* ERA Press *
The opener kicks off a nine-race schedule for the ERA at the three-eighths-mile CNS oval. The upcoming season runs from the last Saturday in April to the season closer on October 15.
Fresh off last year’s classic point battle among Harry Stone, Richie Castor and champion Harold Evans Jr., ERA president Castor reflected on the encouraging 2010 season and looked forward to the new year.
“It will be hard to top last year’s championship battle and the competitive racing we saw, but we’re going to try. We averaged about 15 cars a show last year, and we’re hoping for 15 to 17 a night in 2011. We should be in for a really good season. Competition is looking good, and guys are stepping up to get some cars out that haven’t seen the track in a few years to help the ERA moving forward,” Castor said.
Close competition last season at Colorado Nat’l Photo – Joe Starr (BigWestRacing.com)
Castor, who won the ERA championship from 2006 to 2009 before his teammate Evans narrowly edged him last year, is clearly considered one of the favorites for the title this season. Castor posted one feature win last season aboard his No. 2 Hyder chassis.
Evans is set to return to ERA wars in 2011 after earning his first championship since 2003. The Colorado supermodified veteran earned two wins last year on his way to the title. Evans won the ERA’s only visit to a track other than CNS, which came in June at I-25 Speedway.
Last season’s top winner was Pueblo, Colo.’s Johnny Pickard, who wheeled his Mike Pickard-built red No. 02 to three wins in a row late in the year. Pickard, who missed the early-season races which eliminated him from championship contention, said his current plans include running the full ERA slate in 2011.
Pickard spoke about his chances at his first ERA championship since 2005.
“We’ll see what happens. I don’t want to predict anything. We’re optimistic about our chances and we’ll do our best. There is some good competition in ERA so it’s not easy to predict. We have the same car and same stuff. Mike (Pickard) has worked hard to get things ready and we should be good in a couple weeks,” Pickard said.
Another driver set for the opener in two weeks is Chris Sheil, who won one feature last year and has signed Mountain States Toyota as a primary sponsor of the Mikula Racing No. 33 for the new season.
The other key player last year was Stone, who won the 2010 opener and led the point standings until the final show of the season. Entering the last race, Stone held a slim point lead over Evans and Castor before wrecking hard during Friday practice.
Stone and his crew were up all night repairing his No. 40 Masterman mount before returning Saturday only to catch a wheel and in an opening-lap accident and crash hard into the wall.
It’s unsure whether or not Stone will have his super repaired to run this season. Calls made to reach the Denver racer were unsuccessful.
Joe Gallegos has already had his No. 14 super out for open practice at CNS. Joe Priselac, Matt Gilbert, Craig Moore and Larry Lapoint, among others, are all expected to be in action this season.
Harold Evans is set to defend his 2010 ERA title Photo – Joe Starr (BigWestRacing.com)
Priselac, a key ERA board member, recently spoke about the state of the ERA and some improvements to the series this year.
“We have a solid base of nearly 20 cars in the (Denver) area. A few cars have been parked for awhile, and we’re hoping some come back out this year. We should have no problem hitting the 14-car average we had last season, and hopefully surpassing it. I think the economy continues to play a big role in how many cars show up to the track. We’ve done pretty well despite the hard times over the last few years.
“Scoring this year will be done through MyLaps Sports Timing for the first time, and Colorado National Speedway is now the designated Hoosier tire supplier.”
Priselac also spoke about the possibility of SMRA teams joining the ERA at CNS.
“I know there have been some talks with a few Boise-area drivers. In the past, we’ve had teams from Salt Lake City join us. There have been some rumblings about outside teams racing with us, but no one is saying, ‘we’ll be there.’ We’d obviously welcome any outside teams to run with us.”
For more information on the Englewood Racing Association, visit http://erasupermodifieds.tripod.com.
Photos – Joe Starr, BigWestRacing.com.