Pro Stock champ Erica Enders will begin title defense from No. 3 spot in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Pro Stock World Champion Erica Enders begins her title defense on Sunday from the No. 3 qualifying position at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway.

Enders sits atop the Pro Stock points standings as the six-race Countdown to the Championship begins here this weekend, and she has shown plenty of speed and consistency during qualifying. Her best pass was 6.536 seconds at 211.83 mph, and she races Vieri Gaines in the first round of eliminations Sunday. Gaines qualified No. 14 with a top lap of 6.670 at 210.05 mph.

With the warmest temperatures of the weekend expected Sunday, Pro Stock drivers and teams will need to negotiate a difficult track, but Enders knows her Elite Motorsports team will be up to the challenge.

“We’re going to have a long day cut out for us tomorrow,” Enders said. “It’s going to be the hottest day of the weekend, and I think it’s going to be survival of the fittest.

“That makes me happy because I know what my guys are capable of. When the racetrack is in great condition and the weather’s just right, everybody can run well, but when things are not wonderful is when we really seem to excel. I’m speaking optimistically and am hopeful that tomorrow is a long day.”

Three of Enders’ four qualifying passes were within .015-second, showing the consistency needed to win on race day. In Q3, Enders’ Chevrolet Camaro suffered a damaged engine, but her team replaced it and made a solid pass in the heat of the day, 6.551 seconds at 211.53 mph.

“We started off on the right foot: We were low for the first session,” Enders said. “When we went up for Q2, we had some interesting things happen, and we hurt a motor today, so it’s definitely been an interesting weekend so far.

“We wrapped up qualifying with a decent, race-day prep run and ended up being third-quickest for the session, so that’s good.”

Enders is a six-time winner in 2015, including the last Pro Stock races on the schedule. The most recent was the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, where she beat Elite Motorsports teammate Drew Skillman in the final.

“Right now, my teammate and I are on opposite sides of the ladder,” Enders said, “so that’s fun if you want to look forward and see what could potentially happen.”

Pro Stock eliminations are scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.