Fast Eddie Castro’s Testimonial Meeting
Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Dorcey Wingo
PERRIS, CA, AUG. 1, 2015
Riders and fans turned out in huge numbers to celebrate the 35-year career of “Fast Eddie” Castro at Perris Raceway in Perris, California, on August 1, for his Testimonial Meeting.
Castro’s attendance at the event was something of a miracle itself, given that for seven days he’d been hospitalized following complications from cancer surgery just a week prior. His friends and fans gave him perhaps the best medicine possible: a memorable race event. The only downside of the happening were the injuries sustained by Eddie’s longtime friend and fellow veteran rider Shawn McConnell.
The First Division part of the program was run with the traditional American Handicap and Scratch race format. The Handicap part of the program consisted of three heat races with 18 riders.
Heat one saw Dillon Ruml win from the 30-yard line, with Aaron Fox right on his tail after coming all the way from the 50. Veteran Mike Faria placed third after starting from the 30-yard line. Dryden Gayle got the fourth and final transfer spot after starting from the 10-yard line. Charles “Dukie” Ermolenko, who’d started from the 30, and Joey Donaldson, who came from the 10, were eliminated.
Heat two saw Dalton Leedy, who started from the 10-yard line, leading all the way to take the win. McConnell, who started from the 40, was awarded second after Austin Novratil, who also started from the 40, made contact when trying to pass, though both were cruising to the semifinals at the time.
Novratil was excluded, which gave 50-yard starter Buck Blair third and 30-yard starter Shaun Harmatiuk fourth. Bobby Schwartz, who started from the 30, came in fifth.
After a lengthy delay while McConnell received medical attention and was transported to hospital, heat three was staged. Kurtis Hamill, coming from the 20, held off Broc Nicol, who came all the way from the 50. Max Ruml, who also started off the 50-yard line, was third, and 40-yard starter Jason Ramirez was fourth. Rudy Laurer and Rick Richards, who both started off the 10-yard line, were eliminated.
The first semifinal saw Dillon Ruml once more victorious. Aaron Fox, as in heat one, was second and sensibly held his ground to qualify. Dryden Gayle once more rode a steady and impressive race to place third and get the final spot in the main event. Mike Faria was fourth, Shaun Harmatiuk retired in fifth, and McConnell, obviously, was a nonstarter.
Semi two featured three riders coming from the 50-yard line. Max Ruml and Broc Nicol charged from the back to take first- and second-place finishes, respectively. Dalton Leedy took third to make the main. Kurtis Hamill in fourth, Buck Blair in fifth and Jason Ramirez, who retired, were all eliminated.
The Handicap main event saw Dillon Ruml shoot off of the 30-yard line and make an immediate charge, his strategy being to get by Leedy and Gayle before the back pack caught him, and it proved successful. He held on for his third win on this side of the program.
Broc Nicol, Max Ruml and Aaron Fox, all coming from the 50, were second, third and fourth, respectively. Gayle came in fifth and Leedy was sixth. The new wave of American speedway was out in force, as five of the six finalists were teenagers!
Scratch racing started with Nicol winning heating heat one, with Kurtis Hamill getting second and eliminating the third-place rider, Mike Faria. Harold Hartke finished fourth.
Heat two had Fox as the victor, ahead of Leedy, with Rick Richards third and Schwartz fourth.
Heat three saw Jason Ramirez pull off a fabulous pass on Buck Blair to get the win. Dryden Gayle was third and Shaun Harmatiuk finished fourth.
The final heat was fabulous: Dukie Ermolenko outgated the Ruml brothers, but then first Max and then Dillon got by. Dukie held his ground with his younger competitors and challenged the younger Ruml, Dillon, but could not get by to reclaim second. Joey Donaldson was fourth.
The first semi saw Fox lead Nicol home, with Dillon Ruml and Blair eliminated.
Semi number two saw Kurtis Hamill get a stunning start. In only his second meeting of the season after a long lay-off due while recuperating from injury, Hamill held his line, kept his cool, and kept Max Ruml behind him, in second. Third-place finisher Ramirez and fourth-place finisher Leedy were eliminated.
The main event closed out the race meeting. Broc Nicol got a magnificent start. Nicol was not troubled for the entire race and led Max Ruml home, with Fox placing third and Hamill finishing fourth.
As an added bonus, there was a thrilling “Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out” competition featuring some of the older riders. The format was a series of one-lap races (with two for the final), in which the last-place rider was eliminated.
The first staging saw Shaun Harmatiuk eliminated in a very close call with Ermolenko.
Dukie himself was the last-place rider second time out, which left Buck Blair and Mike Faria to race it out over a two-lap match race.
Though Blair got a slightly better start, Faria found a way around at the end of lap one and then held his position for a very popular win on a night dedicated to his fellow veteran Castro.
The 44-race show had several other divisions in attendance as well.
Division Two had nine riders. The heat races were won by Rohn Zellner, Harold Hartke, Samuel Ramirez and Rick Richards.
Richards repeated this feat in the main event.
Division Three heat-race wins went to Mike Reed, Tom Bryant, Pam Bennett and Steve Brown. Reed repeated his win in the main.
Sebastian Palmese and Jake Isaac each won a 250cc Junior heat race each, but Palmese was the victor in the main.
The 150cc class has two divisions. Division Two saw a three-race clean sweep from Skylar Schnakenberg.
Slater Lightcap and Luke Whitcomb each won a Division One heat, with Lightcap taking the final.
Aiden Omelina won the first Pee Wee race, with Travis Horn winning the next one and then the final.
The “big two” in the Sidecar class, Joe Jones & Tom Summers and Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett, won two heats each. Jones & Summers topped the final.
The event was a huge success, with almost the entire American Speedway family rallying around the ever-popular Castro. The Testimonial Race was conceived and announced on the day Castro publicly announced his retirement from the sport for health reasons. It was a rare in-season event for Perris, which runs monthly off-season races between November and April, with its main purpose being rider development for the future Team USA World Cup riders, given its European-sized track dimensions. The seven-race 2015-16 season begins at Perris on November 21, with races beginning at 5 p.m.
Thank you to everyone who supported “Fast Eddie” Castro’s Testimonial Meeting at Perris.
The original concept of the event was primarily to celebrate the amazing 35-year career of “Fast Eddie.” We did this in style, with a huge turn-out and a fabulous race event worthy of Eddie and all he has given us over the years.
The fundraising side was always going to be a part of this project, though it was considered secondary in importance to the show itself. With that in mind, we are utterly astonished that we have exceeded a five-figure number in funds raised from this event alone!
So, a massive thank-you is due to everyone who came, raced, donated, volunteered their time, bought a T-shirt and/or was part of such a memorable occasion. There are too many to name individually, but Roxanne Faria needs special acknowledgment for going above and beyond the call of duty for this race.
The best part of the whole occasion was the lift and boost given to Eddie by seeing such a massive outpouring of love and support. As he prepares for his next round of treatment, we can be assured that this support will be with him all the way.
We also want to wish Shawn McConnell the very best as he continues recovering from his injuries sustained at the event.
– Eddie, Romie and Steve
Results: August 1, 2015
SIDECAR B MAIN: 1. Charlie Davis/ Tom Summers; 2. Jeff Medberry/ Niki Davis; 3. Kevin Holman/ Dana Catone; 4. Rick Garcia/ Adam Ducket.
SIDECAR A MAIN: 1. Joe Jones/ Tom Summers; 2. Bryan Motis/ Josh Bennett; 3. Robert Curry/ David Dent; 4. Jeff Rowe/ Ashley Gibbons.
PEE WEE MAIN: 1. Travis Horn; 2. Aiden Omelina; 3. Levi Leutz; 4. Jose Navarette; 5. Dylan Hogerhuis.
150 MINI DIVISION 2 MAIN: 1. Skylar Schnakenberg; 2. Glenn Geist; 3. Rachel Schnakenberg; 4. Nick Dunn.
150 MINI DIVISION 1 MAIN: 1. Slater Lightcap; 2. Luke Whitcomb; 3. Sam Hagon; 4. Dakota Shockley; 5. Andrew Russell.
250 JR MAIN: 1. Sebastian Palmese; 2. Jake Isaac; 3. Michael Wells.
DIVISION 3 CONSOLATION: 1. George Yates; 2. Pat Smith; 3. Greg Willis; 4. Thomas Rishton; 5. Dave Smith.
DIVISION 3 MAIN: 1. Mike Reed; 2. Steve Brown; 3. Tom Bryant; 4. Wade Whitcomb; 5. Pam Bennett.
DIVISION 2 CONSI: 1. Samuel Ramirez; 2. Bentley Barrett; 3. Ron Davis; 4. Mike Lane.
DIVISION 2 MAIN: 1. Rick Richards; 2. Rudy Laurer; 3. Rohn Zellner; 4. Harold Hartke (fell).
LAST OF THE MOHICANS LAST MAN OUT: 1. Mike Faria; 2. Buck Blair; 3. Charles Ermolenko; 4. Shaun Harmatiuk.
HANDICAP MAIN: 1. Dillon Ruml (30); 2. Broc Nicol (50); 3. Max Ruml (50); 4. Aaron Fox (50); 5. Dryden Gayle (10); 6. Dalton Leedy (10, fell).
SCRATCH MAIN: 1. Broc Nicol; 2. Max Ruml; 3. Aaron Fox; 4. Kurtis Hamill.