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Eddie Casterline (Tommy Caruso Collection)

November 15, 2007


A billion words have been spoken about how great drivers can win in cars that aren’t handling or whose motors aren’t hitting right. However, every now and then, you hear about some dude who actually became part of the car himself. That’s really cool.

Kyle Busch did it a couple weeks ago at Atlanta. The talented (and sometimes outrageous) 22-year-old struggled with an unhinged window net, driving one-handed to the Craftsman Truck victory. Not such a big deal, you say. Well, try it at 180 mph in traffic.

Thirty years ago at the old Nazareth Raceway dirt track, Tampa, Florida’s "Wily Will" Cagle did his own thing to keep things going. The body on his modified was literally coming unglued. It had just been rearranged in a crash up at Lebanon Valley, NY. Will tried desperately to keep the roof on the car, holding it with an arm out the window. Nazareth’s starter, Tex Enright, always tried to give the guys some slack, but this was too much. Cagle was eventually black-flagged.

Twenty years before that, Battle of the Bulge veteran Hully Bun decided to put his favorite flathead in his coupe for the first Langhorne National Sportsman Championship. Hully knew his motor was tired. He ran a hose from the cockpit to the block, so he could pour oil in while powersliding around the treacherous one-mile dirt with a hundred or so other cars. He won.

A favorite story, though, goes back to May 27, 1947 at the old Pines Speedway in Groveland, MA. Eddie Casterline was just back from Indy because his ride had not materialized. His return was big news to Northeastern midget fans. Here’s what Lew Walberg wrote in Speedway Age magazine about the heat race that night:

"In four laps Casterline fought his way from the back to the front, and it was evident he had not lost any of the ability he had shown the previous year. He had a fairly comfortable lead built up by the fifth lap and looked like a cinch to start breaking some old records. However, it was not a record but a radius rod on the rear right hand side of the car. The rod, hanging down from the rear axle, threatened to dig into the track and flip the car. Aware of his plight, Eddie reached down with his right arm and caught the rod in his hand. Having to lean over to his right with his body, while making left turns and using super strength to hold the rod, Eddie managed to speed on, driving with one hand. However, he was having plenty of trouble in the turns and Bob Foss, who was driving the Stone #3 Ford, bore down on him. For the last three laps, Foss stayed right on Eddie’s tail, threatening to overtake him if he slid in the turns. On the straightaways always the more powerful Offenhauser managed to pull away from the Ford. In the turns Ed had to do some fancy handling with his left arm to keep the car under control and Foss from passing him. When the checkered flag was dropped, Eddie and his broken radius rod were scarcely half a car length ahead of Foss. The applause that followed spoke to the approval of the fine job done by Casterline who actually held the car together and won the heat."*

Unhappily, Eddie Casterline was never to return to the Pines, let alone to the Brickyard. Two weeks later he was killed in a devastating crash at Seekonk (MA) Speedway.

* Lew Walberg’s piece is reprinted from the Coastal 181 book, HOT CARS COOL DRIVERS.

© 2007 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

.: Previous Tearoffs :.

11/1/07 - Tightly In or Easily Out?

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - What's in a Name?

9/15/07 - Official Overpopulation

9/1/07 - The Look of a Driver

8/15/07 - Being Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer


























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