NHRA: Enders-Stevens becomes 1st female Pro Stock champ, Hagan holds off Force for Funny Car title


Erica Enders-Stevens made history in Sunday’s season-ending AutoClub NHRA Finals at AutoClub Raceway in Pomona, California, becoming the first female world champion in NHRA Pro Stock history.

Enders-Stevens, who rallied back after missing three races during the middle of the season, defeated her closest challenger, Jason Line, in the final round of Sunday’s eliminations. Enders-Stevens earned his sixth victory of the season when Line fouled at the starting line.

Stevens becomes only the third female to win an NHRA pro-level championship, joining Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney and Pro Stock Motorcycle champ Angelle Sampey.

“It’s awesome to be a part of this female movement in NHRA,” Enders-Stevens said in an NHRA media release. “I think it goes to show what we’re capable of and what a great platform NHRA gives all of us girls to climb the ladder and to get to where we want to go.

“To join two of my heroes, Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey, who are both my friends now, as NHRA world champions, is simply unreal. The words of advice I’ve received from those two women means so much to me.”

Enders-Stevens has been racing for nearly 20 seasons, starting in the NHRA Junior Dragster program.

“I was a little kid with a big dream,” she said. “I started racing junior dragsters and then moved into sportsman racing and moved on up the ranks to the pro level and now 10 years later here I am in Pro Stock. It’s an awesome feeling and I feel so blessed.”

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan held off a hard challenge from John Force to earn his second career Funny Car championship (also won in 2011), spoiling Force’s bid for a record 17th title himself.


Hagan clinched the championship with a semi-final round win over Tommy Johnson Jr., and then capped things off by beating Force in the final round, earning Hagan his fourth win of the season and 14th of his career.

“The championship was really what we were after, and the race win was kind of icing on the cake,” Hagan said. “But it just solidifies that we had a great race car. To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and everybody says (Force is) the best, so we beat him, and that’s what’s cool about this deal.

“It was nice to finish it out here strong. We beat him here last year at this time, and we did it again this year. Hat’s off to him. They’ve got a great car, but we had a little better one today.

“There’s a lot of guys who have been out here their entire careers and haven’t won one of these so you never take any of it for granted. We gave these fans what they were waiting for and paid for, and hopefully, we can go out and win another one, but it’s just great to be in this experience and be a part of this.”

In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher wrapped up his eighth championship in Saturday’s final qualifying rounds. But in Sunday’s final eliminations, it was Morgan Lucas, who raced only a part-time schedule in 2014, that roared to his second win of the season and 11th of his career, defeating Schumacher in the final round.

Lucas had two of the fastest times seen this season, with a 3.707 second run over Antron Brown in Sunday’s semifinals and a 3.704 second run in his final round win over Schumacher.

“I feel like I’m doing a better job behind the wheel on a part-time basis than I ever did racing full-time,” Lucas said. “The car was fast, and it was on a string.

“I almost didn’t have to steer it or do anything. It felt like I was strapped to a missile. I had a lot of fun today.”

Lastly, while Hector Arana Jr. ultimately took the race win in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines earned the fourth PSM championship of his career, defeating teammate Eddie Krawiec.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to write ‘4x’ next to my name,” Hines said. “It was nice to finally get it done, but also to get it done with a win (clinched in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations).

“I didn’t really want to have to be the guy who waited for someone else to lose to clinch it. It’s great to get that big trophy and that big check, but the biggest trophies I have are my wife, Tanya, and my kids, Declan and Rion.”

As for Arana, it was his second win of the season and ninth of his career.

“I popped the clutch and never saw Eddie (Krawiec),” Arana Jr. said. “My bike went straight down the track and it was an amazing feeling.

“This is going to be a good off-season. I’m glad we got the win for the team. This is a good confidence booster. It’s good for our morale for the next four months.”

While it’s been a long season, the off-season will be relatively short: The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season begins Feb. 5-8 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



TOP FUEL: 1.  Morgan Lucas; 2.  Tony Schumacher; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  J.R. Todd; 5.  Steve Torrence; 6.  Richie Crampton; 7.  Shawn Langdon; 8.  Dom Lagana; 9.  Larry Dixon; 10.  Billy Torrence; 11.  Troy Buff; 12.  Doug Kalitta; 13.  Khalid alBalooshi; 14.  Bob Vandergriff; 15.  Spencer Massey; 16.  Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Matt Hagan; 2.  John Force; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 4.  Alexis DeJoria; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Tim Wilkerson; 7.  Robert Hight; 8.  Ron Capps; 9.  Jack Beckman; 10.  Bob Tasca III; 11.  Tony Pedregon; 12.  Chad Head; 13.  Gary Densham; 14.  Courtney Force; 15.  Cruz Pedregon; 16.  Jeff Arend.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Jason Line; 3.  Jeg Coughlin; 4.  Jonathan Gray; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Rodger Brogdon; 7.  Dave Connolly; 8.  Matt Hartford; 9.  Vincent Nobile; 10.  V. Gaines; 11.  Chris McGaha; 12.  Larry Morgan; 13.  Greg Stanfield; 14.  Jeff Isbell; 15.  Greg Anderson; 16.  Allen Johnson.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Hector Arana Jr; 2.  Eddie Krawiec; 3.  Andrew Hines; 4.  Chaz Kennedy; 5.  Adam Arana; 6.  Steve Johnson; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck; 8.  Hector Arana; 9.  Jerry Savoie; 10.  Matt Smith; 11.  Jim Underdahl; 12.  Shawn Gann; 13.  Freddie Camarena; 14.  Katie Sullivan; 15.  Angie Smith; 16.  Elvira Karlsson.


Top Fuel: Morgan Lucas, 3.704 seconds, 325.14 mph  def. Tony Schumacher, 3.742 seconds, 324.98 mph.

Funny Car: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.076, 310.77  def. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.086, 276.58.

Pro Stock: Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.480, 213.43  def. Jason Line, Camaro, foul.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.832, 195.08  def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.977, 176.37.


TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Shawn Langdon, 3.758, 326.00 def. Spencer Massey, 5.184, 138.43; Morgan Lucas, 3.745, 326.40 def. Billy Torrence, 3.766, 326.00; Steve Torrence, 3.787, 325.53 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.833, 314.02; Richie Crampton, 3.720, 320.89 def. Troy Buff, 3.812, 318.84; Antron Brown, 3.746, 321.81 def. Clay Millican, 5.927, 97.74; J.R. Todd, 3.765, 325.77 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.924, 141.16; Dom Lagana, 3.832, 312.93 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.719, 171.71; Tony Schumacher, 3.749, 327.11 def. Larry Dixon, 3.765, 324.67;

QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.765, 323.04 def. S. Torrence, 3.763, 327.35; Brown, 3.749, 323.43 def. Lagana, broke; Lucas, 3.903, 299.53 def. Langdon, 4.986, 166.19; Schumacher, 3.752, 327.35 def. Crampton, 3.763, 327.82;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.770, 328.30 def. Todd, 3.824, 262.23; Lucas, 3.707, 325.45 def. Brown, 3.742, 320.74;

FINAL — Lucas, 3.704, 325.14 def. Schumacher, 3.742, 324.98.


FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.035, 310.48 def. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.051, 317.27; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.200, 295.85 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 10.017, 83.08; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.028, 316.38 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 11.137, 72.48; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.060, 316.23 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.774, 176.07; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.025, 314.61 def. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 5.381, 135.95; John Force, Mustang, 4.083, 319.29 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.337, 245.45; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.015, 320.05 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.083, 167.63; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.049, 313.29 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 6.611, 98.40;

QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 4.031, 318.62 def. Wilkerson, 4.101, 313.00; Johnson Jr., 4.077, 311.27 def. Worsham, 4.027, 314.83; Hagan, 4.081, 314.83 def. R. Capps, 6.801, 100.94; DeJoria, 4.012, 313.80 def. Hight, 5.317, 149.93;

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.065, 315.86 def. Johnson Jr., 6.184, 107.28; J. Force, 4.044, 320.58 def. DeJoria, 6.953, 94.32;

FINAL — Hagan, 4.076, 310.77 def. J. Force, 4.086, 276.58.


PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Dave Connolly, Chevy Camaro, 6.528, 212.33 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.913, 163.77; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.545, 211.66 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.536, 211.59; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.528, 212.19 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 8.475, 114.04; Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.520, 211.39 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.507, 213.30; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.522, 212.36 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.524, 212.69; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.496, 213.06 def. Jeff Isbell, Camaro, foul; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.516, 212.13 def. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.578, 210.54; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.494, 213.47 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.551, 210.93;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.527, 212.73 def. Hartford, 6.548, 211.53; J. Gray, 6.529, 212.13 def. S. Gray, 6.502, 212.73; Line, 6.519, 212.46 def. Connolly, 6.518, 212.43; Enders-Stevens, 6.494, 213.67 def. Brogdon, 6.511, 212.46;

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.511, 212.93 def. Coughlin, foul; Enders-Stevens, 6.494, 213.67 def. J. Gray, 6.524, 212.29;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.480, 213.43 def. Line, foul.


PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Adam Arana, Buell, 6.889, 195.51 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.853, 194.80; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.874, 193.32 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.059, 190.65; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.886, 195.90 def. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, foul; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.848, 194.24 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.942, 192.80; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.839, 194.77 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 7.054, 193.38; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.835, 198.17 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.971, 195.99; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.904, 191.35 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.888, 194.66; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.893, 192.11 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.880, 195.65;

QUARTERFINALS — Kennedy, 6.924, 189.31 def. Pollacheck, 6.941, 190.78; Krawiec, 6.835, 194.13 def. A. Arana, 6.881, 195.42; Hines, 6.864, 194.02 def. H. Arana, 6.959, 191.05; Arana Jr, 6.888, 195.22 def. Johnson, 6.937, 193.96;

SEMIFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.808, 197.16 def. Kennedy, 6.981, 187.55; Krawiec, 6.850, 194.83 def. Hines, 6.890, 194.80;

FINAL — Arana Jr, 6.832, 195.08 def. Krawiec, 6.977, 176.37.


Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 2,594; 2.  J.R. Todd, 2,463; 3.  Spencer Massey, 2,430; 4.  Shawn Langdon, 2,419; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 2,407; 6.  Steve Torrence, 2,406; 7.  Antron Brown, 2,405; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi, 2,326; 9.  Richie Crampton, 2,299; 10.  Brittany Force, 2,249.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 2,628; 2.  John Force, 2,585; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,442; 4.  Courtney Force, 2,421; 5.  Robert Hight, 2,414; 6.  Del Worsham, 2,393; 7.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,382; 8.  Ron Capps, 2,375; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,310; 10.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,244.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,639; 2.  Jason Line, 2,600; 3.  Dave Connolly, 2,481; 4.  Shane Gray, 2,463; 5.  Jeg Coughlin, 2,445; 6.  Allen Johnson, 2,403; 7.  Jonathan Gray, 2,385; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 2,364; 9.  V. Gaines, 2,269; 10.  Chris McGaha, 2,168.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 2,689; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,620; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,472; 4.  Matt Smith, 2,416; 5.  Steve Johnson, 2,369; 6.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,350; 7.  Hector Arana, 2,319; 8.  John Hall, 2,253; 9.  Angie Smith, 2,223; 10.  Michael Ray, 2,144.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

GARAGE 56 SPECS: Full comparison of NASCAR Cup car to Le Mans car

BUTTON’S BIG MOVE: Hendrick drone tour was NASCAR entryway for F1 champion

France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”