Erica Enders-Stevens will make her first visit to New England Dragway this weekend for the 2nd annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals. But anyone thinking she may struggle in her first outing at a new facility may simply not be paying attention to how brilliant Enders-Stevens has been during the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The Pro Stock points leader earned her third victory of the season last weekend in Bristol and has adjusted magnificently in any conditions, whether posting world-record times in Englishtown or powering through warm temperatures in Bristol. Debuting and running well against a talented Pro Stock field in Epping is the latest challenge, but it’s simply another one Enders-Stevens has embraced in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro.
"We don't have any data there, but there's not a racetrack anywhere that my crew chiefs can't handle,” Enders-Stevens said. “They do a really good job with this race car, and I'm not worried about it at all. We'll be fine. We'll take it round by round and day by day."
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were inaugural winners of an event that exceeded all expectations and will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.
The Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals marks the 11th of 24 events during the 2014 season, and Enders-Stevens will look to continue her magical season in New Hampshire. Her appearance will certainly be one of the most anticipated of the weekend for fans in the area. In turn, she is just as thrilled to make her debut at New England Dragway.
"I'm looking forward to going to Epping,” Enders-Stevens said. “I've heard it was cool, and the fans were great. We'll try to carry the momentum from Bristol to there and see how it goes."
There’s plenty of momentum in a season in which seemingly everything has gone right for the history-making Pro Stock driver. Her Elite Motorsports team, headed by crew chiefs Rick Jones and Rickie Jones, has been on point, and Enders-Stevens has followed suit in the cockpit with one stellar performance after another.
She has won three races (in Las Vegas, Houston, and Bristol), advanced to four finals, and hasn’t lost a first-round matchup all season. Her 23 round-wins trail only the 25 of Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta and Funny Car’s Robert Hight for the most in NHRA, and Enders-Stevens also reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph) in Englishtown. That power has been evident throughout the season: Enders-Stevens hasn’t qualified outside of third since the season-opening event in Pomona.
She has also held the points lead since the victory in Las Vegas in late March, learning to adjust to the pressure that comes with that. She's the first female driver to lead the points standings in the history of the Pro Stock category.
"It's pretty cool even though it's uncharted territory for me," Enders-Stevens said. "I've never been in this position, so it's going to be something that I'm going to have to learn how to handle, but with a team like I've got, I know we're going to be just fine. We were consistent and performed like a team [in Bristol], and I couldn't be more proud of them.”
Enders-Stevens will face off with a talented Pro Stock field in Epping, including reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his teammate Johnson, who are second and third in points, respectively. Other factory hot rod class hopefuls seeking a first win in Epping include Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, V. Gaines, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray, and Chris McGaha.
But the Houston native seems to be gaining steam as the season has progressed, starting the string of four consecutive race weekends with a strong showing in Bristol.
“We've really prepared well for this stretch," Enders-Stevens said. "The team has really worked hard and put in a lot of time at the shop. I like racing multiple races like this because you're in the seat every weekend, and you get more and more comfortable. I feel like I'm more on top of my job. Plus, we've got a fast hot rod right now, so my confidence as a driver is high, and the morale of the team is terrific."
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds and enjoy cherished face time with and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Families who are planning to attend the event will want to take advantage of the free general-admission tickets for kids ages 12 and younger. Fans will also want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 20, with sessions at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 21, at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, June 22.
To experience the roaring excitement of the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, get your tickets by calling 800-884-NHRA (6472) or visiting NHRATix.com.