NHRA: Erica Enders shifts into high gear for 2nd Pro Stock title bid

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When someone yells “You go, girl,” Erica Enders typically does – at over 200 mph.

After a slow start to the season, the defending NHRA Pro Stock champion is once again one of the hottest drivers on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Enders became the first female driver to ever win a Pro Stock championship last season, going to victory lane six times along the way.

Coming off her win at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway this past Sunday, Enders is already way ahead of last season’s pace: her win at Bristol is Enders’ fourth in the season’s first 11 races, with 13 more races still to go.

“Everything’s been clicking for us,” Enders said. “We even switched to a new car a few races back but really didn’t miss a beat. In fact, we got even better.

“It speaks to the quality of work these guys put in every day. We expect the best from each other and they deliver it time after time.

“Our team owner, Richard Freeman, is really good at getting the best out of people and that attitude spreads throughout the team. We’re not cocky; we just know what we’re capable of, and we feel a huge responsibility to prove ourselves every weekend.”

Bristol was a big win for Enders, perhaps bigger than usual. She came into the race 70 points behind Greg Anderson.

She left Bristol with a 14-point edge over Anderson, an 84-point swing that put her back on top of the Pro Stock point standings. That was a great way for Enders and her team to go into the upcoming off-weekend.

If Enders and her Chevrolet Camaro continue the pace of wins they’ve already collected together this season at Las Vegas, Houston, Topeka and Bristol, Enders could be on-track to win eight, maybe nine races by the time this season comes to an end.

“I’m with a team that takes great care of me, and we have a blast together,” Enders said. Every challenging moment was worth it to get where I am now at Elite Motorsports.”

In addition to Freeman, credit must also be given to the father-son crew chief pairing of Rick and Rickie Jones. Their proficiency in dialing in Enders’ car has been near-uncanny: she’s suffered just two first-round losses this season and has qualified seventh or better in 10 of the first 11 races.

“(My team) are the best guys out here, and I have complete faith in them all,” Enders said. “… Our heads are held high.”

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Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”