Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens turned in another brilliant weekend driving performance to continue her run of success at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…..
The defending NHRA Mello Yellow World Pro Stock champion won both the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Sunday to compliment her K&N Horsepower Challenge victory the previous day — which completed a dramatic event sweep — for the second year in a row!
John Force pushed back from a relatively poor 2015 season start by securing his first win of the year in Funny Car and Australian-native driver Richie Crampton scored his 3rd career win in Top Fuel.
Erica’s sweep in Pro Stock earned Elite Motorsports a $25,000 bonus to go with the $50,000 earned from winning the Challenge.
“I guess we can start saying Vegas is our lucky track,” Enders-Stevens said. “Winning is very challenging, and to be able to do it at both Vegas races last year and then come back here and do it again shows what we’re capable of. But it’s also very surreal. There are so many tough competitors out there, and the bar has really been raised. I’m just proud of my team.
“It’s certainly a high-pressure situation, but my guys thrive on it. They perform very well under it, and I’m so proud of them.”
The Las Vegas winning streak has reached 18 round-wins, including last fall’s national event. She last lost a round here in October 2013 when she was with another team. She also became the first driver to sweep the Challenge and national event in consecutive years since Bob Glidden did it in 1987-88.
“I’m just really proud for Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance,” Enders-Stevens said. “My guys have worked so hard and continue to give me a great race car, which has been a struggle at the start of this year. I think we’ve got our hot rod back.”
The victory was Enders-Stevens’ 13th of her career and first of the season. A test session following the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte two weeks ago went a long way in her Elite team overcoming troubles with a new tire and new fuel for 2015.
Sunday, though, Enders-Stevens had to undergo her own troubles. Flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat and fever, left her dehydrated before the race, and she took intravenous fluids before the first round. She took another IV later in the day.
“I just really had to focus on the mental side of it,” Enders-Stevens said. “Anybody can relate to feeling so bad you don’t even want to get out of bed. To have to get in a race car on a 130-degree racetrack in a 15-layer firesuit certainly tests you. I just had to be positive.
“I asked my crew chiefs (Rick and Rickie Jones) to do their best to pump me up on the radio, so we had some fun out there. I give them the credit today. They gave me a consistent race car. Granted, we did win on a couple of holeshots, but that’s my job as a driver. You don’t get sick days here.”
Enders-Stevens responded with holeshot wins in the semifinals and final. She had a bye in the first round after Matt Hartford failed to make the call, and she then beat Jimmy Alund with a pass of 6.661 seconds at 207.27 mph to Alund’s 6.697 at 206.70 mph.
She then ripped off a .001-second reaction time in the semi’s to overcome Greg Anderson’s quicker 6.671 at 208.71 mph with her run of 6.673 seconds at 207.53. The difference was on the Christmas Tree, where Anderson’s light was .055.
In the final Enders-Stevens and Vincent Nobile — opponents in the K&N Horsepower Challenge final on Saturday — made identical 6.674-second passes. Enders-Stevens, though, had a .024 light, a tick quicker than Nobile’s .040.
“I don’t want to dwell on being sick,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s not that big a deal. Everybody gets sick. They took care of me, and we were able to get it done today and that’s all that matters.”
Force, a 16-time Funny Car world champ, clocked a 4.148-second pass at 312.35 mph to defeat teammate Robert Hight in the final round. Hight trailed with a 4.154 at 306.05 in his Auto Club Chevy Camaro. This marks Force’s 142nd career win and fifth career win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Robert is my best team,” Force said. “He’s hot on that Christmas tree so I really got to get after him. The win was good but all that we’ve been through, with financial change, my sponsors promised to keep me competitive, win championships and I could build safety. We were lucky today and I’ll take lucky any day because it buys us some time to learn.”
En route to his first final round appearance and win of the season, Force sprinted past Chad Head, defending world champion Matt Hagan and 2014 event winner Alexis DeJoria in earlier rounds. This is the first win by a Chevy Funny Car since Phoenix 2003. Force, who qualified eighth, is No. 6 in the NHRA Mello Yello Series points standing.
Hight, the 2009 Funny Car world champion and runner-up at this event one year ago, beat Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon and Tommy Johnson Jr. on his way to the final round. The president of John Force racing moved to third in the points standings with the runner-up finish.
Event top qualifier Matt Hagan moved back into the points lead despite losing in the quarterfinals.
In Top Fuel, Crampton posted a performance of 3.902 at 301.33 in his Lucas Oil dragster to better Larry Dixon’s 4.466 at 201.73 in his C&J Energy dragster. This marks Crampton’s third career victory and first at The Strip.
“It’s huge,” Crampton said. “Obviously, we want to win right out of the gate but that hasn’t always been the case for Morgan Lucas Racing. To win at the fifth event and technically go to the final at the Four-Wide, we’re gathering some good momentum and it’s a huge boost for our entire team. We got a great hot track race car.”
Crampton, the 2014 Rookie of the Year, has never lost a final round and moves to fifth in the points standings. He qualified fifth and raced past Troy Buff, Steve Torrence and No. 1 qualifier, J.R. Todd, before beating Dixon in the final.
Dixon bounced back quickly from a spectacular crash a month ago in Gainesville, Fla. and worked his way up to the final as the No. 15 qualifier. The three-time winner at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raced past defending world champ Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican and Spencer Massey to advance to his 109th final round appearance.
Despite a first round exit, Antron Brown held on to his series points lead.
Posted with files from Rob Geiger, Bruce Biegler and NHRA Communications.
Photos by Gary Nastase, Ron Lewis, Mark Rebilas and courtesy of NHRA
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
“DeFrank Double” Highlights Sportsman Racing
Jimmy DeFrank had an impressive weekend and doubled-up at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Super Stock and Stock while Joey Severance picked up his 5th Top Alcohol Dragster win at Las Vegas and Annie Whiteley scores her 2nd National event win.
DeFrank, Chatsworth, Calif., first worked his way through the field in Super Stock and ran a winning run of 9.070 seconds at 148.79 mph. He faced off against Les Norton, South Jordan, Utah, who had a runner up finish of 9.394 seconds at 140.25 mph. DeFrank then went into the final against Brad Burton, Snohomish, Wash., in Stock and posted a winning run of 10.941 seconds at 118.93 mph. This was DeFrank’s 15th win and has had two in Stock. This was not the first time that DeFrank has doubled-up. His first time was at the 2013 Winternationals and won in both Super Stock and Stock.
Severance, Woodburn, Ore., worked his way through the field and ran 5.416 seconds at 267.16 mph in his final round victory over Megan McKernan, Sierra Madre, Calif., who clocked in at 5.416 seconds, 269.51 mph. Both Severance and McKernan had identical ET’s but Severance had a better reaction time and took home his 7th National event win and his 5th win from this track.
Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., faced off against Doug Gordon, Paso Robles, Calif., and posted a winning run of 5.617 seconds, 261.98 mph in her ’10 Mustang. Gordon left too early off the line and red lit for his runner up finish. Whiteley has one previous Alcohol Funny Car win from the 2013 Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
In the Comp Eliminator final, Tony Mandella, Riverside, Calif., took home the Wally against Alan Ellis, Mapleton, Utah. Mandella scored a winning run of 8.528 seconds, 155.94 mph. This is Mandella’s 4th National event win and his first National event Wally in Comp Eliminator.
Tommy Phillips, Forney, Texas, took home the Wally in Super Comp. Phillips faced off against Ryan Cook, Idaho Falls, Idaho, and had a winning run of 9.606 seconds, 164.93 mph. This was Cook’s first National event final and posted a runner up finish of 9.058 seconds, 159.87 mph. Phillips received his 31st National event win and now has 16 in Super Comp.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were Michael Miller, Santa Fe, N.M., in Super Gas; Richard Okerman, Torrance, Calif., in Top Sportsman; Andy Spiegel, Acton, Calif., in Top Dragster; and Len Darnell, Vancouver, Wash., in Top Fuel Harley.
Posted by Melissa Coleman — Photos by: Bob Johnson