Saddlemen

American Speedway Celebrates the “People’s Champion” – Eddie Castro

| 8 August 2015 2:10 pm

Fast Eddie Castro’s Testimonial Meeting
Perris Raceway

Story by Steve Evans
Photos by Dorcey Wingo
PERRIS, CA, AUG. 1, 2015

Eddie Castro arrives at Perris Raceway in style.

Eddie Castro arrives at Perris Raceway in style.

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 gives a thumbs-up to an Indian bearing his name.

Castro gives a thumbs-up to an Indian bearing his name.

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.

Castro greets his old friend Shawn McConnell. Sadly, McConnell was injured during the evening’s competition.

Castro greets his old friend Shawn McConnell. Sadly, McConnell was injured during the evening’s competition.

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.

The first Division One Handicap heat gets under way.

The first Division One Handicap heat gets under way.

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.

Dryden Gayle at speed in the first Handicap heat race.

Dryden Gayle at speed in the first Handicap heat race.

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.

Dalton Leedy (222) won the second Handicap heat race.

Dalton Leedy (222) won the second Handicap heat race.

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.

Broc Nicol (foreground) was runner-up in the third Handicap heat race.

Broc Nicol (foreground) was runner-up in the third Handicap heat race.

Kurtis Hamill topped the third Handicap heat.

Kurtis Hamill topped the third Handicap heat.

Jason Ramirez (66) at speed in Handicap action.

Jason Ramirez (66) at speed in Handicap action.

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Dillon Ruml (left) leads the first Handicap semi.

Dillon Ruml (left) leads the first Handicap semi.

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.

Shaun Harmatiuk in the first Handicap semi.

Shaun Harmatiuk in the first Handicap semi.

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.

Jason Ramirez (66) in the second Handicap semi.

Jason Ramirez (66) in the second Handicap semi.

Max Ruml won the second Handicap semifinal.

Max Ruml won the second Handicap semifinal.

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The First Division Handicap main event gets under way.

The First Division Handicap main event gets under way.

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.

The winner of the Handicap main event was Dillon Ruml.

The winner of the Handicap main event was Dillon Ruml.

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!

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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.

Max Ruml (let) and Charles “Dukie” Ermolenko (right) skirmish in the final Scratch heat race of the evening.

Max Ruml (let) and Charles “Dukie” Ermolenko (right) skirmish in the final Scratch heat race of the evening.

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.

Dukie Ermolenko was the initial leader of the last Scratch heat.

Dukie Ermolenko was the initial leader of the last Scratch heat.

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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.

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The First Division Scratch main event launches off the line at Perris.

The First Division Scratch main event launches off the line at Perris.

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.

Broc Nicol topped the Scratch main event.

Broc Nicol topped the Scratch main event.

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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.

The Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out elimination challenge came down to Mike Faria and Buck Blair.

The Last of the Mohicans Last Man Out elimination challenge came down to Mike Faria and Buck Blair.

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.

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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.

The first Division One heat race in action.

The first Division One heat race in action.

Rohn Zellner won Division Two heat race.

Rohn Zellner won Division Two heat race.

The second Division Two heat race gets under way.

The second Division Two heat race gets under way.

Richards repeated this feat in the main event.

The Division Two main event rockets off the line.

The Division Two main event rockets off the line.

Rick Richards (left) leads Rudy Laurer in the Division Two main event.

Rick Richards (left) leads Rudy Laurer in the Division Two main event.

Ken Leedy hitches a ride as Rick Richards takes his victory lap.

Ken Leedy hitches a ride as Rick Richards takes his victory lap.

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The second Division Three heat race explodes into action at Perris Raceway.

The second Division Three heat race explodes into action at Perris Raceway.

Division Three heat-race wins went to Mike Reed, Tom Bryant, Pam Bennett and Steve Brown. Reed repeated his win in the main.

The Third Division main gets under way.

The Third Division main gets under way.

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Sebastian Palmese (18) in 250cc Junior action.

Sebastian Palmese (18) in 250cc Junior action.

The 250cc Junior main event gets under way.

The 250cc Junior main event gets under way.

Sebastian Palmese and Jake Isaac each won a 250cc Junior heat race each, but Palmese was the victor in the main.

Jake Isaac won one of the 250cc Junior heat races.

Jake Isaac won one of the 250cc Junior heat races.

Sebastian Palmese (18) won the other 250cc Junior heat and took the checkers in the main event.

Sebastian Palmese (18) won the other 250cc Junior heat and took the checkers in the main event.

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The 150cc class has two divisions. Division Two saw a three-race clean sweep from Skylar Schnakenberg.

The 150cc Division Two main-event field is gridded and ready to rumble.

The 150cc Division Two main-event field is gridded and ready to rumble.

Slater Lightcap and Luke Whitcomb each won a Division One heat, with Lightcap taking the final.

Some 150cc Division One action.

Some 150cc Division One action.

The 150cc Division One main event in full swing.

The 150cc Division One main event in full swing.

Slater Lightcap (28) won the 150cc Division One main.

Slater Lightcap (28) won the 150cc Division One main.

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Aiden Omelina won the first Pee Wee race, with Travis Horn winning the next one and then the final.

Aiden Omelina (36) won the first Pee Wee heat race and was runner-up in the main.

Aiden Omelina (36) won the first Pee Wee heat race and was runner-up in the main.

Jose Navarette came in fourth in the Pee Wee main.

Jose Navarette came in fourth in the Pee Wee main.

Pee Wee racer Levi Leutz gets a helping hand from his dad. Levi came in third in the main.

Pee Wee racer Levi Leutz gets a helping hand from his dad. Levi came in third in the main.

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Sidecar action at Perris.

Sidecar action at Perris.

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 Sidecar B main event gets under way.

The Sidecar B main event gets under way.

The Sidecar A main event gets under way.

The Sidecar A main event gets under way.

The team of Jeff Rowe & Ashley Gibbons (1965) finished fourth in the Sidecar A main event.

The team of Jeff Rowe & Ashley Gibbons (1965) finished fourth in the Sidecar A main event.

Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett were runners-up in the Sidecar A main.

Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett were runners-up in the Sidecar A main.

The victors in the Sidecar A main were Joe Jones & Tom Summers.

The victors in the Sidecar A main were Joe Jones & Tom Summers.

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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.

2015 0801 CA PR EXTR PHOTO ZS Flag[The following addendum arrived just prior to press time… Editor]

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

Perris Raceway
Perris, California
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.

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