American Speedway Celebrates 'People's Champion' Eddie Castro.
Riders and fans turned out in huge numbers to celebrate the 35 year career of 'Fast' Eddie Castro at Perris Raceway on August 1st in his Testimonial Meeting. Castro's attendance at the event was something of a miracle itself, given that 7 days he was hospitalized following complications from cancer surgery a week prior. His friends and fans gave him perhaps the best medicine possible with a memorable race event, the only downside being injuries sustained by long time friend and fellow veteran, Shawn McConnell.
The First Division part of the program ran on the traditional American Handicap and Scratch race format. The handicap part of the program consisted of 18 riders who were initially drawn into three heats. Heat 1 saw Dillon Ruml win from the thirty yard line, with Aaron Fox right in tow all the way from the 50. Veteran Mike Faria placed third from the 30, with Dryden Gayle getting the fourth and final transfer spot from the 10 yard line. Dukie Ermolenko from the 30 and Joey Donaldson, from the 10 were eliminated. Heat two saw Dalton Leedy lead and win all the way from the 10. McConnell (40) was awarded second after Austin Novratil (40) made contact when trying to pass though both were cruising to the semi finals at the time. Novratil was excluded which gave Buck Blair (50) third, Shaun Harmatiuk (30) fourth. Bobby Schwartz, from the 30, came fifth. After a lengthy delay while McConnell received medical attention and was transported to hospital, heat three was staged with Kurtis Hamill, from the 20, holding off the in from Broc Nicol, who came all the way from the 50. Max Ruml, also off the 50, was third and Jason Ramirez (40) was fourth. Rudy Laurer and Rick Richards, both off of 10 yards, were eliminated.
Semi Final #1 saw Dillon Ruml once more victorious. Aaron Fox, as per heat 1, was second and sensibly held 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 with McConnell a non starter. Semi two featured three riders from 50 yards. Max Ruml and Broc Nicol charged from the back to a first and second finish. Dalton Leedy took third to make the Main. Kurtis Hamill in fourth, Buck Blair in fifth and Jason Ramirez who retired, were eliminated.
The main event saw Dillon Ruml off of the 30 make an immediate charge, his strategy to get by Leedy and Gayle before the back pack caught him proved successful. He held on for his third win on this side of the program. Broc Nicol, Max Ruml and Aaron Fox, all from the 50 were the second through fourth placed riders. Gayle came fifth and Leedy sixth. The new wave of American speedway was in force with five of the six finalists being teenagers.
Scratch Racing started with Nicol winning heating heat one with Kurtis Hamill getting second and eliminating third placed Mike Faria, with Harold Hartke fourth. Heat two had Fox as the victor from Leedy, with Rick Richards third and Schwartz fourth. Heat three saw Jason Ramirez pull off a fabulous pass against Buck Blair to get the win. Dryden Gayle was third and Shaun Harmatiuk fourth. The final heat was fabulous – Dukie Ermolenko outgated the Ruml brothers but firstly Max and the Dillon got by. Dukie held ground with his younger competitors and challenged the younger Ruml but could not get by to reclaim second. Joey Donaldson was fourth.
Semi #1 saw Fox lead home Nicol, with Dillon Ruml and Blair eliminated. Semi #2 saw Kurtis Hamill get a stunning start. Hamill, in only his second meeting of the season after a long injury lay off, held his line, kept his cool and kept Max Ruml behind him in second. Ramirez in third and Leedy in fourth were eliminated.
As an added bonus, there was a thrilling 'Last Man Out' competition featuring some of the older riders. The format has one lap races (two for the final), where the last placed rider is eliminated. The first staging saw Shaun Harmatiuk eliminated in a very close call with Ermolenko. Dukie himself was the last placed rider second time out, which left Buck Blair and Mike Faria to race it out over a 2 lap match race. Though Blair got a slightly better start, Faria found a way by at the end of lap one and held his position for a very popular win on a night for his fellow veteran Castro.
The 44 race show had several other divisions in attendance. Division two had nine riders. Heats were won by Rohn Zellner, Harold Hartke, Samuel Ramirez and Rick Richards. Richards repeated this feat in the Main event. Division three heats went to Mike Reed, Tom Bryant, Pam Bennett and Steve Brown. Reed repeated in the Main. Sebastian Palmese and Jake Isaac won a 250cc Junior Heat each but Palmese was the victor in the Main.
The 150cc class has two divisions. Division two was a three race clean sweep from Skylar Schnakenberg. Slater Lightcap and Luke Whitcomb each won a Division 1 heat with Lightcap taking the final. Aden Omelina won the first Pee Wee race with Travis Horn winning the next and the Final. The 'big two' I the Sidecar Class, Joe Jones & Tom Summers and Bryan Motis & Josh Bennett won two heats each with Jones and Summers taking 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 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 7 race 2015/6 season begins at Perris on November 21st with races beginning at 5pm.
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