November 21st, 2013 / Author: BTS
HOUSTON (Nov. 21) – Popular drag racer Erica Enders-Stevens, the most prolific female driver in Pro Stock history, has joined Elite Motorsports for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Enders-Stevens will drive the team’s new Camaro, which will be tuned by the father/son duo of Rick and Rickie Jones, with in-house horsepower crafted by Nick Ferri and Jake Hairston.
“I’m really excited to start this next chapter of my career,” Enders-Stevens said. “It’s hard to believe that 2014 will be my 10th year in Pro Stock but it’s true. We want to make it our best year yet, and we’re all going to be working very hard towards that goal.
“The last three years we’ve been in contention for the championship very late in the season, and we expect to be there again with Elite Motorsports. Rickie just won the NHRA Finals, so it’s obvious they have all the pieces in place to be successful.
“I’m sad to leave Victor Cagnazzi. We have worked together for the majority of my Pro Stock career, and I will always be appreciative of Victor and his wife Brita. I certainly value our relationship. The deal Richard (Freeman, team owner of Elite Motorsports) offered assures me a full-time ride in his top car, so at this point in my career I thought it was the best move for me to make.”
Enders-Stevens has fought hard to earn her place in the drag racing world during her nine seasons in the factory hot rod class. Despite running partial schedules at times, she has successfully qualified for 102 national events, won six Wallys in 17 final-round appearances, and been the No. 1 qualifier on six occasions. All of those marks represent records for female competitors in the category.
Following a successful Jr. Dragster and Sportsman career, Enders-Stevens made an immediate impact in the Pro ranks due in large part to her immense popularity, which was a result of the Disney Channel movie Right on Track, chronicling her and her sister Courtney’s time racing in Jr. Dragster. For the first time ever, young girls were dragging their fathers into the Pro Stock pits to meet their on-screen hero in person.
And Enders-Stevens didn’t disappoint on the track, racing to the final round in Chicago during her rookie campaign with Victor Cagnazzi Racing. She later collaborated with her father Gregg Enders, purchasing a turnkey race operation from Don Schumacher Racing before moving to Jim Cunningham Motorsports, where she attempted to resurrect the Ford brand in Pro Stock. She returned to Cagnazzi in 2011.
Her next three seasons were filled with career highlights, including her first victory, her first foray into the playoffs, and her first top-10 ranking. She has now finished in the top 10 in three consecutive seasons with a best of fourth place in 2012.
“I’ve been so blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had so far,” said Enders-Stevens, who finished sixth in 2013. “For many years I got to race with my dad, which was something we always dreamed about when I was younger and something I’d love to do again some day. I’ve also raced on my own and, although it hasn’t always been easy, I love this sport so much that I’ve fought to stay out here. The support I’ve received from my dad and the rest of my family, my longtime friends, and all of the wonderful fans out there have made it all worthwhile.
“This new start with Richard and Elite Motorsports is exciting for me. I hope I can repay their faith in me by being competitive and chasing after another championship.”
The team plans to test extensively in Florida prior to the season-opening NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-9, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
November 20th, 2013 / Author: BTS
BROWNSBURG, Ind. – - Brandon Bernstein and Joe Barlam, released yesterday from Morgan Lucas Racing, have joined Al-Anabi Racing, the team announced today.
Bernstein, a 19-time Top Fuel race winner, joins Al-Anabi Racing as the team’s general manager filling the position vacated by Chad Head one year ago. Prior to joining Morgan Lucas Racing in 2012, Bernstein served as the driver and general manager of his father’s NHRA race team from late in 2009 through the end of the 2011 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. With his extensive experience running Kenny Bernstein Racing, he is fully aware of the many responsibilities that come with such a position. Bernstein began his new job this morning and will report directly to Al-Anabi Racing team manager Alan Johnson.
“Yesterday, Morgan came in over at Morgan Lucas Racing and notified us that we weren’t going to be able to run our car (the Protect The Harvest/MAV TV Top Fuel dragster) next season,” Bernstein said. “We didn’t have the extra funding to go along with the Lucas Oil funding, and they decided not to run the car. Obviously, I was out of a job at that point and started making phone calls.
“I made a call to AJ (Alan Johnson) and just told him that if there were a position available at Al-Anabi Racing, I would want to look at it and would greatly appreciate being considered. We talked for a while, and he said ‘Well, let me think about it.’ I got a call late last night, and he said, ‘Am I talking to my new GM?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, are you?’ And he said, “The offer is there.’ I said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll take it.’
“I was very excited. It’s a new chapter in my life that I am ready to start to be honest. It’s going to be fun; I think Al-Anabi Racing is the best place to be in Top Fuel drag racing so I’m excited to be here. It’s gonna be good.”
While Bernstein does have more than two full seasons of experience as a general manager, driving a Top Fuel dragster is clearly his passion. So what would Bernstein do should the phone ring with an offer to get back into the car?
“It’s something AJ and I discussed,” Bernstein said. “If something does come about, I’ll look at it, speak with him and see if it’s something I want to pursue. I love competing, I love racing these Top Fuel cars – that’s my passion, but who knows? This may be something that I enjoy even more, and we’ll just see.”
Barlam, who served as Bernstein’s crew chief at Morgan Lucas Racing, will join Khalid alBalooshi’s gold Al-Anabi Racing Top Fuel team as its assistant crew chief alongside crew chief Jason McCulloch. Ronnie Thompson, who served as McCulloch’s assistant crew chief as well as car chief for the last two years, will be allowed to focus more on the car chief role of overseeing preparation of the gold Al-Anabi dragster. AlBalooshi finished eighth in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel point standings improving from his 11th-place finish one year ago in his rookie season. He has two Top Fuel wins in four final-round appearances.
“We are very happy to add Brandon and Joe to the Al-Anabi Racing Team,” Johnson said. “I was in the process of filling our general manager position when Brandon became available yesterday, and it seemed like the perfect fit. He has experience as a driver, a crew member and a general manager so he fits perfectly into the position. Thanks to Shawn Langdon for his help in filling this role this season. We are also very happy to have Joe on board. Joe will bring a wealth of knowledge to Khalid alBalooshi’s team and allow Ronnie to focus more consistently on the race car which should make that team stronger next season.”
Al-Anabi Racing operates out of multiple locations in both the United States and Qatar. In the United States, the Brownsburg, Ind.-based operation is a two-car NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series team that is managed by Alan Johnson Racing. Sheikh Khalid’s initiative has created increased international awareness of the State of Qatar while highlighting the nation’s international sports outreach. Alan Johnson is a 15-time NHRA champion in various capacities including crew chief, team owner and team manager. For additional information on the Al-Anabi Racing Team, team manager Alan Johnson or drivers Khalid alBalooshi or Shawn Langdon, please visit www.alanabiracing.com.
November 10th, 2013 / Author: BTS
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) – JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. added another page to his already stellar racing resume by clinching the 2013 Pro Stock championship Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway.
Coughlin became just the eighth driver in NHRA history to win a fifth professional championship, as he earned previous Pro Stock titles in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2008. As a sportsman driver, Coughlin also won the NHRA Super Gas championship in 1992.
“This championship is extremely special to us, without question,” Coughlin said. “When I stepped away from professional racing at the end of 2010, I honestly wasn’t real sure how quickly I’d get back in the seat. But shortly thereafter, we put a great program together with our friends at Mopar to run a Dodge Avenger for the ’12, ’13 and ’14 seasons.
“We didn’t rest too long. We transitioned to racing with Allen and Roy Johnson and the J&J horsepower they make and it’s been a great relationship.”
Coughlin sat out the 2011 season, but returned with a vengeance in 2012. For this season, he joined Allen Johnson as a teammate at J&J Racing, and Roy Johnson’s handmade horsepower put Coughlin over the top. He won four races in eight final-rounds this year, taking over the points lead after a victory at Reading, Pa., in the fourth of six Countdown to the Championship races.
He never looked back and officially clinched the title when Jason Line lost in Sunday’s second round.
“To bring a second straight championship back to Auburn Hills for our friends at Mopar and another one to Greeneville, Tenn., for the J&J Racing crew, and now a seventh overall world championship to Delaware, Ohio, for everyone at JEGS, it feels fantastic,” Coughlin said. “It ranks right up there at the top.”
The championship was the fourth this year for the Coughlin family. T.J. Coughlin, Jeg’s nephew, won the Division 3 title in Super Gas; Cody Coughlin, another nephew, won the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour stock-car championship; and Jeg Coughlin III won the Ohio state high school golf championship. The family also scored its 100th career national-event victory in NHRA when Troy Coughlin won Pro Mod in Las Vegas.
“In this day and age, it is so tough to win out here,” Coughlin Jr. said. “We’ve seen a lot of races won and lost by just a few thousandths of a second. I think this is one of the tightest, and one of the most intense championships I’ve ever won. This ranks right up there with 2007 when we had the two cuts to the Countdown to One in the first year of our playoffs.”
Coughlin qualified No. 4 at this race and had to take on teammate Vincent Nobile in the first round. Nobile had beaten Coughlin in three final rounds this season, including the season-opener here in February.
But Coughlin and his crew were up to the task, as Coughlin had a solid .031-second reaction time and outran Nobile with a pass of 6.544 seconds at 211.26 mph.
“When I saw we had Vincent, I thought, ‘Aw, man, here we go,’” Coughlin said. “He’s had my number this year, cracked me in all three of the finals we had. Knowing I had him, though, was probably a little bit of a blessing. I knew I had to bring my A-game, and the team prepared the car extremely well.”
Coughlin was in the next pair behind Line in the second round, so he knew he had clinched the title before he raced Johnson. Maybe because of that thrill, Coughlin tripped the starting beam -.001 seconds too soon, giving Johnson the round win.
“We obviously wanted to win that round,” Coughlin said. “I really felt like we could be somewhere between .010 and .014 on the Tree. I saw where Jason got beat – most of us were shocked at that outcome – and I think I was just ice-cold and relaxed and turned the red light on by one-thousandth.”
But the championship was already his, and now all that’s left to do is celebrate.
“It’s been a long road this year,” Coughlin said. “Very tense, very stressful, but that’s what we love about it, right?”
November 6th, 2013 / Author: BTS
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Nov. 6, 2013) - Don Schumacher Racing crew chief Dickie Venables will miss this weekend’s NHRA Mello Yello Series finale at Pomona, Calif., while he recovers from a successful medical procedure he had Wednesday.
Venables, 49, who lives in Avon, Ind., led the Mopar/Rocky Boots Funny Car team to a miraculous season that included four victories in eight championship rounds and five No. 1 qualifying positions.
“We want Dickie to focus on his health and all of our thoughts this weekend will be with him,” said DSR owner Don Schumacher. “We need Dickie to be 100 percent as we get ready for the 2014 season.”
Rocky/Mopar driver Matt Hagan had hoped to celebrate the end to a great season but also wants Venables to only worry about getting healthy.
“It has been so great working with Dickie this season and all he’s done to help me and our Mopar/Rocky team will get us through this weekend,” he said. “I really wish he was with us but we’ll find time soon to celebrate our season.”
It has not been determined who will join assistant crew chief Michael Knudsen with the running of Hagan’s team at Pomona.
November 5th, 2013 / Author: BTS
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 4) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. is so close to the 2013 Pro Stock title he can almost feel the golden Wally trophy in his hands. But the five-time world champ won’t let his mind wander that far, even though he enjoys a 71-point lead in the Mello Yello points as he arrives at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona for the season-ending 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
“After the Las Vegas race I started figuring out points and what we needed to do to clinch,” Coughlin admitted. “Then I caught myself getting trapped in all the ‘what if’ scenarios and I stopped and said, ‘This is crazy. We need to just do what we do, and that’s drag race.’
“We need to treat this like a regular Pomona race, and that’s a good thing because we’ve won here half a dozen times in the past so it’s certainly a place where we feel comfortable. I get pumped up for Pomona because it’s Pomona. The championship stuff will work out however it works out. If we take care of our stuff, then we’ll be good.”
With four drivers — Line (-71 points), Mike Edwards (-80), Shane Gray (-84) and Allen Johnson (-93) — racing from a three- to four-round deficit, Coughlin can clinch as early as the quarterfinals. A world record and the 20 bonus points it’s worth could complicate matters but it’s been 30 years since one has been set at this race.
“We’re riding pretty high and things look good but we’ve got work to do,” Coughlin said. “Everyone on this JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger race team knows that. In the past, we’ve come to Pomona needing a huge weekend to come from behind and win it all and we’ve done it. We’ve also come here with a lead and lost it. No one in our pit is going to take anything for granted. We all know what we need to do.
“It’s been a wonderful year. We’ve been in the top three pretty much the whole way, had some great weekends and won four times in eight final-round appearances. Add in my teammates A.J. (Johnson) and Vincent (Nobile) and we’ve won half the races. We’ve talked about it and we knew if one of us got hot at the right time, we’d have a great shot at winning it all. This year, I got that win in Charlotte at the start of the playoffs and it really propelled us.
“We got hot at the perfect time, which is what it takes with the Countdown to the Championship format. Now we need to finish the job.”