By Randy Spencer / OntarioOval.com
While many of us in the racing world mourn the loss of IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon, the local racing community is once again mourning the loss of one of it’s own. Abel Castelein, raced in the Mini Stock division at Ohsweken Speedway and passed away on Monday. It’s been all to common lately that we mourn the passing of yet another friend taken from us far to soon.
Involved in racing from an early age, Abel got bitten by the racing bug after attending races at the old Pinecrest Speedway north of Toronto and at the Toronto International Dragway near Georgetown. His desire was not so much to be involved as a driver back then, but more as the guy that hopped the wall and changed tires and worked on the race car. He got his wish some years later spending ten seasons as a crew chief/member for the Jim Bray CASCAR team. When Abel began his racing career he raced for a time at Flamboro Speedway and other asphalt tracks, but he moved to dirt and his career really took off. He raced at Ohsweken, Merrittville and Humberstone, quite successfully winning back to back Mini Stock championships at Merrittville and Ohsweken in 2007 and 2008. I spoke with Mini Stock champion Dave Bailey who was friends with Abel. They helped each other out with parts and knowledge on asphalt and dirt. Earlier this season, Abel wrecked his car in a wild flip at Ohsweken and it was in disrepair. Bailey, who was racing a new dirt car at Ohsweken, let Abel race his back up car for the remainder of the 2011 season. He was quite successful winning a couple of features including a very gratifying victory in the Art Hill Memorial 42 lap race at Ohsweken back on August 5th. “He was really pumped after he won the feature that night,” Bailey said. Driving the Blue #28 car for most of his careeer, Abel would sport the orange and white colors and the #31x for the balance of the year. It was a good car and Abel was able to bring it to victory once again. It was the 50th feature win for that car. He had a very successful year finishing fourth in Ohsweken Mini Stock points just 60 points behind the leader.
Abel raced his last race this past weekend at Delaware Speedway’s Ontario Open 4-Cylinder division 25-lap invitational. The Tuesday prior, Castelein had the car out at Flamboro Speedway for practice to see how the car ran on asphalt. He even put a new engine in for the event. Abel ran a great race and and finished third in the 21 car field. Many people have posted condolences on various racing forums over the past couple of days saying he was always generous to help or share his opinion. John ‘Crash’ Myers knew Abel and echoed those comments. “I always talked to him at the track and asked him for advice on dirt racing and he was always very helpful.” One comment I read was from John Houghton, Delaware Speedway PR and track announcer who met Abel for the first time at the Delaware event. “He was very friendly and kind and left a lasting positive impression that I carried away with me from the tech line. He said he was looking forward to the day with a big smile and firm handshake.”
Away from the track, Abel enjoyed Karaoke and Curling at the Cayuga Curling Club in the winter and even helped coach it at school. Abel was a shop teacher at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School. He was admired there as well, some of the comments from students included, “R.I.P ABEL Castelein, you were the best teacher at the Gonzaga School. You helped, and you taught me and a number of students everything there is to know about cars and/or motors. I’ll never forget.” A few others read, “Cool guy… races cars, how is that not cool? Best teacher in that school. I always got my car fixed and never had a problem.. Thanks sir for showing me what I know.” This was the kind of man Abel Castelein was to everyone. He is survived by his wife Marilyn who he married in 2009 and sons A.J., Matt and his step son Kyle. At the time of this story all the funeral arrangements had not been finalized. I was told details should be in the Haldimand paper by Wednesday October 19th and in the Hamilton Spectator by Saturday. In closing I wanted to share this quote that I read by a gentleman named John Taylor, and thought it was appropriate, “While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet him behind the veil.”
Rest in Peace Abel Castelein and Godspeed.
_Thanks to Dave Bailey and John Myers for their help as well as information from the Ohsweken Speedway website and an interview by Tommy Goudge with Abel in 2009._
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