Erica Enders welcomes role as defending Pro Stock world champion

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EPPING, NH — Becoming a champion in any sport can often be a burden to those who achieve the highest level of success, but two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders welcomes the role she earned in 2014 and 2015 by beating the best drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. As she races in the NHRA New England Nationals this weekend at New England Dragway, Enders carries the No. 1 on the side of her Elite Motorsports/Mopar Dodge.

“I worked my entire life to become a champion,” Enders said. “Carrying the No. 1 on my window is a huge honor, especially in a class that is as competitive as Pro Stock.”

Of course, winning one title doesn’t guarantee success the following season, but Enders knows the only way to continue reaching her goals is to keep doing her best time after time.

“It comes with positives and negatives,” Enders said of being a champion. “We’ve had a target on our backs from the get-go, but being back-to-back champions makes it a bigger target. I do my best every single time I go up to the starting line, and I don’t care who I race, but it does seem that my competitors race me differently than they race other people.

“I take that as a compliment that my competitors give me their best every time because they can absolutely count on getting my best from me, regardless of who they are.”

That consistent effort pays dividends, as seen by her back-to-back titles. The 2016 season has been a struggle, though, as her Elite team continues to develop a new Dodge Dart and new fuel-injected engines.

“This year has come with its challenges,” Enders said. “We have to stay true to ourselves and stay the course. We’ll get to where we’re going, and when we do, it’ll be game on.”

Along with expectations, being a champion carries additional responsibilities, especially at the racetrack. Enders’ time is taxed more than ever, and though that’s a good result from her success, it does take some adaptation.

“The fan responsibility has significantly changed in the last two years,” Enders said. “I’ve had the most loyal, fun group of people who have been supportive to us over the years, and the group is steadily growing. That’s a huge compliment to what we’ve accomplished.

“I know this year hasn’t exactly made a lot of our fans proud, but they can rest assured that we’re doing everything in our power to get back to the top.”

Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 and 7 p.m. ET, Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations start at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry live qualifying action from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations will air from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., Sunday.