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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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”