BAYTOWN, Texas – There is a long list of great memories for Erica Enders at her home track, Royal Purple Raceway, including a pair of back-to-back victories in 2014 and 2015 that helped cement her back-to-back Pro Stock world championships.
Searching for her first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win since that dominant 2015 season, Enders hopes a return home for this weekend’s 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals provides the trick. But following the struggles of last season, Enders insists her team and her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro is still capable of plenty of great performances.
"We’re not lacking confidence at all,” Enders said. “You have to remember that our team is exactly the same as it was when we won those two championships. It’s not like these guys forgot how to win. It’s just very, very tough in this class. Everyone in the field can win, like legit win, any weekend. The talent level is so high and all the other teams want to win as much as we do. Winning does feel great. You get on a roll like we did in 2014 and 2015 and it just builds. There are times where you just know you’re going to win. You just have to execute.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 23. It is the fifth of 24 events during the 2017 season and would mark a perfect time for the Houston native Enders to get back in the win column.
Her 2017 season has been solid as her Elite Motorsports team appears to have recovered from a frustrating 2016. She opened the season with a semifinal appearance in Pomona, qualified third in Gainesville and currently sits seventh in points. Enders, who has 21 career wins, sees constant improvement and knows wins are coming.
“We’re definitely getting better," Enders said. "I know none of us have been home very much because we’ve been constantly testing since even before the season started. We’re used to winning races and winning championships so anything less than that is not up to the standards we set for ourselves. All this time we’re investing will pay off very soon. I can feel it. We’re ready to light up the scoreboard in Houston."
It would be the perfect scenario for Enders, who always feels right at home at Royal Purple Raceway. But there’s a long list of star Pro Stock drivers hoping to spoil that party, including points leader Anderson, who has a win and three final round appearances in 2017, his teammate and defending world champ Jason Line, and 2017 winners Shane Gray and rookie Tanner Gray.
The race kicks off three straight race weekends, and Enders will also be putting in extra racing duty, so the chance to perform well at home during a key early-season stretch is important.
"Obviously I grew up here and this has always been my home track,” Enders said. “It’s just like a big ‘ol family reunion all weekend. I particularly enjoy seeing my buds that race (Division) 4 and I’m racing Super Gas myself this weekend so it’ll be cool to catch up with everyone. The pro tour is so long and demanding so this is a nice break."
Kalitta has back-to-back SpringNationals wins in Top Fuel, but will have to top the likes of back-to-back world champ Antron Brown, points leader Tony Schumacher, two-time 2017 winner Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force and Texas native Steve Torrence.
Force’s Funny Car victory last year marked her first win of the season, something she’ll look to do again going up a loaded class that includes two-time 2017 winner and points leader Matt Hagan, defending world champ Ron Capps and seven-time Houston winner John Force.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series makes its second of 12 stops in 2017 at Royal Purple Raceway. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying on Friday, fans can watch the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System as well. Jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will 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 will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 23.
To purchase event tickets, call (281)-383-7223 or visit www.RaceRPR.com. Kids 13 and under are free with a paid adult spectator side ticket. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on spectator side tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
WHAT: 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth 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 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition also will be featured in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series.
WHERE: Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas. From Interstate 10 take the State Hwy. 99 (Grand Parkway) exit, which is exit 799. Take a right on State Hwy. 99 and go to the first exit (2 miles) which is FM 565. Take a right on FM 565 and Royal Purple Raceway will be on your right. For additional information about directions please visit www.racerpr.com.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 21-23
FRIDAY, April 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4 and 6 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 22 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 23 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 23, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise three hours of finals coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
2016 EVENT WINNERS:
Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Courtney Force, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.
John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 6, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Mike Edwards, 3, PS; Bob Glidden, 3, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.724 seconds by Steve Torrence, April ‘16; 330.07 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’15.
Funny Car – 3.899 seconds by Tim Wilkerson, April ‘16; 328.06 mph by Del Worsham, April ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.519 seconds by Jason Line, April ’15; 212.66 mph by Mike Edwards, April ’13.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
For tickets call (281) 383-RACE (7223). Tickets also available online at www.racerpr.com
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 18th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Tony Schumacher, 382; 2. Leah Pritchett, 376; 3. Antron Brown, 357; 4. Doug Kalitta, 301; 5. Brittany Force, 258; 6. Steve Torrence, 251; 7. Clay Millican, 187; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 176; 9. Terry McMillen, 164; 10. Scott Palmer, 148.
1. Matt Hagan, 368; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 324; 3. John Force, 314; 4. Ron Capps, 275; 5. Courtney Force, 218; 6. Jack Beckman, 205; 7. Robert Hight, 201; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, 183; 9. Jim Campbell, 180; 10. J.R. Todd, 170.
1. Greg Anderson, 380; 2. Jason Line, 367; 3. Bo Butner, 299; 4. Tanner Gray, 296; 5. Shane Gray, 278; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 266; 7. Erica Enders, 219; 8. Chris McGaha, 193; 9. Drew Skillman, 190; 10. Vincent Nobile, 183.