, 231.75; 11. Scott Palmer, 7.456, 83.81.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.917, 318.39; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.935, 320.43; 3. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.963, 322.34; 4. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.022, 306.53; 5. Chad Head, Camry, 4.024, 312.93; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.135, 303.91; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.136, 291.63; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.169, 281.83; 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.175, 236.05; 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.444, 198.90; 11. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.684, 177.46; 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 6.514, 107.35.

Not Qualified_ 13. Todd Simpson, 7.559, 82.32.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, 6.963, 197.74; 2. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.964, 197.80; 3. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.976, 198.93; 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.979, 196.73; 5. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.982, 198.12; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.982, 197.45; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.988, 197.25; 8. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.989, 197.62; 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.990, 196.90; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 7.025, 195.85; 11. Jason Line, Camaro, 7.028, 196.82; 12. Richie Stevens, Dart, 7.032, 195.56.

Not Qualified _ 13. Deric Kramer, 7.039, 195.65; 14. Alan Prusiensky, 7.183, 192.55; 15. Chris McGaha, 7.583, 160.52.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.161, 186.25; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.177, 186.72; 3. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.198, 186.64; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.209, 186.25; 5. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.226, 186.23; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.244, 185.61; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.251, 184.65; 8. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 7.256, 184.67; 9. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.262, 182.95; 10. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.273, 184.30; 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.285, 184.88; 12. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.285, 184.83.

Not Qualified _13. Angie Smith, 7.290, 180.79; 14. Michael Phillips, 7.307, 183.62; 15. Steve Johnson, 7.310, 182.97; 16. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.311, 182.85; 17. Karen Stoffer, 7.348, 182.62; 18. Melissa Surber, 7.374, 183.29; 19. Jim Underdahl, 7.423, 178.42; 20. Mike Berry, 7.444, 179.78; 21. Tyler Fisher, 7.562, 163.57; 22. Lance Bonham, 7.587, 175.57; 23. Kristen Ashby, 7.687, 174.55.


| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 23 2016
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