WFO Radio Show Archives

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Back Behind the Wheel

Palm Beach International Raceway

This past weekend, I finally got the opportunity to go see the Palm Beach International Raceway known simply as PBIR. First, I must give some background. PBIR is the track formerly known as Moroso Motor sports Park. Everyone in the racing industry knows the name Moroso. You see the stickers on nearly every race car. ( Dick Moroso bought the track in the early 1980’s and it’s one of the places that I grew up.

My first drag race experience occurred at Miami Hollywood Speedway, a track that was later purchased by Moroso, before it was demolished to make way for houses, thanks to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Other than that, Moroso Motor sports Park was my home track. In fact, both of Moroso’s tracks were my home tracks. I watched races at both as a small child and I worked at both as a track announcer which was the prelude to my broadcast career. Most importantly, though, I raced there. Between 1991 and 1997 I was at one of the two tracks nearly every weekend. After Miami Hollywood closed, it was all Moroso from 1993 on.

As you can imagine, I have thousands of stories of all kinds with Moroso as the backdrop; races that I won and lost to friends and foes, good times and bad. It was at Moroso that I accomplished the top two feats on my racing resume, the Super Pro track championship in 1995 and finishing 11th overall at the Moroso 5-day race, also in 1995 (highest finishing door car, by the way). The point is…this place has been very important in my life and now it has new ownership and management who have changed everything!

As my father and I rolled through the gate in our 2005 GTO, it hit me. All the memories of my past were just that, memories. We had several preferred places that we used to park for a night of racing. All of those were now gone because they have changed the side of the race track drag racers pit on. There was no going back! To the left, where everyone used to pit for a night’s racing, now sits a go kart track (which has been there for some time) and the road course, which was being used by a driving club. To the right is the drag strip. In the past, the drag strip and road course shared the same area and had to run one at a time, now, they can run independently. As you look around you can tell that the new owners have spent a TON of money. The track is an all concrete quarter mile and the pits are completely paved with spectator grandstands on the right side of the track. In fact, it looks to me like the new owners spared no expense during the renovations. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that I would change, like the 6 foot fence that obstructs the spectator’s view of the track from 1000 foot on or the teeny, tiny win lights in each lane. Honestly, though, those things can be polished over time. PBIR is for real!

On the track, the GTO ran a 13.777 at 101.90 mph first time down the quarter mile in the right lane but my starting line RPM was too low. For the second run, I moved to the left lane and raised the starting line RPM a bit too much and spun the tires running a 14.008. The third run, I ran the left lane again, red lighted big time and spun, running a 13.918. I was getting a little nervous at this point because the car was very inconsistent. How the heck was I going to bracket race later that night? Thank goodness for open time runs! The fourth run was perfect. I had a .055 reaction time and ran 13.590 at 101.98 mph. I needed that run, over and over for the rest of the night. Just in time, too. That was my last time run before the first round of eliminations

First round, I lined up in the right lane behind my friend Harry Morgan. He runs a Ford Escort in stock eliminator at NHRA national events. He was there testing his stocker which came from the factory with 65 horsepower and yet somehow it runs in the 17 second zone. We talked for a while before the eliminations started, but then realized we had to race each other because there were far more cars wanting to run the right hand lane. The first car in line gets lane choice, so I was going to have to race the left lane. Great. First time out in a long time, in a new car, at new track; I get kicked out of my lane first round and have to race a friend of mine who is 4 seconds slower than I am. He’s dialed in at 17.86. I’m dialed in at 13.65 so I’m going to have to wait just over 4 seconds before my side of the tree comes down. After we stage, his tree comes down and I watched his reaction time, which was good. I turned my concentration to my side of the tree, when it was time, I went. I had a good launch but then the car spun. I looked out the windshield to see him and he was half way down the race track. The GTO fought through the tire spin and I was able to catch him and nose him out at the finish line and win. I ran 13.708 at 89.78 to his 17.92 at 72.99 mph. I had a near perfect .002 reaction to his .053 light. Yeah baby!!! Castello’s back! The triumphant return of a former track champion!! Caesar is returning to Rome!! It felt great to go out there and have a good first round win.

Second round, I lined up in the right hand lane, again. But, again, I ended up racing in the left, this time against a Camaro dialed in at 13.29. I was dialed 13.64. We took off nearly together but I had him beaten in reaction time .050 to .063. I tapped the brake at the finish line and ran 13.707 at 89.94 mph to his 13.356 at 105.84. I got to the finish line first by .0120 of a second, hitting the brakes. Another win!!! This is great. I was back and winning rounds just like the old days.

Third round, I red lighted, -.035. And the night was over.

Overall, I had a great time at PBIR. Bracket racing is a great sport. I wish more people knew about it so they could give it a try. It was a fun night of racing and hopefully the first of many memories at PBIR.