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