MADISON, IL – September 27, 2017 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Gateway Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will always have a special place in the heart of two-time world champion Erica Enders, and it goes much deeper than the back-to-back wins she enjoyed there in 2012 and 2013.
Enders officially announced the start of her Pro Stock career at the track in 2004, going on to become one of the most recognizable names in the sport. She became the first female to win in Pro Stock, claimed back-to-back world titles and is again in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. It all has Enders excited for this weekend’s event in St. Louis, with the hopes of her second win in 2017.
“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” said Enders, who is currently sixth in Pro Stock points. “Finally getting to that point in my career was so huge. To go from a kid in the garage with my dad handing him wrenches to racing Juniors, to running a bunch of different sportsman cars, and then finally turning pro, it was a dream come true. It’s never been easy and we had plenty of struggles along the way, but we persevered and reached the top of the sport in 2014 and 2015. Now our focus is on getting back to the top of the mountain and we won’t give up until we do.”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the third straight race to kick off the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ six-race playoffs, and it’s important for Enders to continue to make progress.
She sits 163 points back of points leader Bo Butner, who picked up his fourth win of 2017 last weekend, which means getting a third championship will be difficult. But after a frustrating 2016, just being in the discussion again is a positive sign. Enders has a win and three final round appearances this year, and adding to that total would make for an exciting finish to a solid season.
“We’re being realistic about where we are and what we need to do, and we’re still fighting hard,” said Enders, who has 22 career wins. “No one ever gives up on this team. Hopefully I can reward my guys with a trophy or two before we’re done this year. You add in the fact we’re going to St. Louis, one of my all-time favorite tracks, and I can sense a little excitement in the pit. If we’re going to make any kind of run this year, we better start now.”
With three final round appearances at Gateway Motorsports Park, Enders clearly feels at home racing in St. Louis. A crowded Pro Stock field also includes rookie Tanner Gray, who has five wins this year, Greg Anderson, reigning world champ Jason Line and Drew Skillman, but Enders and her team remain focused on their own progress. It hasn’t come easy and without some bumps in the road, but Enders remains impressed with the obstacles her team has overcome.
“We have tested these cars and we keep finding little things that make us better,” Enders said. “I say it all the time and I’ve never meant it more, but there is no other team, no other group of people I would rather be with in this journey. We will figure out this car and we will be back on top.”
Steve Torrence jumped back into the points lead in Top Fuel, but will try to hold off the hard-charging Doug Kalitta, who won in Charlotte, and Reading winner Brittany Force.
Beckman won for the second time in Funny Car at Gateway, but must track down teammate and reigning champ Ron Capps, who won on Sunday in Reading to regain the points lead.
Savoie’s march to his first Pro Stock Motorcycle world title started in St. Louis, and he’ll look to repeat facing off with LE Tonglet and Eddie Krawiec, the points leader who has three straight wins.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals also features thrilling competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
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 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 get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans can also 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 3:45 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 855-RACE-TIK (722-3845). Tickets also are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com. Kids 12-under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. National Hot Rod Association provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association