The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series kicks off its 2014 season with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals, February 6th through 9th at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in California, and the Pro Stock class will see some of its toughest competition in years. Among the drivers with an eye on the top prize at season’s end is Erica Enders-Stevens, who became first – and to date only – woman to win a Pro Stock event in 2012. Enders-Stevens made an off-season move from Cagnazzi Racing to Elite Motorsports, and begins the season working with the categories most recent winner, Rickie Jones, who picked up his first Pro Stock win at Pomona in November.
“I'm really excited. I think it's a great opportunity and a really positive step for the next chapter of my career,” said Enders-Stevens in a recent NHRA teleconference. “Richard (Freeman, team owner of Elite Motorsports) and I have been friends for a long time. I'm glad to have seen their program come together from last year. Shane Gray won the Vegas event with their power followed by Rickie Jones winning the final Pomona event last year. So they certainly have the horsepower, and we're about to leave in a couple days to go test in Phoenix and head out to Pomona. So time will tell. I'm just excited about the opportunity.”
Enders-Stevens, who married fellow Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens following the 2012 season, has six wins in the category since the 2012 event at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago. Those wins all came with Cagnazzi, and leaving the team, which merged with Gray Motorsports in the off-season, was a difficult choice for Enders-Stevens.
“It was certainly a hard move, and that is nothing derogatory toward my new team at all,” said Enders-Stevens. “Victor and I have a huge history. He gave me my start back in 2004 and my professional debut in '05 in a Pro Stock car. I'll be forever grateful to him and Brita for the opportunity…With the merger with the Gray deal, it was very difficult for me…So it was hard and sad, but we did part on good terms. It is what it is. I know next year they'll be out there trying to kick my butt just like I will theirs.”
Rickie Jones and his father, Rick, will serve as crew chiefs for Enders-Stevens, and she’s looking forward to learning from both men – and to the possibility of being teammates with her husband.
“I'm excited to work with Rickie and Rick,” said Enders-Stevens. “I mean, they're both so extremely knowledgeable, not only about the chassis, but tuning and air/fuel ratios and everything that goes into making a successful pass up and down the racetrack. I'm excited to be teamed up with Rickie being that he's a driver, he understands what I'm going through and he can relate just like the relationship that (Dave) Connolly and I had in the past…This is going to be my tenth year in Pro Stock, which is crazy for me to think, but I should know more. I should be able to be on an assistant crew chief level not in the aspect of making the calls myself, but the knowledge of it. So I'm excited to get to learn more.”
“…We have plans to run a second car some this year,” continued Enders-Stevens. “Hopefully with Rickie driving some, and my husband, Richie Stevens, driving for 10 races, so that is the plan as of now. Of course, it all depends on funding. Even though we've had people say they're going to step up, I've kind of learned over the past ten years that once the check is cashed, then you can get excited. So we're hopeful to have that second car out there at some point this season, and we'll work with what we've got and do our best every time. That's all we can do.”
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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