Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Joe Castello: The Voice of Fast Lane Friday

Joe Castello is one of the premier motorsports personalities in South Florida and has become the voice of  Fast Lane Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself and thank Homestead-Miami Speedway for inviting me to write this blog. I’m Joe Castello, and I’m your Fast Lane Friday presented by The Ticket Clinic track announcer.

It has been a great honor to spend Friday nights with a group of people who are as passionate about cars as much I am.  It has also been a great experience when juxtaposed with my other jobs working in motorsports entertainment, such as my WFO Radio podcast, my work with the National Hot Rod Association, and being a co-host of Performance TV on Velocity Network.

About Me
My entertainment career started right here in South Florida working with “hall of fame” broadcaster Neil Rogers on local sports talk radio where I was able to create South Florida’s first weekly motorsports show – Motorsports Saturday. I have worked closely with the staff at Homestead-Miami Speedway ever since and truly believe that the facility is one of the shining gems of our South Florida community. I have an NHRA Super Comp license and have won bracket racing track championships at three different facilities in Florida. My father and I own a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am that is built for competition.

The Love for Drag Racing
As with most things, there is a natural progression in drag racing. The level to which you advance is determined by desire and ambition. At the professional events I announce, I see people who have reached the highest level. They are drivers with multi-million dollar sponsorships who are competing at speeds over 335 MPH. Very few of them started out that way. Most started at small tracks that gave them an opportunity to gather, race, improve and make friends with similar goals. Eventually, some improved so much they end up making their living in the sport. It can become a lifestyle or a career and certainly can become motivation for hard work and big ideas.

Drag racing was introduced to South Florida in 1966 with the
construction of Miami-Hollywood Speedway.

Drag Racing in South Florida
Drag Racing has always been very popular in South Florida, culminating with the construction of Miami-Hollywood Speedway in 1966. Do a search on YouTube and you will find many videos from the track once located just West of I-75 on Pines Boulevard in Pembroke Pines. Legends of the sport including “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, John Force and South Florida’s own Darrell and Jerry Gwynn raced there on a regular basis. It was there that I got my start as a driver and a public speaker. Miami-Hollywood Speedway was demolished in 1992, but its memory lives on with many of us, including Fast Lane Friday starter Paul Wunderlich, who managed the facility during some of its most successful years.

Powered by Youth
It has been said by some, that the automotive hobby known as drag racing was beginning to fade away with younger people. My experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway has assured me that the car crazy culture that started with the chrome and fins of the 1950s and exploded into the 1960s muscle car era that forged NASCAR and NHRA, is alive and well in the youth that race at Fast Lane Friday.

Whether it be the young driver of a new ZL1 Camaro trying to perfect his starting line launch technique, or the diesel trucks that are testing to find the perfect “tune” with their fuel injection set up, this next generation of drag racers are “hands on” and constantly working to improve. Drag Racing provides a perfect opportunity for those who want to challenge themselves. The group of young people I see at Fast Lane Friday are hardworking, and literally, driven to excel.

The Cars
If people were ever losing interest in drag racing, it was because the cars were not that interesting.  We do not have that problem any longer as the automakers have realized the yearning for performance people have. American muscle cars like Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers race alongside exotics like Porsche and Ferrari on Homestead-Miami Speedway’s pit road. Modified machines with aftermarket parts make Fast Lane Friday stars of racers like Irv Chazen, who will race any opponent in his strip blistering Jeep Cherokee! These cars blow the doors off their 1960s counter parts in nearly every way. They are quicker, faster, more comfortable and more reliable than ever before with 6 cylinder models packing enough punch to bring a smile to the driver’s face, let alone the powerful V8 engines currently available.

Two competitors run the 1/8-mile drag strip during
Fast Lane Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway

For the Thrill
If you have never experienced the thrill of racing your own car down the track, I highly recommend it. And Fast Lane Friday is the perfect place. It is a thrill that can rarely be replicated in normal life. Accelerating in your vehicle, knowing that you are in a controlled environment is extremely fun. It just doesn’t feel as good when you are dangerously risking everything on the streets of Miami. So don’t do it! The track offers a much more fulfilling, stress-free experience. The journey starts with one run down the track. Look at your ET (elapsed time) slip and try to improve. Your reaction time, launch, shifts (if manual transmission) and car’s performance can be maximized with practice. Drag racing can push you to excel, you have only to step on the throttle!

In future blog posts we’ll discuss some basic drag racing techniques, cool cars, and people that make Fast Lane Friday.