New Year, New Challenges For NHRA Drivers

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Erica Enders-Stevens. (Adam Fenwick Photo)
Erica Enders-Stevens. (Adam Fenwick Photo)
Erica Enders-Stevens. (Adam Fenwick Photo)

POMONA, Calif. – The off season in motorsports is always a time for personnel changes, and the start of the 2014 NHRA Mello Drag Racing Series season will again see drivers and team members in new roles with new teams.

For Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), Richie Crampton (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), change has been a good thing.

The trio will try to grab a season-opening victory at the Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9 at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event which will be televised on ESPN (eliminations, Sunday at 8 p.m. ET) and ESPN2 (qualifying, Saturday at 11 p.m. ET).

Enders-Stevens, the first female to win a Pro Stock race in NHRA history, is ready for the new opportunities in her new surroundings. The Texas native joins forces with team owner Richard Freeman and Rick and Rickie Jones as crew chiefs to pilot the Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro for the coming season.

“I’m really excited,” Enders-Stevens said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and a really positive step for the next chapter of my career. Richard and I have been friends for a long time. I’m glad to have seen their program come together from last year.”

Elite Motorsports flexed its muscle towards the end of last season, when they assisted Shane Gray with his victory in Las Vegas and gave the younger Jones a car strong enough to claim his first career Pro Stock win at the season finale in Pomona.

“They certainly have the horsepower,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’re about to leave in a couple of days to go test in Phoenix and head out to Pomona. So time will tell.”

With her move, Enders-Stevens has found one of the best full-time opportunities in Pro Stock and is ready to take the next step against one of the most competitive Pro Stock fields ever.

“There are going to be eight to ten cars that are truly going to be capable of contending for the championship,” Enders-Stevens said. “You start with Allen Johnson and Jeg (Coughlin) who are the two previous year’s world champions, then obviously the KB guys are always contenders, and they’ve got Vincent Nobile on their team this year. I think it’s going to be the most competitive year yet.”

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