After a friend asked Roy Iler to check out the Police in Pursuit races at the Watsonville Speedway, a series put on to benefit the Special Olympics, he got hooked and put together his own team to compete and finish off last year’s season.
Iler, a sergeant with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, previously raced street stock and Enduro Class events in his younger days in Shasta County.
Those final three races of last year’s season brought a natural learning curve, as drivers must raise money to enter, try and cobble together a crew of some kind, and buy a car as part of the process involved. Plus, he competed on asphalt in his early racing days. Ocean Speedway in Watsonville is a dirt track, which was a big adjustment.
He came back strong this season, though, and is off to a hot start going into the halfway point of the six-race series. Out of 19 racers from police agencies throughout the Central Coast to start the season, he’s sitting in third overall after an impressive performance last weekend, finishing first in his heat and second overall that night. The series continues Friday, with races starting at 6 p.m.
“Most police officers are kind of adrenaline junkies anyway, so that just kind of feeds into it,” Iler said, about the feeling of getting back in a race car.
He said it’s been especially nice having athletes from the Special Olympics on hand to watch the races.
“It’s for a great cause,” he said. “If you’re coming in last, you’re still doing something positive.”
With the help of donors, Iler raised $2,500 for the Special Olympics, and the racers collectively came up with over $30,000 presented to the nonprofit organization that first night of this year’s series.
Iler said he couldn’t do it without help from his sponsors. Major donors have included the likes of San Benito Tire, Emergency Vehicle Specialists, CHAZ Design, Pinnacle West Exterminators, Field Fresh Farms, Barragan Insurance, the San Benito County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and others. With his team, he has Tony Weir and Frank Vieira helping out with the car work and pit crew for his team, No. 805 in the series. Iler mentioned that Sheriff Darren Thompson has been a big supporter of the effort and has been behind the group “100 percent.”
It also helped this season that Iler bought a 2006 Dodge Charger with a bigger engine than last year’s car. He found the Charger online and purchased it with his own money.
“With the new car, we definitely have a chance to compete for the championship,” Iler said.
-By Kollin Kosmicki
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