The Modified Division at Ocala Speedway has been dominated by Jeff Mathews, and he will be looking to extend that domination in 2011. But the problem with being at the top is that everyone else is gunning for you, and a list of capable challengers will be aiming to knock "The Repo Man" down a few notches this season. Kyle Bronson would be the most likely candidate to unseat Mathews and has beaten him solidly in the past, but has yet to do it consistently enough to replace Mathews at the top. Perhaps 2011 will see those fortunes change, and a $1000 cash carrot dangling in front of the field certainly will provide ample motivation.
There will be changes in the Hobby Stock Division in 2011 as 2010 champion, Dean Jarvis, has taken his final bow and exited the building into retirement. One would assume that Heath Walker would be the most likely to succeed with Jarvis gone, but Walker handed his ride over to his son, Devin, who has moved up from the Gladiators. So now the door is wide open for whoever wants to jump into the early season lead, and no doubt there will be a heated scramble for the top position when the green flag waves this Friday. And if Daniel Miller Jr. can keep the rubber side down and all of the pieces and parts attached, he might just be the man to beat.
Ocala's Amsoil Thunder Stocks were set to do battle on opening night but never got that chance, so Friday the 11th will be their first shot at Ocala's tough 3/8ths mile since their $500 to win exhibition back in February. This time there will be points to earn instead of just a paycheck and some trophies, so the pressure will be on to see who can take control of the division. Jason Gamble got the win in February, proving that he still has what it takes to pose for frontstretch pictures after races, and will be one of the top contenders for the championship now that 2010 champ Scott Mooers will be wheeling a modified in 2011.
For much of the season in 2010 Ocala Speedway was the only option for racing Mini Stocks on dirt in the state of Florida. That has changed with the opening of the 2011 season, and rules changes enacted by the racers last year have changed the face of Mini Stock racing. Nick and Dan Kerr will be back and battling for another championship run, but other top racers have moved on and opened the door for new faces to keep the Kerrs looking over their shoulders. If no one can rise to the challenge, then the season may be another father versus son battle for the Mini Stock Championship.
As the 2010 season wound down last year, several different racers shared time at the top of the Gladiator points list. But in the end it was the consistency of Matt Shea that captured a championship, as he came from way behind over the course of the year to take the prize. This time around there will be new faces in the crowd and some of last year's contenders will have stepped up to bigger challenges, so those who remain are left to figure out who can jump out in front of everyone else. And as was the case before, consistency and dedication to run every race may be the key to the championship once again, with the only question being who has the strength to get it done.
Ocala Speedway will open the grandstand gates at 5PM on Friday night, with hot laps at 7PM and heat races at 8PM. For more information such as ticket prices and directions, please visit America's Dirt Track online at www.OcalaSpeedway.com, or call the track at 352-622-9400.