JOLIET, Ill. — When Erica Enders-Stevens defeated Greg Anderson in the finals at the 2012 O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals she wrote another page in the NHRA history books. She became the first woman to win in Pro Stock and the 14th female overall to win in the sport. The win was nearly a year ago, but she still looks back on that day often.
“That photo from the winner's circle is actually the screen saver on my computer and I get to think about it every day,” Enders-Stevens said. “Certainly the best day of my life and something I had worked for over 20 years for and just a huge blessing to get that monkey off of our back and move on to start winning more races.”
Along with Enders-Stevens, competitors in all of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series categories will be looking for wins at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, June 27-30 at Route 66 Raceway. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jeff Arend (Funny Car), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) join Enders-Stevens as the defending event winners of the race that will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
Her father, Gregg and mother Janet have been with her at every step of her racing career and the family’s dedication to racing has been an integral part of her success. The win at Route 66 Raceway was a culmination of years of work and dedication the Enders family has poured into the sport.
“I started in 1992 in a Junior Dragster and dreamed of being a pro driver someday,” she continued. “A lot of kids have that dream and it doesn’t happen for many of them. It was one of those moments where it was hard not to be emotional because we had worked so long and hard to get there. That moment you work your entire life for; you eat sleep and dream for; you breathe drag racing and it is hard to explain that exact moment, but it was a huge deal for my family.”
Adding to the day was a surprising marriage proposal by her then boyfriend Richie Stevens following the race.
“Richie was there and he has been so supportive of me and we have been together a really long time and I was like ‘When are we going to get married?’ and he said ‘When you win a race.’ And I guess he was serious,” Enders-Stevens said. “On the way back to the finish line in the parade vehicle Antron [Brown] told me ‘Somebody told me after my first win to take a moment after all the media calms down to walk down the track and remember that moment.’ I took his advice. When we got to the finish line and taking pictures in the left lane where we had beat Greg [Anderson] right on the stripe with the Route 66 sign in the background that is when he asked me to marry him. It was one of days that can never ever be topped in the history of the world.”
The team will be racing a Chevy Camaro which made its debut at the event in Gainesville, Fla. and has since raced to three final round appearances, but has yet to win. The team is working hard to find the right balance for the new machine.
“Every car has a different personality and it takes some time figuring it out,” Enders said. “It is just like the dating process. They act right and then out of the clear blue sky something crazy will happen. We knew the Cobalt like the back of our hand, but this car is a great car and the Camaro will be a great car and we are figuring it out.”
Also looking for wins at the event will be current points leader Mike Edwards, Jeg Coughlin and defending world champ Allen Johnson, who won his third race of the season last weekend in Epping, N.H.
Another female that will look for a win at the event is Funny Car racer Courtney Force, who won the most recent event where she defeated her legendary father John in the finals. Springfield, Ill., native Tim Wilkerson, points leader Matt Hagan, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria will also look for wins at Route 66 Raceway.
The Top Fuel category has seen the resurgence of the Al-Anabi Racing team with Shawn Langdon leading the points and Khalid alBalooshi in sixth place. Chicago resident Tony Schumacher, recent winner Spencer Massey and Doug Kalitta will look to take home wins behind the wheel of their 8,000-horsepower machines.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. has won three races aboard his Lucas Oil Buell and has been battling a large contingent of challengers in the two-wheel category, including defending world champ Eddie Krawiec on one of the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidsons, veteran Suzuki rider Steve Johnson, two-time Chicago champion Hines, Viper Motorcycle Co. Buell rider John Hall, who earned a breakthrough victory last weekend in New England, and Englishtown winner Michael Ray, among others.
Fans will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favorite drivers because every ticket is a pit pass that grants full access to the professional pit area. The whole weekend will be a true sensory-overload experience: Fans will be treated to the special Two Nights of Nitro (Friday and Saturday) and what promises to be an exciting championship Sunday in addition to jet-car exhibition runs Friday night and the popular JEGS Allstars special bonus race Saturday, exclusively for qualified competitors in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals will begin Friday, June 28, with sessions at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 29, at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 30.
To purchase tickets, visit Route 66 Raceway at www.route66raceway.com or call 888-629-RACE (7223). For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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O’REILLY AUTO PARTS ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: The 16th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries, the 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of the I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, June 27-30
THURSDAY, June 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, June 28 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 29 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:15 and 7:15 p.m.
JEGS ALL-STARS ELIMINATION ROUNDS at 1, 3:15, and 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 30 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, June 29, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 5 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, June 29, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 30, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of coverage starting at 9 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, June 28, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 06C
Sunday, June 30, Midnight - 12:30 a.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 06C
Sunday, June 30, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 06C
(3820 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jeff Arend, Funny Car; Erica Enders-Stevens, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Tony Schumacher 3, TF; Whit Bazemore, 3, FC; John Force, 3, FC; Del Worsham, 3, FC; Kurt Johnson, 3, PS; Jason Line, 3, PS.
Top Fuel - 3.763 seconds by Tony Schumacher, June '12; 326.79 mph by Spencer Massey, June '12.
Funny Car - 4.022 seconds by Matt Hagan, June '10; 314.61 mph by Jack Beckman, June '10.
Pro Stock - 6.586 seconds by Greg Anderson, July '11; 210.08 mph by Mike Edwards, June '09.
PS Motorcycle - 6.884 seconds by Hector Arana Sr., June '12; 195.68 mph by Michael Phillips, June '10.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April '12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April '13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March '11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (888) 629-RACE (7223) or purchase online at www.route66raceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 903; 2. Tony Schumacher, 860; 3. Spencer Massey, 833; 4. Antron Brown, 693; 5. Doug Kalitta, 644; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 610; 7. Morgan Lucas, 567; 8. Clay Millican, 525; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 502; 10. Steve Torrence, 496.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 788; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 767; 3. Johnny Gray, 711; 4. Courtney Force, 677; 5. John Force, 662; 6. Jack Beckman, 659; 7. Ron Capps, 654; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 624; 9. Del Worsham, 609; 10. Robert Hight, 549.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 1,003; 2. Allen Johnson, 879; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 843; 4. Jason Line, 711; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, 687; 6. Shane Gray, 674; 7. Vincent Nobile, 623; 8. Greg Anderson, 584; 9. Rodger Brogdon, 533; 10. V. Gaines, 500.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 451; 2. John Hall, 359; 3. Michael Ray, 345; 4. Hector Arana, 327; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 304; 6. Matt Smith, 271; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 257; 8. Steve Johnson, 251; 9. Adam Arana, 249; 10. Jim Underdahl, 226.